Since the Parkway Speakeasy Theater closed last year, it's been hard to find a place in the East Bay where you can go mid-week to get a beer, meet new people, and be entertained for less than fifteen dollars. Now, there's a new speakeasy in town — one where you can use hot-glue guns, wander through a life-size maze, and sidestep an outdoor waterfall to enjoy a star-dappled panorama of the entire bay. Geek Out, a seasonal series of interactive science events launched last fall at Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science, invites the eighteen-and-over crowd to enjoy the hands-on museum in a way most of us haven't experienced since elementary school field trips. But with the dimmed lights, a full DJ setup pumping house music, and a cash bar beside a glowing, six-foot orb representing the Earth, an evening of kid-style play becomes decidedly adult.
Sue Guevara, museum programs assistant, said the idea came to her as she watched children clustering around one of the museum's permanent installations, in which beach balls dance atop vertical streams of air. "On a regular day, an adult wouldn't be able to get near that exhibit," Guevara said. But at Geek Out, visitors have access to all exhibitions, plus an ample appetizer buffet and free transportation via shuttle between the museum and downtown Berkeley BART— all for just $10.
The Lawrence Hall of Science is not the first Bay Area museum to entice adult visitors with a social, refreshment-enhanced atmosphere. San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences dips into blacklight every Thursday for "Nightlife," while on Fridays the neighboring de Young Museum hosts themed evenings of music and hands-on activities. However, while "Nightlife" offers a capacious, club-like scene, Geek Out is "intended to give adults the opportunity to play like kids do ... small, more intimate, more interactive experiences." Read: the nerdy younger sibling of big-city museum nights.
On Wednesday, April 14, the Lawrence Hall of Science (1 Centennial Dr., Berkeley) presents the third and final Geek Out of the spring, a "Fix It Clinic" to which visitors are invited to bring broken-down appliances that they will gut and attempt to rebuild. At past Geek Outs, the mostly under-35 attendees have been strapped into harnesses to simulate a walk on Mars, engaged in mediated discussion on the anthropology of race, and built earthquake-proof buildings with a panoply of household materials and power tools. 7-10 p.m., $10. 510-642-5132 or LHSGeekOut.com