Austin Detours brings immersive murder mystery experience to Sixth Street

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Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Eight women ventured onto Sixth Street, questioned suspects and ultimately, solved a murder. Normally this happens on television, but visitors can experience it firsthand with the help of a live theater production.

Local tour business Austin Detours partnered with Live in Theater, a Manhattan theater company, to host a murder mystery tour on Sixth Street every Saturday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The tour provides an immersive experience for participants to solve a murder case, which is historic and fiction-based.

Austin Detours began five years ago when owner Elizabeth Alderson returned from working abroad and realized she wanted an
unconventional job. When Live In Theater reached out to Austin Detours, the tour company bought the rights to perform immersive theatre in Austin and began hosting murder mystery tours.

“(Austin Detours is) the first of its kind in Austin,” Alderson said. “You’re actually walking around and solving the story rather than it just being a traditional experience where you’re in a hotel room or an actual theater environment.”

Although many attendees come for entertainment, some come to celebrate special events, including Vanessa Price, who had her bachelorette party on the tour this past Saturday. She originally planned to visit at least some of the bars on Sixth Street, but once her cousin discovered the murder mystery tour, she was thrilled.

“I wanted to do something fun and something different that none of us had done before,” Price said. “I’m more laid back, so I wanted to do some of the bars but I can’t do that the whole time.”

The tours include up to eight performers and are customizable for each story. Alderson said two murder mysteries currently run, including a mystery based in 1975 and a western version based in 1912.

Beginning behind the Susanna Dickinson Museum on Fifth Street, the 1975 investigation takes the group along Sixth Street to interview suspects, offers a complimentary alcoholic beverage and finishes behind the house. The audience is encouraged to engage with the performers through interrogative questions.

Austin Detours actress Yesenia Herrington said live theater allows her to develop improvisation skills because performers rarely know the questions that will be asked.

“It’s about keeping everybody engaged and making sure we providethem with the right information so they can solve the case,” Herrington said. “I think I really enjoy being able to flex that actor muscle of improvising.”

Along with improv, Alderson said another challenge of live theater is making sure the performers and locations enhance the tour’s realism.

“The whole idea of a Live In Theater is that you’re living it,” Alderson said. “It’s not a thing for you to watch, it’s a thing for you to participate in.”

Reflecting on this unique means of entertainment, Alderson said although she felt unqualified to change the world in a big way, her small portion of what she has to offer provides an unforgettable experience.

“At the end of the day, you can have all the money in the world and all the opportunity in the world, but the best of what we can ask for is wonderful life experiences,” Alderson said. “That’s what we get to create every day.”