by Adrienne Kapstein and Elizabeth Doyle
By now, you must have heard of Sleep No More. If you haven’t seen it yet, someone you know has. You certainly haven’t seen any ads for it on the side of a city bus or on TV because there are none. Running in New York City with no end date in sight, Sleep No More, is a one-of-a kind immersive experience created by the London-based company Punchdrunk, and has been selling out on word of mouth alone.
Sleep No More premiered in London and was recreated and performed at the Old Lincoln School in Brookline, Massachusetts, next to Boston, in collaboration with American Repertory Theatre before making its way to New York in early 2011. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the piece is filled with active references, inspired movement, and thrilling visuals, all set in the fictional, but elaborately created McKittrick Hotel, which was once an empty warehouse space.
Audience members are given a mask for anonymity, and are encouraged to roam the building, follow characters at their will, and sift through the elaborate installations that exist in each room of the hotel. Each audience member experiences the show from their own perspective and with ninety rooms, audiences can return to rooms over and over again-––even within the same night—and never have the same experience twice.
Should it be called a theatrical production? Or is it an event? Is ‘experience’ a more accurate term? Is it theater? Or dance? Or dance theater? Is it an art installation? EMURSIVE producer, Randy Weiner, whose company is co-producing the New York City run, can’t even decide.
Sleep No More also attracts a unique audience made up regular theatregoers, fans who have seen it twenty or more times, tourists, and even non-theatregoers. Its broad appeal is due in some measure to its distinctiveness in the theatrical landscape of New York City.
Adrienne Kapstein, freelance director and movement specialist and Elizabeth Doyle, performing arts manager, had the opportunity to interview the Co-Artistic Director of Punchdrunk and the Co-Director and Choreographer of Sleep No More, Maxine Doyle, and Randy Weiner of EMURSIVE. Adrienne and Elizabeth spoke with Maxine and Randy to gain a sense of how such a work—immersive, site-specific, event-based—is created and how it is produced. How do you sell an experience and make theatre audiences want to come see it? What elements need to be taken into consideration artistically? Can a show like this based on a similar theatrical model survive on Broadway?
The conversations below shed light on the phenomenon that is known as Sleep No More, and its tangible success from both perspectives, artistic and producing.
(click on images below to read interviews)