Organization and Venues
Organizing, designing, and executing blockbuster larps is no easy task, even in the most conducive circumstances. Orchestrating an event the scope and scale of Saturnalia, from twelve states and one time zone away, has proven to be a herculean task. We’ve spoken across several different mediums as to why New Orleans, of all other cities, would be the most ideal for an event of this nature. The connection to the occult and western vampire mythology is inexorably tied to the city. In fact, as we ran through the steps of securing vendors and venues, we often found ourselves on the tails of filming locations for the upcoming AMC reboot of Interview With the Vampire. Having been to The Big Easy numerous times in our larp careers, coupled with personal visits, it’s not hard to turn down any street or alley of New Orleans and find a shop, landmark, or historical sight attached to things that we associate with the World of Darkness that we’ve all come to know and love. Our approach to finding venues was both incredibly intricate, yet simple in many ways. Above all else, it was paramount for Reverie that locations were selected in appropriate parts of the French Quarter, that were both safe to our hundreds of participants, as well as thematically appropriate and able to convey the themes, moods, and aspects of Saturnalia that we are hoping to get across. Leveraging local fixers, as well as touring them on foot, we were able to secure upwards of thirty venues for our district-wide, weekend experience - ranging from bars, clubs, historic squares, colonial era mansions - and even extending to local flare such as The City of New Orleans Steamboat and Canal Street trolley car lines.
Beyond the actual in-play locations, we were able to cement extracurricular activities for visitors, so that they can get the full New Orleans experience. Being mindful that most of our participants may be visiting the city for the first time, through our local partners we’ve been able to secure free admission to museums, access to cultural centers, and post-Saturnalia events, such as High Tea and Leaf Reading at the NOLA Vampire Cafe and a discount at the Vampire Boutique Gift Shop. Hotels were recommended based on cost, of course, as well as proximity to our event, ensuring that you are never more than a fifteen minute walk away from a potential destination. A few steps out the door of your hotel, you’re a heartbeat away from famous institutions, eateries, and notable sights which most have only seen on TV or in movies.
Locking down these locations proved to be one of the most difficult aspects of Saturnalia. Planning began almost a year prior. Extensive research was conducted online, and a wish list of locations was compiled, after which, we reached out to each and every venue owner via email, and eventually a phone conversation, to negotiate prices, amenities and offerings. We stressed a symbiotic relationship with their potential involvement. The last thing we desired was to detract from their normal weekend business, all the while providing intimate locations where our participants can explore their characters, and feed into this grand story which we’re all going to tell. As such, many of our locations are back rooms that most tourists, and even locals, have ever seen.
The venue hunt was challenging at times. New Orleans is widely viewed as a party destination. Apart from being the well-known host of Mardi Gras, their Jazz and Heritage Festival, and Pride Festivities the month after, invariably delayed some of our time frames. It’s incredibly difficult to get a taste of a venue from the Northeast, where Reverie’s partners are located. True to the ethos of Southern Hospitality, our venue partners definitely went above and beyond, offering virtual tours over Facetime sessions, making referrals and leads on other properties they felt fit our event, and even took time out of their nights to show us around during a recent visit. I truly believe in each and every business that we have secured this far. They’re run by hardworking, caring, and dynamic small business owners who are committed to seeing this event live up to its undeniable potential.
As a whole though, the overwhelming majority of the business owners and venue managers displayed a laudable level of enthusiasm for Saturnalia. Most were sold on the notion after a short conversation. Others wished to help out a bit more, supplying props, secret locations, drink discounts, and set decoration if we desired. One manager even purchased a ticket to the event to play as a participant. We’ve truly been blessed through this arduous process, and would not have had all these factors fall in line if it wasn’t for the cooperation and generosity of our venues. We’re confident that our participants will get an authentic and genuine New Orleans experience - whether it's visiting a storied jazz hall, or receiving a reading at a reputable voodoo shop.
I’d say the venue that I’m most excited to see our participants venture into would be Potion’s Lounge. The proprietor, Marita Jaeger, is widely accepted as “The Vampire Queen of New Orleans.” Tapping into her resources, connections, and shared love for all things undead, we were able to solidify use of a hidden speakeasy for one of the Saturnalia locations. It’s just one of those groovy places that you would never know existed. To gain entry you walk through a raucous jazz hall, down a narrow hallway which deposits you in an ivy-clad colonial courtyard, nestled between buildings of the French Quarter. From there you have to give a secret passphrase to an unassuming doorman who shows you the way in. Up a flight of stairs which has been wholly untouched by time, you walk through a mundane door. Instantly, you’re transported. Lush crushed velvet, Victorian era furniture, two parlors, an absinthe bar boasting prohibition era cocktails, and even an outdoor balcony overlooking Bourbon Street. It’s the type of location where the ambience isn’t painted on the walls. Walking around the space you just have an innate feeling that you’re someplace hidden, secret and special.
Everyone is excited about Saturnalia as it draws closer day after day, including us. While the Duerty Boys Gallery is certainly high on my list of things that I would enjoy as an experience, the aspect of Saturnalia I’m most excited about is the second line funeral march. Starting at Jackson Square, this procession will gather and lead our participants to our primary venue, and main event space of the evening - The Beauregard Keyes House. It’s such a staple of the New Orleans experience. Being on the operations team, I regret that I won’t be able to see every aspect of the night’s event, as I’ll be tasked out ensuring this all goes off without a hitch. But I’m going to ensure I’m there for the parade of the damned.