Porches have a special meaning in New Orleans, and when I walked up to the porch of Alyssa and Trevor Scott, who were hosting the opening weekend of their newest endeavor — New Orleans Immortal: A Surreal History Party — I was greeted with something I’ve never encountered on a porch. A vampire. And not just any vampire.
It was the esteemed Jacques St. Germain, and he was to be one of the hosts for the evening. Handing me a letter with script that rang with the tone of yesteryear, Jacques St. Germain explained that someone was out to kill him, and he needed my help, as well as the help of the other mortals joining me that evening for the surreal history party, to find out who was behind this murder plot. This letter was the first of many mysteries (and clues) in the two-hour immersive tour that takes participants through ghostly and fantastically wonderful stints in New Orleans history.
Alyssa Scott, the co-creator of New Orleans Immortal: A Surreal History Party as well as a local tour guide and a local of New Orleans says, “Imagine, if you will, a story-telling experience mixed with a murder mystery, an interactive art installation, and an escape room.” In order to give people a new way to experience the stories of the Axeman, Storyville, Jean Lafitte, and others, Alyssa and her partner, Trevor Scott, transformed their home into an interactive art installation that teaches people the true history surrounding the tales of New Orleans and challenges their senses and skills through puzzles, maps, and coded text. Oh, and there’s also quite a bit of playful fun as well.
“The secret sauce is that it’s not just a sterile room that you get to interact with,” Trevor explains of the installations. “Alyssa and I are there, dressed in full costume, and we play characters throughout the evening.” With costume changes happening about every quarter of an hour, guests of the surreal history party get to come face-to-face with Madame Pontalba, Madame Lalaurie, and you even get to sing sea shanties with Jean Lafitte himself (well, the vampire version of Jean Lafitte; that’s right, a vampirate). “We take some immortal characters from New Orleans history,” Trevor says, and they literally make them immortal through the vampire code we all know so well. Fun history fact: Jacques St. Germain was said to actually be a vampire, and this blending of fact and fiction are what Trevor and Alyssa bring to the forefront in this tour experience.
Having been in the tour business for some time, Alyssa and Trevor have seen how the way visitors and locals interact with New Orleans’ history and stories has shifted. “People really want more personalized and intimate experiences,” Alyssa says. In this day and age when people can time travel back to the year 1863, as they explore R. W. Ekman’s painting The Opening of the Diet 1863 by Alexander II at the National Museum of Finland or converse with a hologram of a Holocaust survivor about their experience, it’s no wonder that people no longer want a check-box tour with one talking head and a lot of standing awkwardly on sidewalks.
“People go on vacation wanting to create memories…” Alyssa says, and the guests of the surreal history party aren’t the only ones making memories. Alyssa and Trevor literally live withing this creation of theirs. Every morning when they leave their house, they pass by the large pirate ship they constructed out of boxes they had collected over the years, and they’ve even found their cats tangling their paws in the seaweed that hangs from the pirate ship that surreal party guests get to crawl through in order to crack the code of jazz. The musical notes hanging from the ceiling, the walls that are covered in the new articles about the Axeman, and the flowing fabric that frames and very seductive Stella, who is one of the “girls” of Storyville, all live with Alyssa and Trevor.
In a lot of ways, this endeavor that Alyssa and Trevor undertook doesn’t just tell New Orleans stories, it is a New Orleans story itself. It’s the story of two people in love who got inspired, had an idea for an interactive performance art exhibit, collected what they could to make the experience earnest, honest, and modest enough that no one ever felt intimidated to interact with the works, and they spent countless hours bringing it all to fruition.
It doesn’t get more immortal than that.
New Orleans Immortal: A Surreal History Party will officially open to the public on Thursday, September 19. Shows, which start at 8:00 PM, which run from Thursday through Sunday. To learn more about New Orleans Immortal: A Surreal History Party , or to make a reservation to join the party, you can visit nolahistoryparty.com.