By Naeisha Rose
A live-action, immersive theater company opened its doors May 11 in Long Island City. The company, First Person Xperience, located at 53-28 11th St., was founded by husband-and-wife duo Daniel Gomez and Dr. Johannana Gomez.
The high school sweethearts met at Francis Lewis High School, and both attended Hofstra University in Psychology. They married in 2002, and while he served overseas in Iraq and all over the Pacific, she received her Ph. D. at Capella University in counseling. Currently, Daniel, a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, is receiving his MBA at Fordham University.
The interactive story called “RED” (pronounced READY) allows a person or group to live out a 75-minute post-apocalyptic scenario featuring special effects and character actors. Throughout the experience, guests have options that aid them towards creating their own ending to the adventure within a 4,000-square-foot space.
Daniel Gomez drew inspiration for the business from his knowledge as a special operations scenario designer at The United States Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“I created unique environments and situations where they will be trained and tested to conduct real-world and highly sensitive operations,” said the 13-year veteran. “I said, ‘you know what? People will love to do this in real life, except without the danger.’ So I did research for a couple years. I studied interactive entertainment, immersive theater, marketing, Comic Con, video games, and we came up with this company.”
Together, with his wife’s background in counseling and psychological theory, they were able to come up with a company where people can be entertained and educated at the same time.
“We’ve already had people say, ‘I’ve never talked on a radio before. I’ve never read a map before,’ things they never come across in their regular life, and all of a sudden they are doing it and you can see the growth in somebody,” Daniel Gomez said.
While he designed the space, his father Jose helped to build and his wife created the “fear aspect that we put, worrying about the unknown and overcoming that throughout the whole process, and we max out their senses with smells, sights and sounds.”
On any day, there could be either 5 to 10 actors playing different charcters that are in on the thrills and respond to guests based on their decisions.
“In other immersive theater experiences, no matter what you say or do, the story goes on and nothing changes. With us, if you do a something, ‘A’ will happen, if you do ‘B,’ something different will happen, and we track and monitor that based on your actions,” Gomez said. “At the end of it all, we give you your personalized story of your actions, just like a video game.”
The husband-and-wife team plans on adding group packages for corporations, government organizations, and law enforcement.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose