Interview with actor and comedian Shelby Bond, creator of Adventure Party theater experience

Adventure Party is an immersive Zoom theater experience created and led by comedian and actor, Shelby Bond. Take your pick – be it a Highland Adventure through Scotland or a 1984 Horror Adventure through the dark, and expect to be entertained and involved for the duration of the party. The variety of adventures offered by Shelby make this the perfect activity for your kids’ birthday party or for bonding with your team at work! Continuing in the tradition of famous immersive theater experiences like NYC’s Sleep No More, Shelby wanted audiences to be a part of the show, not just watch it. By combining elements of quiz, escape rooms, scavenger hunt, role playing games, and choose-your-own-adventure, Shelby provides a playable narrative that gives participants a team building experience that leaves them with an actual sense of accomplishment and the feeling that they actually lived and went on an adventure. Read more about Shelby and his background in the interview below.

Hi Shelby! How have you been?

Honestly, I was freaking out like all the other producers of live performance. It took months to realize we were going to have to evolve if we wanted to keep entertaining audiences. Oh, and I got a dog, that helped. 

What was it like training in the world capital of immersive theater? 

London artists are astoundingly creative and the amount of innovation happening in the theatre scene there is mind-boggling. The weirdly wonderful experiential theatre isn’t just underground, it’s all around you and easy to access. 

What kinds of relationships have you kept up since earning your MFA at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama?

I’m so lucky that I completed my MFA the December before Covid hit. One of the best ways to learn is to realize how little you know about something you thought you were an expert on. Theatre is constant reinvention every time the curtain opens but the friends I made helped me realize there doesn’t need to be a curtain. I LOVE hearing about the projects my classmates are bringing into the world. 

You brought a unique approach to immersive theater in a pandemic with Adventure Party. Can you take us behind the scenes of one of your parties? Tell us more about your process and how you prepare for these experiences.

Every show ever done is participatory, even if the audience is just sitting there watching. There is a shared experience in the connection in the air. That’s what we lost when we were locked down from the pandemic- the connection, which is where the magic is. When you watch tv or stare at your laptop screen you are not active in the experience, you are just a spectator. I have spent the last 9 months trying new ways to give the audience an active role again by creating a playable narrative. People arrive ready to play, having chosen one of many themes such as Wild West, Fantasy, or Sci-fi, and possibly even dressed in costume. I give them the space to create with me by starting the adventure saying, “I’m your guide, but whether or not you survive or succeed will be up to the choices you make and your own luck.” The event is basically a mix of a choose-your-own-adventure, scavenger hunt, contest, and a bit of role-playing game. Some may even have a drinking game mixed in. There’s a reason it’s called a “Party.” I want people to escape with their friends and live something rather than just watch it. 

Your immersive experience, The Shadow Space, was super successful and often a sold out experience. How did it feel to get this kind of interest in one of your projects?

I’ve always said, “Doing the show is the reward. The work is getting people to come.” The Shadow Space was such a success that I didn’t have to work my ass off to get people there, the word spread so fast that I could just focus on doing it. That is a unique feeling for any artist, something we’d all like to get used to. When the virus is behind us The Shadow Space will return but it taught me lessons about audience engagement that I’ll bring to other projects moving forward.  

What are some of your other favorite past projects?

The World Busker Festival in Christchurch NZ was epic. I have never seen such huge crowds and support for street theatre.  The Edinburgh Fringe is so incredibly hard because you’re competing with the best in the world. But on that last day, when you watch the sun rise from Arthur’s Seat, you know you’ve conquered the world.  And, on a quiet note, I wrote an interactive, audio show that required me to be in The National Gallery in London every day for a month and that’s a pretty nice place to have as an office. 

What were some of the challenges you encountered with the creation of Adventure Parties? How did you / how do you continue to overcome them?

If you’re alone in your house making theatre, you are the stage manager, the techie, costumes, make up etc. You’re going to have to learn how to do it all and that includes all the things you don’t want to. I had to suck it up and learn all of the technology for video editing, lighting, sound and more which meant watching so many YouTube tutorials. You definitely need to learn how to “Mute All” on Zoom. 

What else is happening next in your world?

The great thing about Adventure Parties is that I can think of endless themes. A good story makes you forget what you’re doing but reminds you what you need to be doing. I’ll keep finding new ways to engage audiences because, in this mad world, it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. 

You can learn more about Shelby at https://www.shelbybond.com/

Learn more about The Best Medicine Productions at www.the best medicine productions.com

Learn more about Mind’s Eye Adventure Parties at www.Adventure-Party.com

About Jake Stern

I love to write about entertainment, film composing, sound, music, and more. Follow me to stay up to date on interviews with your favorite artists!

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One comment

  1. What a good interview! Nicely done

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