“The Speakeasy Society not only perfectly defines the genre, it continually sets the benchmark for the emotional effect this kind of art should have on its audience.”
- BECOME IMMERSED
“This is a troupe hitting their creative stride [...] an immersive storytelling machine.”
- NO PROSCENIUM
“In a world dominated by anonymous distracting screens at every moment, there’s something thrilling and a bit dangerous about this attention, this connection.”
We like to talk about how our first show was in a bathroom.
It was 2012, we were students at CalArts, and it wasn’t technically allowed. We told the security guards we were filming (which seemed to work), and The Weird Sisters, our site specific witch-centric version of Macbeth, became the unofficial inaugural production of what would eventually become The Speakeasy Society.
Seven years and 23 unique productions later, the company is quickly becoming identified as the industry standard for independent theatre companies in Los Angeles --- and immersive theatre companies nationwide.
Today, The Speakeasy Society is an LA-based immersive theatre company creating intimate and epic experiences in unexpected places. We create 360-degree worlds that provide space for entertainment and discovery through total engagement.
The Speakeasy Society specializes in immersive world-building through shared experiences for audiences of one to more than one-hundred. Our work is characterized by our commitment to creating a narrative where each audience member plays a specific role in the experience and their actions impact their overall journey through the performance.
The Speakeasy Society has received institutional support from Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment, and we’ve partnered with a variety of cultural institutions in Los Angeles, from The Broad Stage to Two Bit Circus. Currently The Speakeasy Society is developing a new show inspired by the Hero’s Journey and Greek mythology at California Institute of the Arts.
While the company and our list of collaborating artists has grown, our goal remains the same: to change what it means to “go to the theater” in Los Angeles, one performance at a time.
Awards and Achievements:
LA Weekly - Best Emerging Immersive Theater Company 2015
Immersive Nation - Immersion Award 2019 for Best Immersive Narrative
No Proscenium - Top Ten Immersive Moments of 2019: The Kansas Collection and The Johnny Cycle
Immersed - Year-End Staff pick: The Johnny Cycle 2019
L to R: Andrew Lia, John Henningsen, Julianne Just, Michael Bates, Genevieve Gearhart, Chris Porter, Matthew Bamberg-Johnson Not Pictured: Jenny Curtis
Core Artistic Team Bios
Matthew Bamberg-Johnson (Artistic Director) earned his BA in Theater and Dance from Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and received his MFA in Acting from the California Institute of the Arts, where he gained a broad range of experience in dramatic and comedic roles for stage and screen. In addition to his work as a co-artistic director of The Speakeasy Society, Matthew currently serves as an Acting Instructor for ISANA Academies, a collection of charter schools in the Greater Los Angeles area, as well as an adjunct faculty member at The Studio School.
Genevieve Gearhart (Artistic Director) is an actor, director, dancer, and choreographer. Genevieve’s work has been seen at the Getty Villa, REDCAT, the Ohio Theater, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Williamstown Theater Festival, and many found spaces in Los Angeles and New York. She serves as Co-Artistic Director for The Speakeasy Society, an immersive entertainment company creating intimate and epic experiences in unexpected places. Genevieve received her MFA in Acting from California Institute of the Arts and her BA in Dance and Theatre from Manhattanville College.
Julianne Just (Artistic Director) is a Los Angeles based director and co-artistic director of The Speakeasy Society. Directing credits include: Ibsen's Little Eyolf, Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba, Purcell's Baroque Semi-Opera Spectacular The Fairy Queen, various new operas, plays, and unique site-specific events. She has also done concept development for Creative Entertainment at Walt Disney Imagineering and holds an MFA in Directing from the School of Theater at California Institute of the Arts and a BA in Theater & Literature from Sarah Lawrence College. She currently serves as an adjunct faculty at California Institute of the Arts and is a returning guest lecturer at the University of Southern California.
Chris Porter (Associate Artistic Director) is a Los Angeles-based writer, sound designer, and award-winning composer of concert works, film, theater, and other performance events. Chris earned his MFA in Music Composition from California Institute of the Arts and a BMA in Music Composition from Baldwin-Wallace University. Chris can also be found on multiple podcasts under the CurtCo Media banner--including as a host of the improvisational storytelling comedy podcast When Last I Left, and as the creator of the scripted series, Solar.
John Henningsen (Producing Director) is a creative producer with over twenty years of experience working in non-profit theatre and over fifteen years as an arts manager. He has worked on stage and off at Chicago Shakespeare, American Theater Company, Next Theater, HERE Arts Center, Circle X Theatre Co., Boston Court, the Getty Villa, and Lovewell Institute for the Creative Arts. John is a teaching artist and was the Education Director at Center for Theater Arts and technical theater faculty at Windward School. He is currently the Producing Director of the award-winning immersive theater company The Speakeasy Society, Speakeasysociety.com; and Founder/Artistic Director of Thymele Arts in Hollywood, ThymeleArts.com.
Michael Bates (Associate Artistic Director) is an actor and writer who has performed with The Speakeasy Society since 2014, most recently as Jack Pumpkinhead in The Kansas Collection and Yuri in The Johnny Cycle. Other recent credits include Justin Denton’s virtual reality experience Chained, where he originated the Spirits of the Past, Present, and Future, and The Under Presents, where he’s an original cast member. Michael is a native Angeleno who holds an MFA in Acting from the California Institute of the Arts.
Andrew Lia (Production Manager) has been active in the Los Angeles theatre community as a Production Manager, Stage Manager and Lighting Designer since 2011 working with companies such as Center Theatre Group, East West Players, Circle X Theatre Company, Ghost Road Company, and as well as at educational institutions including Oxy Arts, The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, American Musical & Dramatic Academy, and Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre. Andrew also has worked as a Project Manager for Tait Towers where he oversaw the installation of Tait’s automation elements for Shanghai Disneyland, Fantasmic 2.0!!, and Facebook’s MPK21 Event Space. A Chicago native, Andrew holds a BA from Augustana College and an MFA from CalArts.
Jenny Curtis (Media Director) is a Los Angeles born and based actor and creator. She earned her BFA in Acting from the California Institute of the Arts and has worked in the world of entertainment in a variety of formats. Currently in podcasting with CurtCo Media, Jenny produces and hosts entertainment interviews in Hollywood Unscripted, hosts a storytelling improv show with When Last I Left, and created and produces A Moment Of Your Time. She has appeared in TV and film such as: Modern Family, Any Bullet Will Do opposite Bruce Davison and Postpartum opposite Danielle Harris (“Best Actress” from The Horror Hotel). Additionally, Jenny has worked behind the scenes in film, digital, music videos, commercials, animation, theater, and casting.