Sleep No More tips & tricks
March 28, 2012 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Sleep No More filter: Had an amazing experience last month, seeing the show again on Saturday. Interested in any and all tips, tricks, suggestions, guides, etc. to get the most out of a repeat visit. That includes recommended reading beforehand and places to visit/things to try during the show. "Spoilers" are totally fine and in fact welcome. Thanks!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
First things first: This is based on my experience at the Boston show, so your mileage may vary and all that.

Here is what advice I have about SNM; these are things I was lucky enough to find out when I was there (as my date had been there several times already) and was immediately very glad to know.

- There is going to be a huge crowd of people following Macbeth. This is all well and good but it means you'll be following a crowd. I took a different route, personally. The thing is, though some of the setpieces that happen around Macbeth are visually fascinating, they're not much more so than any of the other stuff that happens. So wherever you are, you're in good shape. If you're already roughly familiar with the plot of Macbeth then there's a lot of stuff you can safely miss. Also I believe the whole thing plays out at least twice over the course of the night so you have time to catch it if you really want to. But what I did is...

- Wander. It will be made completely obvious which things you're not supposed to interact with, and if you're where a performer needs to be then they will move you (this is actually pretty cool when it happens). Sometimes they will move you because they want to, and this is also pretty cool, and your chances of having it happen are better if you wander. Remember what I said about things you're not supposed to interact with: If it's not completely obvious, then you can. Pick things up. Look inside books. Open drawers. Just try to put things back where you found them. I sat at a desk and opened a drawer and there was a bird's nest inside of it. It was awesome.

- Your ticket will likely be a playing card. Look at it closely: it's not a card they went and bought. These were printed solely for Sleep No More. Hang on to it, it'll be a cool keepsake, though I doubt it'll be worth anything.

- Unless you're sensitive to strobe lights, don't miss the sequence with the witches and nudity and blood. You'll know it when you see it.

- Anyone not wearing a mask is part of the show. That can be very easy to forget, so don't.

- The nurse is a good character to follow. There won't be much of a crowd around her and she will take you to a lot of interesting places.

- Again, the show repeats, but there's so much going on that there will be things you miss. You have to be okay with this - no matter what happens, you're going to have an experience unlike any other. Love it. Revel in it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:39 AM on March 28, 2012

I saw it, I think 6 or 7 times while it was up in Boston. LOVED IT. So good. I ended up with a bunch of one on ones with different players--I assume they do those in NYC, too? There was one with the dude who wore the minotaur head and danced around nude--he had me help him get changed afterwards (still covered in blood), and I think he passed a playing card to me mouth to mouth, like feeding a baby bird. Another woman player gave me some pages out of a book, folded over and filled with salt. A third woman sort of wanted to make out (and I think actually made out with a female friend of mine). What a wild ride.

I think the key to getting pulled aside was being an "engaged listener" when a player was performing--be up in front of the throng, and (crazy at it sounds) tilt your head behind the mask as a kind of conversation (think of waving your beak around like the Skeksis in the Dark Crystal).

I haven't been to the NYC show--I'm presuming that much holds the same, but forgive me if this makes no sense.

Also, in general, I just followed one or two players around. No need to see everything. Explore deeply. If it's like Boston, if you go early in the night, you can see two complete performances, which made it easier to see more.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:41 AM on March 28, 2012

Loved the show and I really liked this followup NYT article because it describes some of the things in the room,including things that you can interact with (e.g. there is a candy room and you can actually reach into the jar and eat the candy). I read this after my first time through the show and realized how much I missed...the interactive section of the article in particular was helpful and provided these clues.
posted by Wolfster at 11:46 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

It might help to know what you saw last time to suggest what to see this time. The blood orgy, of course, is not to be missed (you can catch this by following any number of characters; the tailor isn't exciting, but he will lead you here as a viewer), and the fight scene in the cardboard-box tavern is really nice, too (the tailor will lead you here, too).

There's also a stunningly-choreographed fight scene between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in their bedroom that takes place right before the murder (not sure how I came across this one; I may have followed Macbeth upstairs after he left the ball).

But the most important thing--and you probably know this--is that the whole show will loop three times. If you catch the end of a scene on the first or second run-through, or wind up with a bad viewing angle, you can always come back about 45 minutes later and see it again (I managed to catch a few great scenes on the last runthrough by remembering where to be).
posted by uncleozzy at 11:47 AM on March 28, 2012

(My wife also got dragged into a dark bathroom, alone, and fed "poisoned" candy, which freaked her the hell out. Not sure how to even tell you how to find that scene.)
posted by uncleozzy at 11:48 AM on March 28, 2012

Seriously, don't be afraid to go a-snackin' in the candy store!

And I would definitely second the suggestion of being an "engaged listener". When I was there, I made eye contact/whatever with the bellhop, and he ended up dragging me into a locked room where I had a freaky intense experience where he took off my mask, positioned me so I could see him in a mirror, and he started putting on lipstick and crying. When the music got intense, he suddenly jumped up, pushed a ring onto my finger, kissed me on the cheek, whispered something unintelligible in my ear, and threw me out of the room.
posted by Diagonalize at 11:52 AM on March 28, 2012

After I saw SNM in NYC, my girlfriend at the time, who saw it with me, said, "How about that orgy scene, huh?" I was blown away because I had definitely not seen any such scene (one remembers an orgy). When we compared notes, it was obvious that we'd had two completely different experiences. If I were going to see it again, I'd make a point of exploring more of the space, maybe over following the actors around, just because the design is as stunning as any part of the production (IMHO) and I had the impression that the more exploring you do, the more likely you are to catch all kinds of action. Also, I also wished I'd read Macbeth more recently than I had. I think I would've gotten more out of it narratively (which I know is besides the point for some people).
posted by Rudy Gerner at 12:31 PM on March 28, 2012

I've been to the NYC production several times now. They still do 1-on-1's like in the Boston show, but they definitely clear out the space between the early show and late show on weekends.

Keep in mind that the show has staggered entry times and some actors run more quickly than others, so as the show progresses, people like Lady Macbeth will start to have a huge crowd around her, which may be frustrating as capacity is 450 for the entire space, but people don't spread out evenly.

Lady Macbeth, the Nurse, Matron, and various townspeople are the easiest to follow. The Nurse and Matron also end up with a huge crowd around them by the end, made worse by the forest maze. Malcolm and Macbeth are the most difficult to follow, because they run/sprint/fall down the stairs a lot.

The biggest thing to remember is that the entire show is on a loop -- looping about 2.75 times, with a final banquet in the ballroom.

Each cycle is a little bit over one hour. Key points are the ballroom dance (7:15pm), the witches' rave (7:30pm), the banquet (7:45pm), and the prophesies in the hotel lobby (8:00pm), etc. There's no real sense of time in the space so it can be hard to figure out where you are in the loop. You also get dropped in partway through, even if you're in the first elevator group. Bring a watch you can easily read in the dark (but discreetly, i.e. not a cell phone).

Also because it is Macbeth through a film noir lens, there are also some characters borrowed from Hitchcock as well as some random ones, so don't be confused if you're following someone and they have little to do with the Macbeths (this will become evident on the 4th floor "town").

Many people have trouble connecting the Macbeth storyline. For those, I would suggest the following:
- Get in line at 6:45pm regardless of what ticket time you have so you can be in the 1st or 2nd elevator group.
- Make a beeline for the ballroom as soon as you can (7:15ish).
- After the ballroom dance is over, follow Duncan to his quarters and wait for Macbeth to show up.
- Then go upstairs to the 4th floor (the town of Gallow Green). Now you have a choice of viewing the witches' rave (aka the orgy) or a different scene.
- Assuming you've seen the witches' rave already, head to the speakeasy (cardboard box room with playing cards everywhere) for a card game.
- Wait for Macbeth to interrupt this scene by entering from the rave. Try to get a good spot to watch this scene from the ledge. When you hear a giant slam/ominous music outside, it means Macbeth is coming in.
- After Macbeth has left, hang around for Banquo to reappear, and follow him downstairs to the banquet.
- After the banquet, go to the hotel lobby, to find Lady Macduff with her suitcase.
- Wait for Macbeth to enter.
- Wait for Macduff to appear, find Lady Macduff, and then leave.
- Stay in hotel lobby to see the witches prophesy to Macbeth (there's a little bit of dead time before this, to allow Macbeth to clean himself up in the luggage room - it's to your left if you are facing the phone booths).
- Go to Duncan's bedrooms to see Duncan and Malcolm getting ready for the ballroom dance

The easiest way to get to the hotel lobby is to use the less obvious staircase, behind the banquet table. It's the staircase with the stained glass of two kings. It took me forever to realize that the mezzanine connects to Duncan's bedroom but never connects to the hotel

My other tactic is knowing that the characters take a convoluted path sometimes to their next scene -- you can avoid the crowd if you know where they are headed because you'll take the shortest path, and the actors will take a crazy path. If you know where they will be, it's much easier on your knees!

Have a great time! I hope this wasn't too, too spoiler-y. :)
posted by kathryn at 12:41 PM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

In the NYC production, there's a really beautiful pas de deux with the young man and the pregnant woman that takes place in a bedroom sort of up by the ceiling. That, and the chocolatey goat orgy, were the most memorable scenes for me.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:46 PM on March 28, 2012

All this intimate stuff between audience and cast, and getting dragged into closets for one-on-one scenes, sounds intimidating. Is it? Does it make you uncomfortable?
posted by jayder at 1:14 PM on March 28, 2012

Great stuff, really appreciate it. Like I said, I've been once before, so I especially appreciate advice geared toward a second visit, and spoilers are totally fine. One person asked what I'd seen before, so I'll answer (in brief):

I managed to see the strobe-lit orgy scene twice (led there by the tailor both times... though I thought he was a mortician—he had a coffin in his office!). I also watched the fight scene which immediately follows in the room with the pool table. I stayed for part of the scene between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in their master bedroom (with the bathtub in the center). I also saw Lady Macbeth paraded through the insane asylum and disrobed and bathed there.

I also took a break at one point and went back down to the bar and had a hell of a good time interacting with the the various denizens. One woman (Violet) asked me how my room was, so I stayed in character and groused about all the noise, "But it's a Saturday night, so I expect that sort of thing." She told me "the pregnant lady in the red dress" (Lady MacDuff, I believe) and her husband are always screaming at each other, so she sympathized.

I did not have any one-on-ones, though my wife (I later learned) was pulled into the gazebo on the edge of the forest, where one of the nurses takes off your mask, feeds you spoonfuls of tea, and tells you a story about the end of the world.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:35 PM on March 28, 2012

In the NYC production, there's a really beautiful pas de deux with the young man and the pregnant woman that takes place in a bedroom sort of up by the ceiling.

Ah, that's Macduff and his wife Lady Macduff. It happens on this bookcase built into the wall, on the 3rd floor. Next to the room with the floating dolls. I think it's right before they both go down to the ballroom for the ballroom dance.

All this intimate stuff between audience and cast, and getting dragged into closets for one-on-one scenes, sounds intimidating. Is it? Does it make you uncomfortable?

Yes, a little, but it's entirely worth it.

I managed to see the strobe-lit orgy scene twice (led there by the tailor both times... though I thought he was a mortician—he had a coffin in his office!). I also watched the fight scene which immediately follows in the room with the pool table.

So the rave/orgy is the giving of the three prophecies to Macbeth (beware of Macduff, no one born of a woman shall be able to harm him, Macbeth will be safe until Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill).

The fight scene following the rave is Macbeth's murder of Banquo in the speakeasy (room with the pool table). I find the card playing scene immediately preceding Banquo's murder to be pretty great.

I would still stay in the speakeasy during the orgy, to see the card playing scene, and when Macbeth storms in, run out. Go to the tiny "interrogation" room which is usually locked (it's in the dark hallway leading up to the replica of the Manderley). It will be unlocked for a short scene Malcolm and Macduff do, for only 6-7 people. One of my favorite scenes, alongside the card playing scene, the giving of prophecies in the hotel lobby, and Macduff dancing with a door.

(On a later cycle, after you do my tips from earlier, try to you follow Macduff after he finds Lady Macduff in the hotel lobby. He'll go up to the mezzanine, detach a door from the wall, and dance with it.)
posted by kathryn at 2:16 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I figured out what the the rave/orgy was pretty quickly, though I was a bit thrown by the baby. (I thought: "Are they showing the backstory of Macduff's birth? But then where is his mother, from whose womb he was untimely ripp'd?") Had to admit the following fight scene confused me plenty because I figured Macbeth had to kill Duncan first, and I didn't think the guy he laid out was the king. That was when I realized SNM didn't track the play as closely as I imagined it might!

What I'm not clear about is how there's time for a card game in the bar. I went straight from the witches' orgy to the bar and (perhaps I'm just not remembering clearly) I thought that Macbeth and Banquo started getting into it pretty quickly. I think I may just memail you, kathryn, since you seem to have an exceptional knowledge of the show!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 2:27 PM on March 28, 2012

The card-playing scene is only with Malcolm, Banquo, and Macduff; it happens simultaneous to the orgy. Macbeth leaves the orgy, and interrupts the game, to kill Banquo. :)

Duncan, the king, is killed shortly after the ballroom dance, on the 2nd floor, about 10-15 minutes before the orgy.
posted by kathryn at 2:41 PM on March 28, 2012

How can you kill Duncan before the prohesy? :)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 2:48 PM on March 28, 2012

Just wanted to say that based on this thread, I've picked up tickets for the first weekend in April when we're in NYC. Excited!
posted by dripdripdrop at 2:51 PM on March 28, 2012

There's the first prophecy that happens in the hotel lobby at the beginning of the cycle, around the top of the hour (set to "I'll Never Smile Again"), followed by the Boy Witch doing a solo performance. The second set of prophecies is the rave.
posted by kathryn at 2:59 PM on March 28, 2012

I've only seen it once, but had I to do it over again, I'd actually avoid the 1:1s with the cast. I spent almost the entire time either in private 1:1s with Hecate or the Bellhop or shuttling between the two, and consequently saw very little of the rest of the performance. The people I saw the show with were insanely jealous of the time I spent with the actors (particularly Hecate, given that her role is essentially to seduce you into doing her bidding. Alone. In her private lair) but ultimately I think they had a richer experience than I did.

Of course, I'm sure I'd be saying just the opposite if I'd never experienced any 1:1s with the cast.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:47 PM on March 28, 2012

I realize my experience can't be repeated (certainly not by you) but I saw Sleeo No More at an early preview before even the first puff pieces had appeared in NYC media. The only information I had was that it was an interactive art project with some performance involved spread over several floors of the building, and that it would be to my advantage to be near the front of the line when the doors opened.

Other than that: nothing. For almost an hour I wandered almost completely alone, every now and then glimpsing a few other audience members or one of the "usher" types. Then I started noticing, totally randomly, little scenes happening here and there: the card game, for example, I stumbled onto.

But through all of this I had no inkling that what was presented had anything to do with Macbeth -- even the title, I thought, must have been chosen for atmospheric spookiness. Eventually, while watching a scene in the hotel lobby, I began to think this was a variation on Rebecca and, from that point on, I tried to fit what I saw into that context. (Most everything in fact did made sense as either a visual allusion to the Hitchcock film or else to a scene in the Du Maurier novel.)

It was a very interesting experience, frankly, just sort of stumbling through and alternately drinking it in and trying to analyze it. I haven't been back since the show has been so widely discussed, and I don't think I would enjoy the "check off the highlights" experience that so many people seem to aspire to.

So if I were to offer advice, I would say: go ahead and find out the tips and tricks, then do the opposite, e.g., when everyone is following Macbeth, deliberately set off in a different direction. Discover something entirely unexpected.
posted by La Cieca at 11:10 PM on March 28, 2012

Eat the candy on the 4th floor but only the wrapped kind. Watch the taxidermist when he's in there and you'll see why.
posted by kathryn at 4:09 PM on March 31, 2012

I just noticed this so it's too late for the OP but maybe someone else will find this helpful. On the one hand I totally appreciate what La Cieca is saying regarding going in with no expectations. I went last fall. I missed most of the reviews, and promptly forgot the details of the one or two I might have read. I found out I'd be spending a week in NYC and decided to get a ticket to see something and vaguely remembered this cool art/performance thing I'd heard about and a coworker had seen. All I was told was, "Go; wear comfortable shoes, clothing with pockets and don't bring a coat/bag."

Like La Cieca, I just wandered around enjoying the space and noting scenes occurring around me. However, what I didn't realize was that the whole thing took place over 5 floors (6 if you get the super special one-on-one in the beginning). I didn't know about the basement level until I was shepparded down there for the final banquet scene. I assumed that the only thing on the second floor was the Mandalay bar so I missed all the basement and lobby scenes. I went round and round through floors 3-5 and always seemed to be where the action wasn't. I had enjoyed the experience, but felt cheated when I realized that I'd missed 2 whole floors and all of the key scenes since it is my natural inclination to avoid crowds.

So I planned a second trip a few months later. This time I read Macbeth, watched some old Hitchcock films, including Rebecca, and read more internet spoilers than I probably should have, understand, and somewhat even participated in the "check off the highlights" approach, and it resulted in a bittersweet experience. I was successful in seeing many scenes that I had missed, so I felt that I had "completed" my first experience. I got in early and was sometimes the only viewer for the first round of key scenes (Macbeth fighting with Lady Macbeth and Macbeth killing Duncan. But I did feel like I was trying "too hard" as opposed to just soaking everything in and letting it happen around me. I still enjoyed it; I was glad that I had the second visit, but it wasn't nearly as magical an experience as the first time. I don't think that I would see it again, because I can't unknow what I know. Also on some level SNM seems to be in danger of becoming a shabby money-spinning copy of the original experience. There are fewer props (I think because so many have been taken as souvenirs by guests) and the sets in general seem worse for wear. This was before Christmas, so I would be curious to see what it looks like now..While as late as last fall, their seemed to still be people like me, who wondered around clueless, now everyone is chasing the actors and vying for one-on-ones. I did read somewhere a review of a second visit by someone who had attended the press review and she noted the same things as I did, as early as last June, months before my autumn visit.
posted by kaybdc at 2:29 PM on April 24, 2012

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