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Interview: Jon Braver of 'Delusion: Reaper's Remorse'

Delusion creator Jon Braver
Delusion creator Jon Braver

By: Kayla Caldwell

If you’re familiar with Delusion, you know no matter which show you attend, it’s always a memorable experience. This year, things have gotten bigger, better, and scarier, thanks to a collaboration with Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group. Delusion: Reaper’s Remorse is set to offer an entirely new, open-world concept, VIP experiences, and enough entertainment to keep you busy all night long.

We were lucky enough to chat with Delusion creator, Jon Braver, about the new play. Read on below for more details on what to expect from this year’s show, the leading lady of Reaper’s Remorse, Esther Phillips, and how Braver uses his film and stunt man experience to make Delusion events unforgettable.

What is one of the harder parts about putting this type of show together?

Jon Braver: Finding a venue has always been such a b****. It's so hard. But we've been lucky with this one. This is, I'd say, probably one of the best Delusion venues we've ever had, if not the best. It plays really well into this particular original story. So I find the venue, and then I start writing the play based on it, in conjunction with a producer that's kind of helping to put together the budget. It's hard, because usually you have a script, and then you budget it afterwards. But we actually have to budget before. Thirteenth Floor is like, here's what you got, good luck! Have fun with it.

The Esther Phillips house, 2021 Delusion location
The Esther Phillips house, 2021 Delusion location

It seems like there have to be so many moving parts in an event like this?

Jon Braver: We've been doing it since 2011. I guess you would think that we'd have it down, and we do. It's about having, you know, the right team in place. I have amazing people and support, now with Thirteenth Floor entertainment group, this is a new dynamic for Delusion. I am now working with these guys as a director of immersive entertainment, so we're starting a new division for their haunted house company, with more intimate experiences, such as Delusion. We treat this like a movie. I've worked in the movie business for a while. I'll get my producer on board, and then my producer helps to lay out the whole timeline of what needs to be done.

Can you tell us about your leading lady for this new story, Delusion: Reaper’s Remorse?

Jon Braver: This mansion was owned by Louis Phillips and his little-known wife, Esther Phillips. There's not much known about her. So I created a story for her. Esther lived there, and she's got a really interesting past that you'll learn a lot more about. She's a collector. She's lived alone for a while. She's surrounded by artifacts that actually house the souls of the people they were tied to when they were alive. They're lingering, unwilling to let go from this world just yet. She's surrounded by these things. She's alone, yet not. She has this very, very special and personal artifact acquisition that's come into her life. And she's too afraid to go near it, to interact with it. She figured this is the time to open my world, open my life to other people, to fellow lovers of the occult.

So that's the extent of what you get. You're coming into this private party of hers, and then you're just going down the rabbit hole. It's going to be intense. This one is set up to be the most frightening, the most action-oriented. You're moving through this, and it's, there's a ticking clock to it. I love this story. This is one of my favorite stories I've ever written. It hearkens back to a little bit of the Lies Within feel, too. Esther's a great character, and we have plenty of other captivating characters as well, throughout the whole play. I definitely encourage people to come for the night. Come two or three hours before, stay later, have drinks, hang out.

Esther Phillips, leading lady of 'Delusion: Reaper's Remorse'
Esther Phillips, leading lady of 'Delusion: Reaper's Remorse'

How would you summarize what exactly Delusion is, for those not familiar with immersive events?

Jon Braver: It's theater. It's a play. You're going to a play that moves throughout the venue. You are an integral character inside of this story. I've written you into the story. So it’s pushing you outside of certain comfort zones, and you're going to be very happy I did that. In a very safe way, but it's making you a kid again, and putting you through these adventures.

Sometimes, people who don't really know what this is, they'll say, “well, I'm spending this much, I could go to Disneyland.” Well, this is very, very different than that. Think of it as a higher-end play. But it's a whole world we're creating. You are in it. You are experiencing it. You are surrounded by an original score, and sound design at this beautiful venue, and this incredibly layered play that I've written. It lingers in the mind for a while - like a good movie. That's what this is.

What else can we expect at this year’s Delusion?

Jon Braver: There's also going to be a VIP secluded lounge, that's going to be super cool. It's called “Her Private Collection,” which is, one of our lead characters' more personal items that tie even more directly to the main narrative. And there's a dark arts lounge there, where there's an eccentric resident that you can meet. We haven't really touched upon VIP experiences too much in the past, but this one's going to have it. So, it's a whole night out. I'm crazy excited about that. You could spend, like, three, four hours there.

How has it been, now that you’re working with Thirteenth Floor?

Jon Braver: We get a lot of support from them [Thirteenth Floor]. That's why this year is going to be an even bigger year. It's our first foray into this format I've been toying with, the open world experience mixed with a narrative. So this is going to be the most holistic Delusion experience ever. We're really encouraging people to come early, spend the whole night there. If you have a 10 o'clock play time, then come at, like, 7:30, have dinner, have some food, drinks, and then the cool thing is, you're going to be able to experience this open world, this eerie scavenger hunt kind of thing. There's going to be a bunch of story threads, we're calling them, and you can go and follow them at whim. Make new friends and further add to the narrative play that you're going to see, further define the story. So there are going to be pre- and post-show experiences.

'Delusion: Reaper's Remorse'
'Delusion: Reaper's Remorse'

Is the audition process special for Delusion, since this is a different kind of play?

It's interesting, because I've gotten that question sometimes, and everybody has their method to kind of go through actors and audition them for something specific like this, where they're really interacting. Number one is the background check. For me, I've just always been this kind of person that just ... it's not unique, really. It's just about feeling the energy really quickly with someone.

There's a certain process I'll go through. I'll see their faces, and - do I connect with them immediately? Do they fill that role that I'm imagining in the script, in the story? From there, it’s the way they're talking, and talking about themselves, just, seeing if they're genuine. If you're a genuine person, okay, good, we got through that step. Now let's see about your talent. If it's not really there? Okay, moving on, sorry. But if it's there, but it's not great, it's good, and I can see that this person will probably take direction fairly well, then okay, good. The Delusion actors are always the best you'll see in any interactive theatre, hands down. It just comes from people willing to play... They don't have to be the most talented. They just have to be willing to play, to be collaborative, to be direct-able, and just to love people and the experience of it all. For the most part, honestly, it's energy. Just have a good energy, and be genuine. That takes you right to the top.

How does working in film help you to work on your own projects, like Delusion?

Jon Braver: Well, in a few ways, storytelling - I learned a lot from working on movies like Indiana Jones, like watching Spielberg in action and watching where they place their cameras. Everybody wants an immersive movie that you feel like you're inside of it. So it's interesting where they place their cameras. So to me, the audience are cameras. Where are we going to put them? What's the best blocking? So I learned about how to block certain scenes.

The other thing is stunts. I have a stunt background, and I bring that into the world, in helping create the otherworldliness of Delusion, whether it be vampires crawling on the ceiling or in the Blue Blade, we have a character about to fall on top of you and they freeze - freezing time. There's a lot of that kind of stuff. But all the stunts have to be story-driven. They're not just spectacle. I treat Delusion like a film. I'm in the film world. I love movies. I love making movies. Delusion is like, we're making a live movie. That's what this it, a live movie. It all comes down to the story.

I’ve tried the VR for your show Lies Within. Do you have more plans to work with VR?

Jon Braver: The VR one, we have a whole second half to that. It's all written. It's all ready to go. We're actually trying to get into turning these into films as well. The Lies Within one is a movie - one day, I'm going to make that.

Curious to see why Braver believes this year is the scariest Delusion yet? Check out more details and buy tickets here:


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