Kansas Collection – Chapter Four: The Invitation
In the Kansas Collection, the Speakeasy Society has taken L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz novels and brought them to life in an ARG (alternate-reality game) – an immersive experience driven by each guest’s decisions. Taking place in Kansas after the whirlwind adventures of Dorothy Gale, control of a dying Oz is at stake. In the quiet stillness before the storm, preparations are being made for the Scarecrow and Phoebe Daring’s upcoming nuptials, and allegiances are revealed.
The Invitation is the fourth chapter in a series, each lasting around 30 minutes. To catch up, read my reviews of Chapter One: The Key, Chapter Two: The Axe and Chapter Three: The Door. To avoid SPOILERS for The Invitation, skip to my Overview.
With Dorothy’s capture, a relative peace has come to Oz. The Scarecrow is in good spirits and Phoebe Daring/Ozma is excited about her upcoming wedding. As a member of the Scarecrow’s Militia, I am no longer required to help locate and procure Dorothy, thus I have been called in for reassignment. The Invitation brings me to the same Kansas tents as in The Key, where I wait by a crackling green fire and listen to the static-filled radio. After a closer listen, I recognize Phoebe Daring’s singing and frequent interruptions thanking the recruits for our help with Dorothy. A menacing undertone to her voice makes me uneasy. Did we… Did I do the right thing?
My number was called and I went with a fellow recruit to meet up with a welcoming Lyman. Assuring us that the past is in the past, Lyman told us all that matters is what we choose to do in the future. Do we hear the deafening silence that has befallen Oz? The calm before the impending storm. Are we ready for what is to come?
Invited into the tents, Private Joe Files thanked us for our service and reassigned us to wedding preparation with the remaining prisoners. Out of the many prisoners taken by the Scarecrow, only two are left, but Files did not elaborate on why…
Files shooed us into the back of the tent where we were to start our new assignments with the prisoners – a forgetful, but upbeat Jack Pumpkinhead and a strict, grumpy Tik-Tok. With blank envelopes littering the table (presumably for the wedding invitations), my fellow recruit and I sat and began our tasks: stamping a lock and a key on each envelope. As I stamped away, I asked Jack why he and Tik-Tok were prisoners. He told me how they had tried to help Dorothy escape, but Jack forgot to acquire the getaway vehicle, which led to their imprisonment.
Not wanting to relive his unfortunate past anymore, Jack pulled me aside to play dominoes. He set up three dominoes and asked me to find their match. I expressed my confusion, to which Jack, bright-eyed, told me about the competing factions in Oz. He then asked me to choose a side – the Scarecrow, Patchwork or REVOLT. Having been following the orders of the Scarecrow/Phoebe Daring until now, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to side with Dorothy and Patchwork. Jack lit up, revealing his allegiance, and spoke the Patchwork’s hidden message. I told him I didn’t know the appropriate response, so he taught it to me happily. He welcomed me to Patchwork and explained that I should wear red to the upcoming wedding in order to show my allegiance, against the Scarecrow’s wishes for his subjects to wear green.
From the other side of the tent, an angry Tik-Tok started yelling at Jack for his forgetfulness during their attempted escape. I sympathized with the dimwitted redhead as Tik-Tok berated Jack and blamed him for their current predicament. Tik-Tok checked his clock and ordered us away since our shift was done, while Jack sulked back to stamping envelopes.
On my way out, I pulled Lyman aside, speaking a secret phrase given to me through hidden messages from Jinjur and REVOLT. He giddily handed me an envelope containing even more hidden clues. Would the secrets lead me to change my allegiance again? Only time will tell…
The Kansas Collection is bursting with great performances, so nuanced and lived in that I forget the characters aren’t “real.” I am always delighted by the fun little conversations I have with the characters in between major plot developments. On top of the unfolding story, hidden codes and clues abound, just waiting for participants to find them. I absolutely love the thought and time the Speakeasy Society has put into their secret messages. Finding easter eggs and unlocking more information about the mysterious Oz only adds to my excitement and immersion.
The Invitation, a lighter chapter in the Kansas Collection, was not as emotional as The Axe or illuminating as the information collected during The Door. However, as Lyman suggested, the past is in the past. The Invitation marked a turning point in the story, and especially for me. Looking back on my time in Kansas, The Invitation offered me a chance to really think about where I stood and with whom. I can’t float through the narrative any longer, I have to make a choice.