ABOUT

Birch House exists to create, develop, and produce new Immersive work. We are dedicated to moving the medium forward by creating original experiences and facilitating the work of other Immersive artists through workshops, residency, and consultations.

Everything we build is a collaboration with our artists and audience that aims to put artists at the center of the process and audience members at the center of the experience. As one reviewer wrote, “Immersive experiences…are an important reminder and physicalization of our free will in following and participating in the stories around us.”

Birch house staff

Lauren Nicole Fields

By day, Lauren facilitates donor experiences in her role in Donor Relations at The Rotary Foundation. Lauren has a certificate in Principles and Techniques of Fundraising from The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. By night Lauren creates much kookier and spookier experiences for audience members at Birch House as a Co-Founder, Playwright, and Director. She has a BFA in Theatre Arts from The Theatre School at DePaul University.

lauren@birchhouseimmersive.com

JANIE KILLIPS

By day, Janie serves as the Production Coordinator at The Theatre School at DePaul University. By night, Janie designs old maps, old newspapers, and old stories as Co-Founder, Playwright, Designer, and self-titled archivist at Birch House. They hold a BFA in Playwriting from The The Theatre School at DePaul University.

janie@birchhouseimmersive.com

sarah mcelroy

By day, Sarah puts her Master's Degree in Human Resources to work with an international design and furnishings company. By night, Sarah leads Birch House Immersive where she serves as the organization’s Producer. She also holds a BFA in Theatre Management from The Theatre School at DePaul University.eatre School at DePaul University.

sarah@birchhouseimmersive.com

dean corrin

By day, Dean teaches and is Associate Dean of The Theatre School at DePaul University. By night he is a writer, performer, designer, technician, and theorist who fills his basement (and garage) with Birch House props.

dean@birchhouseimmersive.com

Lauren Nicole Fields

By day, Lauren facilitates donor experiences in her role in Donor Relations at The Rotary Foundation. Lauren has a certificate in Principles and Techniques of Fundraising from The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. By night Lauren creates much kookier and spookier experiences for audience members at Birch House as a Co-Founder, Playwright, and Director. She has a BFA in Theatre Arts from The Theatre School at DePaul University.

Janie Killips

By day, Janie serves as the Production Coordinator at The Theatre School at DePaul University. By night, Janie designs old maps, old newspapers, and old stories as Co-Founder, Playwright, Designer, and self-titled archivist at Birch House. They hold a BFA in Playwriting from The The Theatre School at DePaul University.

lauren@birchhouseimmersive.com

janie@birchhouseimmersive.com

sarah mcelroy

By day, Sarah puts her Master's Degree in Human Resources to work with an international design and furnishings company. By night, Sarah leads Birch House Immersive where she serves as the organization’s Producer. She also holds a BFA in Theatre Management from The Theatre School at DePaul University.

dean corrin

By day, Dean teaches and is Associate Dean of The Theatre School at DePaul University. By night he is a writer, performer, designer, technician, and theorist who fills his basement (and garage) with Birch House props.

sarah@birchhouseimmersive.com

dean@birchhouseimmersive.com

Our Story

The Birch House team first met in a decrepit, decaying old elementary school that was, at the time, the home of The Theatre School at DePaul University.  Janie, Lauren, and Sarah studied there and Dean was a professor.  (Janie and Lauren claim that Birch House is their effort to earn a final grade in Dean’s Theme Park Theatre class.)  After completing their degrees, Janie and Lauren were drawn back together by their shared interest in creating immersive work.  Their first collaboration was a pop-up mystery called The Missing, created (with Sarah as Producer) for the 2016 Chicago Fringe Festival. (It was later, in the early days of the pandemic, re-created as a free online puzzle experience.)

The success of The Missing led to taking over all of the Athenaeum Theatre (except for the stage) for the horror spectacular, Dark Day.  Janie and Lauren invited Dean to visit a couple of rehearsals and he never left.

During all of this, it only made sense for Janie and Lauren to get an apartment together (with Lauren’s Birch Spouse, Bryce) where they could collaborate day and night.  They created an open work/live space, where they could host creative work nights, themed supper clubs, and their early Artist Residency program.

In the darkness of December 2017, the team started their new project with the question, “Who would go to a bar alone on Valentine’s Day?”  They answered that question with the characters for their first celebration of the martyrdom of the saint, Lonely Hearts, an evening of intimate moments for one and for two. In addition to writing the experiences, Janie, Lauren, and Dean also performed as the hosts of Rigby’s Tavern. Much to their surprise those characters lived on and Lonely Hearts has become a popular recurring experience that celebrated its fifth iteration in 2022.

While Janie and Lauren were living together, they started making diagrams on a very large chalkboard and writing many drafts of a very big script. In November of 2018 Birch House “swung for the fences,” filling the entire Berger Mansion with fog to produce the large-scale immersive project, Cursed: an American Tragedy. Audiences exploring the sixteen curated spaces in the house encountered the interwoven stories of three generations of a family and their war-time experiences.

After Cursed, Janie and Lauren began searching for the next impossible immersive challenge to explore. The most difficult thing they could think of was an immersive musical, which came to fruition in The Ode at Pint’s End. Birch House transformed the upstairs of Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro into The Broken Oar, where the audience joined the journey of three sailors to the bottom of the sea and their return home.

The arrival of the global pandemic interrupted the Birch House mission of creating intimate experiences for audiences and sent the team back to basics, strengthening and refining their foundational practices. They collected and implemented feedback from their collaborators in a cultural audit. They expanded their safety practices and refined the supporting documents. Maintaining their commitment to creating connection, they turned their attention to community engagement and education. The company co-hosted virtual meetups of the Chicago Immersive community. They taught classes and workshops and offered consultations to other artists. They created an online version of our Artist Residency program. The team explored new forms of immersive storytelling with a virtual Lonely Hearts in Quarantine in 2021 and the mailed experience Lonely Hearts: Special Delivery in 2022.

This year Birch House celebrates five years of Immersive and ten original productions, looking back on their accomplishments with pride (and some surprise) and looking forward to a future with exciting plans and ambitious dreams of creating new experiences to surprise, move, and engage new audiences.