I have a not-so-new obsession that has intensified this year -- immersive theater (and, really, immersive everything). I have long loved theater in general, and since I discovered the existence of Sleep No More, and the whole immersive genre, I've only gotten more and more into it. In the past year, I've seen over a dozen shows that fall into that category in some way, and am planning to see at least 2 more before the year is out. I figured now would be a good time to start compiling a list with some of my impressions. I'm gonna try to avoid spoilers, though some shows are hard to describe without being at least a bit spoilery. To start with, here are some of my absolute favorites. I think all the shows below are worth their own trip.
Amazing, well worth traveling for:
Sleep No More (NYC) -- the gateway drug. An immersive take on Macbeth (sort of), set in a fake hotel that has 5 floors of amazingness. The whole thing is a set, or, rather, an enormous amount of sets. Audience has near-total freedom to wander around at will, pick up things, rifle through drawers, etc. One can choose to try to follow actors and see scenes, or meander around, or some combo of the two. The coveted part of the experience is a one-on-one with a performer, which has happened to me each time I've gone. They're so good at what they do that I feel like I fall a little in love every time. I've now seen it 3 times and have had vastly different experiences each time. I think I've probably experienced about 30-40% of what it has to offer, and will definitely go again if I have time when I'm next in NYC.
Then She Fell (NYC) -- the second immersive show I ever saw. Based on Alice in Wonderland, as well as the life of Lewis Carroll and his relationship with the real Alice. Very different feel from Sleep No More -- 15 people per show (as opposed to 100+), no choice in where to go. You are carefully guided through the show and each scene is intimate, with one or more performer with at most 4 audience members. You are in a one-on-one probably half the time. Sweet and haunting, and totally enchanting. I've seen it twice and have probably experienced 75% of it. I may go again but it's not as high of a priority.
Waking La Llorona (San Diego) -- a short but intense experience. Not currently running, I don't think, but entirely worth the trip if they remount it. To talk too much about this one is spoilery, but it is based on a Mexican ghost story of the weeping woman, La Llorona. The show is created by several Sleep No More alums, and it's clear that they are amazing at what they do. You are alone with the actors through the whole thing, and the story is told through the interaction. The sense of emotion and connection is pretty intense. I found myself questioning reality when I emerged! Although the experience is likely similar with repeat viewings, I would go again if I had the chance.
The Infernal Motel (SF) -- another small show (6 people per slot) with fantastic structure and story. I'm lucky that it's in SF, so I got to see it twice! You buy tickets for a "suite," since the premise is that you're checking into a motel, and the different suites have different story arcs, with all of them intersecting at certain points. I did 2 different suites on my 2 visits and probably had a 50% or so different experience. It is so well designed and thought through, and you spend most of your time either by yourself or with one other person, with an actor or several. It's extended a few times and I hope it sticks around!
That's all for now, I will write about more of the shows I've seen in the next few days/weeks.