More Like This Please
December 31, 2012 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Last week I finally saw Sleep No More and cannot stop thinking about it. I want more immersive theatre and exploration. What other experiences are like it?

I'm very interested in event production and the arts in general, and was just really in awe of the strong, highly detailed atmospherics and the otherworldliness of the experience. I spent a lot of time simply exploring the sets and taking in the music and lighting, enjoying the opportunity to be completely immersed in a fictional environment. I've read about the company that developed it and will track their future activities, but I wondered: what other kinds of experience might I find similar to it?

Note: Though I'm aware that fantasy environments not dissimilar to SNM's are easy enough to find in the world of sex play, that's not the aspect of the performance I'm interested in, so would no follow up on any sex club/event recommendations. Also not all that interested in ghost tours/haunted houses.

It could be that SNM is just that unique, but it would be great to learn about anything with a similar vibe.
posted by Miko to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
It's not really immersive as SNM, but Gatz is an 8-hour reading of "The Great Gatsby" that slowly envelopes the cast and audience.
posted by xingcat at 6:24 PM on December 31, 2012

I've encountered things a bit like it with regard to self-directed exploration of environments at a burning-man-related event (a local version of night market), but nothing that also had a narrative coherence that SNM had.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:24 PM on December 31, 2012

Response by poster: Both great suggestions. The narrative coherence part is not entirely necessary. I'd heard of Gatz and am especially entranced by the Night Market idea. Thanks! Hope there are some more.
posted by Miko at 6:59 PM on December 31, 2012

The Donkey Show?
posted by mkb at 7:19 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can highly recommend The Smile Off Your Face by Ontoerend Goed, and in fact, any production by that group at all.
posted by everydayanewday at 7:38 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Then She Fell is immersive theater along the lines of SNM. It's currently finishing a sold out run in Greenpoint, but about to move to Manhattan and add performances.
posted by apparently at 7:40 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's nothing quite like Sleep No More going on in the USA. But this style of theatre has been going on for a long time in the UK. Check out the Punchdrunk Lovers group on Facebook.

Then She Fell is amazing but not really like SNM at its core, as the experience is not one where you explore on your own. You are guided through a series of rooms by the cast and expressly told not to open doors on your own. But it's really great, I saw it twice.

One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes immersive just means the action happens around you. There isn't always an incredibly detailed set to explore, or you are expressly forbidden/de facto forbidden to go off on your own. Also immersive is not the same as interactive, but a lot of people conflate the two. And some of the magic of SNM is all the acting is done without words. An immersive theatre production that does have dialogue doesn't always work--it can be quite difficult to hear sometimes.

Other NYC productions that have had immersive components in the last 1-2 years, so keep an eye out for any future work:
The Tenant by the Woodshed Collective
Much Ado About Nothing, Island Shakespeare
Roman Tragedies at BAM
Dance Cartel's 'OntheFloor' at the Ace Hotel
Yvonne Meier's the Shining, and Dionysus in 69, both recently restaged by NY Live Arts
Speakeasy Dollhouse
Frank Cwiklik's work
Restoration Comedy

There was also STRATA (in Pittsburgh), and what Odyssey Works does, too.

Jeffrey Mosser has an interesting series on immersive theatre on HowlRound, too.
posted by kathryn at 8:07 PM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

Another thing to keep in mind: while Punchdrunk are the immersive theatre experts, Emursive are a separate company they partnered with to move SNM to NYC for the first time. Emursive were the producers and poured approximately 5-10 million dollars into Sleep No More (likely closer to 10 million now if you count the rooftop bar Gallow Green). The huge SNM budget makes other immersive productions look shabby in comparison. Just something to keep in mind.

Oh, and keep an eye on ticket sales for Roadkill at St. Ann's Warehouse in June!
posted by kathryn at 8:38 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes, have been finding a lot of stuff from the UK, including the really odd-sounding experience You Me Bum Bum Train. Regardless of the variations between immersive/interactive, it's all really amazing as a theatre development.

The Donkey Show, as it turns out, is run/developed by ART director Diane Paulus who's married to Randy Weiner of of Emursive, the group who's put on SNM in Manhattan. That show (Donkey one) is on my list soon as it's near where we live. But, not surprisingly, it's all kind of connected as a world.

IT also makes me wonder about earlier iterations of similar ideas. In the way these productions reuse urban spaces, there is a big crossover with urban archaeology, pervasive gaming, and underground parties. In the early 00s I was really fascinated with Julia Solis, who was involved with the groups Dark Passage and Ars Subterranea and the interactive experiences they put on. There's at least an argument of a transatlantic cross-pollination here in the hybridity of audience/space/performance/immersion. All super fascinating.

I think there is an FPP here...
posted by Miko at 8:42 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Friends who have seen the show also say it reminds them of Tamara, staged by the Park Avenue Armory in 1987.

You might also be interested in this Huge list of Sleep No More essays, interviews, etc.

Also if you become a Punchdrunk keyholder, you get on their mailing list and they'll send you a DVD of Faust. I'm a key holder in the USA and unfortunately a lot of the benefits are UK only, but you do get to hear about some of their new work first.
posted by kathryn at 10:41 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I first learned about this play in a theater class: Theater of the Oppressed.
posted by lovelygirl at 11:25 PM on December 31, 2012

Some productions of Tony and Tina's Wedding may fit the bill. The construct is that you attend both the wedding and the reception and get to know the couple, their family and friends. Things rapidly go south. While some "guests" just sit and watch, in my experience, the more you engage with the cast, the more fun they have with you and the more fun you have with them.
posted by carmicha at 8:46 AM on January 1, 2013

De La Guarda was an immersive show that did a long run in NYC during the early 2000s. It was more like a rave than a play, I guess- but it was definitely a stunning and immediate experience which I found kind of similar to Sleep No More. There's a similar show by the same creators called Fuerza Bruta that's touring right now, so maybe keep an eye out for that.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:35 AM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Fuerza Bruta, which has been playing at a theatre near Union Square for years now. It isn't an installation like SNM, but it does involve similar uses of sexuality, spectacle, and interactivity. Rush tickets are cheap, and not too difficult to get ahold of.
posted by tsmo at 2:03 PM on January 1, 2013

Response by poster: A hybrid approach: Future Cinema presents Shawshank Redemption. Check out the description.
posted by Miko at 1:50 PM on January 11, 2013

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