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A biographical tale of murder, mafia, and intrigue in NYC told with handmade dolls and sets, in conjunction with an immersive play.
A biographical tale of murder, mafia, and intrigue in NYC told with handmade dolls and sets, in conjunction with an immersive play.
316 backers pledged $16,811 to help bring this project to life.


Kickstarted in Oct 2011 and still going strong!

Featured in The New York Times New York Post Flavorpill Gothamist Bust The Science Channel Theatermania NY Theater Broadway World and More

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Based on a true NYC murder case, “Speakeasy Dollhouse” immerses audience in a Prohibition-era time capsule featuring mobsters, moonshine, burlesque and more

New York, NY (January 4 2012) – Transporting audiences to an era of mobsters, moonshine, and murder, one of the city's most unique theater experiences will return by popular demand for an extended run through June 2013.

Originally intended to be a one-night-only event, Speakeasy Dollhouse will kick off its new season in February 2013, once again bringing an actual unsolved Prohibition-era murder to life in the downtown building that once served as mobster Meyer Lansky’s hangout. Replete with live jazz by Howard Fishman and his band, burlesque dancers, and real moonshine, the production offers up a meticulously detailed slice of New York City history on the first Monday and Saturday of each month.

The experience begins with a series of emails featuring actual 1935 news articles, court documents, and autopsy reports. Audience members also receive special instructions to show up dressed for a 1930’s night on the town at a secret address, including the password they will need to enter. Upon arrival, are each audience member is assigned a role or task which can range from passing notes to key characters to aiding in an autopsy. Once inside, they discover a perfect replica of a speakeasy, where they eat cannoli, play cards with gangsters, sip hooch disguised in coffee cups, enjoy burlesque performances – and witness a shooting, funeral, murder investigation, and trial.

The show is the brainchild of artist and author Cynthia von Buhler, whose Italian immigrant grandfather, a speakeasy owner named Frank Spano, was shot and killed on a Manhattan street in 1935. Though the shooter was caught, his case was inexplicably dismissed, leaving the question of motive forever unanswered.

Long haunted by the mystery, von Buhler, whose mother was born the day her grandfather died, began interviewing family members about the killing and scouring autopsy reports, police records, and court documents. Inspired by a 1940s investigative technique called "nutshell studies," von Buhler first recreated the crime scene in an elaborate dollhouse diorama that garnered a recent profile in the New York Times.

In October 2010, von Buhler brought her miniature set to life in what was intended to be a one-night theatrical staging. The production proved so popular that it continued to be performed before sold-out audiences, becoming one of the hottest underground theater tickets in the city and attracting a roster of guest performers that included bestselling author Neil Gaiman, musician Amanda Palmer, downtown theater icon Edgar Oliver, and others.

Each month's show explores a different motive behind the murder, from jealousy over a suspected affair to a Mafia hit. As audience members meander through a speakeasy bar, a private alleyway, a bakery, and more, they are privy to conversations and whispered bits of gossip from cast members about the victim's marital infidelities, mob connections, and other clues. The piece is constantly evolving based on new scenarios sparked by spontaneous interactions between cast members and guests, who are encouraged to become full-fledged participants in the unfolding drama. Von Buhler is using discoveries and research culled from the performances for a book she is writing on the murder.

“Speakeasy Dollhouse is more than just a play – it is a time capsule that transports audiences to the scene of a riveting crime and then invites them to live fully in that world, erasing the boundary between themselves and the performers," said von Buhler.

Speakeasy Dollhouse is presented on the first Monday and Saturday of each month in Manhattan. Tickets are available in advance only and can be purchased by phone at 1-800-838-3006 or online at

What: Speakeasy Dollhouse, an immersive theater experience When: The first Monday and Saturday of each month (except holiday weekends) starting Feb 2013
Time: Monday: 7:30PM – 10:30PM
Saturday: 4PM – 7PM
Where: A Secret Location, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Cost: Monday $20, Saturday $30
Packages and VIP tables from $50 - $250
Tickets (advance only): 1-800-838-3006 or online at

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The one year anniversary of the Kickstarter SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE -- still going strong

Exactly one year ago I launched Speakeasy Dollhouse through Kickstarter. It was only supposed to be two shows and now here we are, a year later, still going strong. To celebrate our anniversary and my birthday I present...


Saturday, October 20th

4PM - 7:30PM (show)

7:30Pm - 11PM (Cynthia's private party)

"If you have already seen Speakeasy Dollhouse you know that each show explores a theme which investigates why my speakeasy-owner grandfather Frank Spano was murdered in 1935, and why his murderer was set free. We always make a point to listen to our audience's conclusions and recently one audience member suggested that he was killed by a zombie. Another thought that perhaps it was a vampire who did the dirty deed. I always like to keep an open mind and this got me thinking that the killer could have even been a werewolf, mummy or unicorn. Let's find out." - Countess Cynthia von Buhler

If you have previously attended the show

CLICK HERE to buy tickets.

Tickets include a very special gift and an invitation to the Countess' private birthday party at a secret location directly following the show.

If you haven't seen the show YOU ARE NOT INVITED.

I'm sorry, but you can still buy tickets for the November and December shows.


The March Speakeasy Dollhouse Show Is All About Luck

The February show was about LOVE. Below you can read my love letter to NYC which was projected on a building in the Lower East Side.

The March show (3/4/2012) is all about LUCK. Good luck and bad luck. The actual death of my grandfather (bad luck) and birth of my mother (good luck) occurred on St. Patrick's Day in 1935. Step back in time and help me figure out my family mystery. 

If you attended already you should COME BACK. New characters have been added, new evidence will be revealed, and I miss you.  

Buy your tickets now. Use the secret code HELP ME to get $5 off the $20 general admission price. 


Photo of Cynthia von Buhler by Kamila Harris.

New Yorkers, Speakeasy Dollhouse is Back (and it is evolving)

If you have already seen the show you should come back. Each show is evolving as the mystery is revealed through my research. 

February's special guest singers are Annie Darcy & Hayley Jane. These Bostonian chanteuses were last seen in NYC singing at Sleep No More's bar.

I'm offering a special promotional discount to my Kickstarter backers and friends. If you enter the code HELP ME when you purchase tickets you will receive $5 off the $20 admission. The VIP tables are sold out. There are still a handful of general price tickets left.

On Monday February 6th the theme is LOVE.

Tickets: Call Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006 or order online by clicking HERE

Speakeasy Dollhouse will be held on the first Monday of every month beginning in February 2012 from 7:30PM – 11PM at a secret location. The address and password are revealed when tickets are purchased.

Speakeasy Dollhouse has a new website. Click HERE

P.S. to Dewdroppers. The postcards are being printed this week.

Speakeasy Dollhouse is Back as a Ticketed Off-Broadway Play

Speakeasy Dollhouse is Back as a Ticketed Off-Broadway Play

Thanks to the success of my August 2011 Kickstarter the Speakeasy Dollhouse is back, but this time the shows will be ticketed and open to the general public. If you backed the project and came to the show, come back! The show is constantly evolving, and as you know, you can't see all of the action in one night. The 2012 season will feature special guest actors and singers!

Sip cocktails from teacups and enjoying cannolis fresh from Spano’s Bakery. Mingle with flapper floozies, infamous mobsters, corrupt magistrates, and questionable cops. Live prohibition-era music by The Howard Fishman Quartet. From decor to music to characters, it's a mind-blowing trip back in time. Dress the part, and you become part of the family - and book!

The show runs from February - June in 2012. 

Tickets are limited and they are selling fast! Call 1-800-838-3006 or order them online at 

Visit the Speakeasy Dollhouse website for more information and pictures.