omplete QPORIT: SLEEP NO MORE -- REVIEW & GUIDE

Friday, June 01, 2012

 

SLEEP NO MORE -- REVIEW & GUIDE


SLEEP NO MORE
AT THE McKITTRICK HOTEL
CREATED BY PUNCHDRUNK

SLEEP NO MORE
Nicholas Bruder as Macbeth and Sophie Bortolussi as Lady Macbeth
Photo by Yaniv_Schulman


SLEEP NO MORE is a hypnotic, atmospheric, brilliant, amazing, immersive, interactive, theater/dance/movement/art-installation/mystery/adventure. It has been said to induce insomnia.

Based loosely on that Scottish play (the title comes from Act 2 Scene 2) plus a dash of Hitchcock, it takes place in a long abandoned, but newly, intricately restored hotel in Chelsea.  You, entering this building through a dark corridor, divest yourself of coats and packages, take a playing card which is your entrance key, don a mask -- Eyes-Wide-Shut-like -- embark on an elevator from which you are dropped off on one of six or so dark floors nearly every inch of which contains something strange and interesting, left to examine the space on your own, find the cast of players (recognizable because they are maskless/barefaced), and experience whatever may happen.

What happens is breathtaking set-pieces of movement, fascinating spaces, mostly ominous music, a story that is hard (nay, impossible) to follow on a single visit, and surprises.

The movement/dance in the set-pieces, suggestive of singular moments from the sources, but almost wordless, are fantastic.

See it if you can.  See it again if you can.

SLEEP NO MORE, created by Punchdrunk.
www.sleepnomorenyc.com


*** NOTE ***
 June 5 2012


Randy Weiner (a producer of SNM) and Diane Paulus (whose American Repertory Theater brought SNM to the US) will be speaking at the 
Music Theater Group on June 7:

$30 DISCOUNT TICKETS
http://www.musictheatregroup.org/thirty.html

$15 STUDENT TICKETS
http://www.musictheatregroup.org/specialoffer.html

$125 TICKETS TO THE VIP COCKTAIL PARTY BEFORE THE TALK
http://www.musictheatregroup.org/Next.html



*** *** ***

PART II
A GUIDE TO SLEEP NO MORE

SLEEP NO MORE
Nicholas Bruder and Sophie Bertolussi with audience members
(c) Photo by Robin Roemer


There are two schools of thought about how to enjoy SLEEP NO MORE (SNM) (or any show) on a first visit. The first is to know as little as possible about the show and just discover the experience. The second is to come prepared.

For myself, I fall into the first school of thought, because I want to know what the experience is like for a complete newbie; and if I want or need to, I’ll go again (and I do want to go to SLEEP NO MORE again).

However, for most other people I would suggest knowing a little about the experience before you go, especially for Sleep No More. You will have more fun, be less confused and frustrated, see more and experience more, and better understand the evening.

So, in my opinion, PART II contains enhancers, not spoilers; but virgin-experience purists may want to skip the rest of this article until after they have spent their first evening at the McKittrick.

The information in the next sections consists of my advice to you -- based on my first visit to the show, plus what I gleaned from the references listed in PART IV. (Part III, below, is about the production team.)



PART IIa
GENTLE ENHANCERS


What you want to know BEFORE you have tickets:

• Get tickets as soon as possible. They are selling out!
• For any performance, get tickets as early in the performance as possible. The earlier you get in, the more you will see!


What you want to know BEFORE you go to the show:

• Dress comfortably, and wear comfortable shoes; you will be moving all evening up and down stairs, and over bumpy surfaces.
• Note that if you are traveling as a couple or a group, you can choose the clothes you wear to help you find your mate(s) in a crowd in a dark room.
• Use comfortable eye-wear; you will be wearing a mask and some people may be uncomfortable with the mask, or have trouble seeing with glasses through the mask eye-holes. And it will be dark, so clear vision will help keep you safe and allow you to read small print in dark rooms.
• Eat something before you enter the theater; you may be able to buy a drink, but not get any real food easily all evening. (You may be able to get food before the show next door to the McKittrick at the Americano Hotel –- see link #40 -- I had an excellent snack there.)
• You may want to have a watch you can read in a dark room, so you can pace yourself through the evening – or even rendezvous at some preset time with friend(s).
• Do not bring anything you do not need. You will check your coat and anything you are carrying at the theater before you get into the show.
• Bring ID to prove you are of age. Even if you are well past the point where there is any doubt. They still check it.
• Bring some cash. At least $3 for the check-room, $10 or so for each drink (+ tips?).


What you want to know GOING to the show:

• The McKittrick is on West 27th Street, west of 10th Avenue. Unfortunately, 27th is not a through street from the east; it starts at 10th Avenue. To get to the McKittrick from somewhere east of 10th Ave, you must choose a street north or south of 27th that does go through to 10th Ave; and then you travel up or down 10th to 27th and then go west the rest of the way.
• There may be street parking in the evening. But be careful. Some spots that look tempting may not be legal parking. (Check both the time-signs and that you are not in a driveway or construction spot.)
• Go early. You may have to wait on line a while. (Or, with good luck, there may be no line and they may let you in before your official time.) The earlier you get in, the more you will see, the better off you will be. (Note - correction: a reader helpfully pointed out that a previous version of this paragraph kept saying 37th st -- the correct street is 27th!)


What to know when you GET to the show:

• Waiting on line your ID will be checked and your hand stamped.
• As mentioned, you may have to wait on line a while. Quite a lot of people come to each show and they all have to be checked in.
• You will follow the line through a dark passage to the check-room where you will check anything you are carrying: you want to be free to roam. ($3.)
• You will continue to a check-in desk where your reservation/ticket will be checked, and you will get a playing card, which is your ticket.
• You will proceed through a really dark, labyrinthine passage (unless there is a simpler path that I missed) into the bar.
• There may be a variety of drinks to choose from. A bit of a buzz may enhance the action, but don’t drink too much: you need good coordination, lots of energy and great speed to move swiftly through dark rooms with bumpy floors, and not get a twisted ankle as you keep up with the actors. (Note: I did not like the "absinth and lime" very much -- quite weak, not very tasty, and lukewarm; but, on the other hand, it was not strong enough to interfere with my coordination and speed!)


PART IIb
MILD ENHANCERS, BUT (PERHAPS) GENTLE SPOILERS


What to know when you GET PAST THE BAR to the show:

• You get to put on a mask, are told not to speak, get on an elevator and get left off on a floor.
• To be let off alone on the sixth floor is something special.
• Cast members do not wear masks. The best way to experience the show is to follow them around. (Note: Some are more interesting than others.)
• Do not be afraid to look at things the characters write, to open drawers and doors, and be sure to go from one floor to another (follow the exit signs).
• The BlackMasks (ie people in black masks!) mark off spaces which are not accessible. They can also help in case you have a problem.
• The set decoration of the building is so amazing that one way to enjoy your experience is to simply explore the space. But I’m not sure that exploring the space (or reading any books or notes) will help at all in “understanding” the “story.”
• Note that you may have trouble reading things -- it is very dark, and much of what is written is very small, and when you read it, it may or may not help much to unravel any of the story lines.
• Actions take place simultaneously in different rooms on different floors. There are many story lines, many floors, many characters, and many rooms.
• There are roughly 3 repetitions/cycles of the story in every 3 hour show, each cycle ending in a (mini) banquet scene (I’m told; I never saw it). So if you think you have seen something before, you probably have. Go somewhere else. (To experience all three cycles, of course, you must enter early, at the beginning of a show.) Then, at the end, there is one half-hour final (maxi!) banquet scene (different from the other banquets, with the entire audience, and not to be missed).
• There are “1-on-1's” (also called 1:1's and one-to-one's) in which a cast member will interact with a single member of the audience -- these encounters can be among the most interesting and memorable of the evening... let them happen. (Note: During the final banquet a cast member sidled up to me from the back. Took my hand. Held hands with me and gently cuddled up against me until the end of the show; gently guided me up the stairs to a lounge as the show ended, lifted up my mask and kissed me gently on the cheek. It was sweet. Was she hitting on me or was it part of the show? Alas! It was part of the show.)
• From what I hear, if your 1-on-1 includes the offer of a drink, take it; it’s real alcohol.
• It is impossible in any one cycle to see everything. And there are also unique 1-on-1’s. In one evening, even if you arrive as a first cycle starts, and make brilliant choices about where to be at every moment, it is impossible to experience everything in one visit.
• Most of the action is in the form of abstract dance movement with very few words. The skill of the actors is stupendous.
• The actors are amazing physical performers. Not just during their scenes! They have the ability to slither backward thorough a crowd in a dark room. And suddenly zip away to another place -- they are hard to follow.
• Everyone in the audience was extremely well behaved; and the cast interacts brilliantly with the audience. I was sitting on a chair at one point in the show and a character ever so gently eased me off the chair; only a moment later a character was thrown onto the chair I’d just vacated.
• The producers recommend that couples split up and experience the space separately. Then talk about their experiences at the end. One reason is that it limits your ability to spontaneously follow the action. Also, couples -- especially going hand in hand -- tend to obstruct other people’s movements. On the other hand, some couples that have experienced it together have suggested that this gives them a bond, and a better way to compare notes.
• There is a large cast, and from performance to performance they may rotate roles.
• There are also reports of celebrity actors sometimes taking a role; and in some 1-on-1’s a member of the audience may be given a task to play as part of the story.
• The show is based loosely on Macbeth, with an overtone of Hitchcock (especially Rebecca).
• The set pieces consist of mostly wordless, abstract, spectacular dance and movement pieces based on scenes from these sources and some others.
• Many of the set pieces include nudity. Some involve strobe lighting. The ambiance is film noir and suspense, witchcraft and madness. The underlying story, of course, is the killing of a house guest -- the assassination of a king.


What to know AFTER THE SHOW:

• Stay around for drinks and music in the lounge. The music is terrific!
• Buy a program. It may or may not be available on premises; you may have to order it online.
• Buy another ticket. Sleep No More again (and again).
• There are also special events, “themed evenings”, “afterparties.” I do not know exactly what these are, but some of the links below describe a MAY DAY party and a NEW YEAR’s EVE party. (See links #37 & #38) Some special events can sell out almost instantly; if you hear about one and want to go, make your reservation quickly!
Underground Eats is having a special event at the McKittrick on June 3. (See link #39.)


PART IIc
The SPACE and The CHARACTERS:

Here is a rough guide to the space:

Feel free to explore, but if you are by yourself, then there probably is something more interesting happening somewhere else. There are a lot of people at the show, so they must have found something to draw them away. It is generally better to follow actors (as a way to find the action), than to pick a spot and wait for some action to come to you.

According to “a girl named Zelda” in a comment on the “unfinishing blog” (see below in PART IV for reference link #2 – and also links #17 And #18) here’s what’s on all the floors:

5 - Hospital Ward, including doctor's offices, a padded room, a room full of beds, a room full of bathtubs (yes these get used), and a surgery observation room. The forest, which includes the witch's hut, is also on this floor. (I think there are public bathrooms on this floor.)

4 - Street of shops, the speakeasy/pool hall, Hecate's duplicate of the Manderley bar (location of the witch's rave).

3 - Macbeth's bedroom, Macduff's suite, crumbled courtyard, cemetery.

2 - Hotel lobby, Manderley Bar (covered in sheets), bank of phone booths.

1 - Duncan's quarters, several small chapels, balcony overlooking the forest/ballroom

Lower Level - forest/ballroom/balcony




The CHARACTERS (Based on the program, but I’m guessing a bit here)

“THE COURT”
Duncan
Malcolm
Macbeth
Lady Macbeth
Macduff
Lady Macduff
Banquo

“THE SUPERNATURAL”
Hecate (Probably in a red dress)
Witches (One may be male and in some scenes nude)
Speakeasy Bartender
Agnes Naismith (aka The Second Mrs. De Winter?)

“THE SANITORIUM”
Matron of the sanitorium
Nurses (Probably looking like nurses – one may be male?)

‘TOWNSPEOPLE”
J Fulton - Tailor
Mr. Bargarran – Taxidermist

“HOTEL”
Catherine Campbell – Housekeeper (aka Mrs. Danvers?)
The Porter
The Bellhop

The 2nd Mrs. de Winter (the woman with a suitcase?) and Mrs. Danvers (probably in a black dress?) are characters from Rebecca.


PART III
THE CREATIVE AND PRODUCING TEAMS
AND ACTIVE THEATER

Punchdrunk is a British theatrical group founded by Felix Barrett, the company’s artistic director. Maxine Doyle is co-director and choreographer. For about 12 years Punchdrunk has been developing site-specific and immersive theater (SSIT), in which the performance takes place in an environment designed for the production, and the audience is free to move about, experiencing the action in the space in which it happens.

Punchdrunk seems particularly interested in adaptations of classical theatrical pieces for this format. In 2000 they did a production of Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard. Inspirations for other productions have included: Sophocles Oedipus Rex and Antigone; Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and Stravinsky’s Firebird; Ionesco’s The Chairs; and Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade.

Punchdrunk, at least in Sleep No More, separates the audience from the cast with masks, and most of the action is abstract dance with minimal dialog, if any.

While Punchdrunk may have developed the most sophisticated examples of SSIT theater, this kind of experience does have a history, including Tamara, a Canadian play that had a long series of runs in several cities from 1981 to 2002. (I saw a NY production.)

Slightly different (more participatory & interactive and less site-specific), Playing With Reality is currently doing Interactive Theater in which a member of the audience joins the cast as the central character of a completely improvised story. Members of Playing With Reality call themselves InterActors.

The sketch comedy group TMLMTBGB, downtown, brings audience members into some of their sketches. And at THE PIT, Open Improv’s are a kind of more intense participatory theater.

Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner created The Donkey Show, which is a cabaret experience inspired by Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

As interactive computer programming and interactive computer games developed, along with performance art, art installations, and such real-life reality events as the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst, in which she became a central cast member in a real life real street-theater event that was not of her own devising, the idea of interactive, immersive experiences within art installations as theater began to evolve.

Perhaps a good term for immersive, interactive, site-specific live theater, with the audience participating more or less actively, would be Participatory Theater or Active Theater.

Sleep No More was developed in the UK and brought over to the US for a staging in Brookline, MA (outside of Boston) by the American Repertory Theater (A. R. T.), the spectacular theatrical company in Cambridge Mass, currently headed by the brilliant Diane Paulus.

After the run at A. R. T., Sleep No More was brought to New York by the producing company EMURSIVE, which is especially interested in immersive, provocative theater.

One of the principals in EMURSIVE is Randy Weiner, who is the husband of Diane Paulus, and is the co-writer of The Donkey Show.

Weiner is especially interested in immersive, provocative theater, and he is a Managing Partner of The Box in New York and London. The Box is a singularly sexual and expensive late-night nightclub. In New York, according to reports, it was the subject of some complaints (settled according to reports). In London, it was said to be a favorite of a Royal Prince, and in both cities it may have both investments and patronage from noted international movie stars. (Some reports on The Box are listed below. See links #32 - #36.)


AND MORE ACTIVE THEATER STILL TO COME …

I, myself, have been interested in -- and began working on -- interactive projects as soon as personal computers became available, and I am currently developing a production in which audience members are integral participants in a site specific, interactive, immersive theatrical experience inspired by a politically and sexually intense classical play.

A recent article in the New York Times described an experiment in which Tod Machover, a member of the MIT Media Lab and a collaborator with Diane Paulus on an opera was testing the possibility of enhancing Sleep No More with computer technology built into the masks. (Making it into a live and immersive computer game???) (See links #11, #26 and #31)

Sergey Brin of Google was recently seen in San Francisco with Google Goggles – enhanced reality eye-wear that could ultimately make the entire world the theater in which you are immersed. 

The number (and passion) of links and on-line comments related to Sleep No More suggests that Active Theater may be striking an important and special chord with its audence!


PART IV
LINKS AND REFERENCES

#1- SLEEP NO MORE – OFFICIAL SITE
http://sleepnomorenyc.com/


NEWS ARTICLES, EXPERIENCES & REVIEWS


#2- COMMENTS -- BASIC INFO
http://aworkunfinishing.blogspot.com/2011/07/spoiler-free-user-friendly-guide-to.html

#3- SLEEP NO MORE AT A.R.T. IN BOSTON
http://www.americanrepertorytheater.org/events/show/sleep-no-more

#4- MOVING INTO CHELSEA
http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20101110/chelsea-hells-kitchen/punchdrunk-immersive-theater-group-seeks-replace-mega-clubs-west-chelsea

#5- NYT ON PREPARING THE MCKITTRICK FOR SLEEP NO MORE
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/theater/sleep-no-more-from-punchdrunk-transforms-chelsea-warehouses.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1336107707-uc9VQfUFb+0IyrOjPpSyIQ

#6- CHIC AND BUBBLY
http://chicandbubbly.blogspot.com/2011/11/emursive-presents-punchdrunks-sleep-no.html

#7- INSIDE NEW YORK
http://insidenewyork.com/2011/07/18/sleep-no-more-a-night-at-the-macbeths/#more-6521

#8- BROADWAY WORLD
http://broadwayworld.com/board/printthread.php?thread=1029260&boardid=0

#9- NYT REVIEW
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/05/fashion/05upclose.html

#10- PLAYBILL
http://www.playbill.com/news/article/150017-Critically-Praised-Sleep-No-More-Extends-Through-June-25

#11- NYT ON ADDING COMPUTER INTERACTIONS TO SLEEP NO MORE
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/theater/sleep-no-more-enhanced-by-mit-media-lab.html?pagewanted=all


COMMENTS
ENHANCERS??? SPOILERS???

#12- GAWKER
http://gawker.com/5866346/how-to-find-all-the-nudity-in-sleep-no-more?popular=true

#13- BLEEPMAG – INTERVIEW WITH CAST MEMBERS-- GO TO Page 37!
http://issuu.com/bleepmag/docs/bleepmag106

#14- DROPOUTDILETTANTE
http://dropoutdilettante.blogspot.com/2011/08/fantasy-rooms-and-initiatory-experience.html

#15- DEBORAH COSTELLANO
http://deborahcastellano.tumblr.com/post/11239532221/my-second-stay-at-the-mckittrick

#16- 1-ON-1'S
http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/emursive

#17- GUIDE TO THE MCKITTRICK HOTEL
http://mckittrickhotel.wetpaint.com/

#18- SLEEP NO MORE WIKI
http://sleepnomore.wikia.com/wiki/McKittrick_Hotel
http://sleepnomore.wikia.com/wiki/Sleep_No_More_Wiki



CREATORS AND PRODUCERS

#19- AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATER (A.R.T.)
http://www.americanrepertorytheater.org

#20- PUNCHDRUNK OFFICIAL SITE (may not work in all browsers!)
http://www.punchdrunk.org.uk/

#21- PUNCHDRUNK ON WIKIPEDIA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punchdrunk

#22- SLEEP NO MORE - PUNCHDRUNK
http://www.sleepnomorenyc.com/punchdrunk.htm

#23- EMURSIVE
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randy_Weiner



RELATED SHOWS

#24- THE DONKEY SHOW
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/09/%E2%80%98the-donkey-show%E2%80%99-kicks-off-a-first-season-for-diane-paulus/

#25- THE DONKEY SHOW - REVIEW
http://www.boston.com/ae/theater_arts/articles/2009/08/23/american_repertory_theater_puts_shakespeare_on_the_dance_floor_in_donkey_show/

#26- TOD MACHOVER AND DIANE PAULUS – OPERA OF THE FUTURE
http://operaofthefuture.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/tod-machover-and-diane-paulus-at-on-point/

#27- TAMARA ON WIKIPEDIA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamara_(play)

#28- TAMARA -- REVIEW
http://www.scifisuzi.com/ellendubin/tamara.htm

#29- PLAYING WITH REALITY
http://playingwithreality.org/ourstory/

#30- QPORIT VISITS PLAYING WITH REALITY BACKSTAGE IN 3D VIDEO
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEO6syNqQKo

#31- GOOGLE GOGGLES
http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/editors/27872/


THE BOX

#32- THE BOX OFFICIAL SITE
http://www.theboxnyc.com/#/?page=cover

#33- THE BOX-SOHO ON WIKIPEDIA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Box_Soho

#34- NEW YORK TIMES ON THE BOX
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/28/fashion/28Box.html

#35- DAILY MAIL ON THE BOX
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1358372/Prince-Harry-Naked-dancers-drugs-shouts-inside-latest-haunt-The-Box-Soho.html

#36- YELP COMMENTS ON THE BOX
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-box-new-york


SPECIAL EVENTS

#37- MCKITTRICK MAY FAIR
http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/mckittrick+hotel

#38- NEW YEAR’S EVE AT SLEEP NO MORE
http://observer.com/2012/01/sleep-no-more-2012-ringing-in-the-new-year-with-the-thane-of-cawdor-at-the-mckittrick-hotel/

#39- UNDERGROUND EATS AT THE MCKITTRICK HOTEL
https://www.undergroundeats.com/events/absurdity-at-the-mckittrick-hotel?utm_source=DailyBlast&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Daily


FOR FOOD AND DRINK BEFORE OR AFTER:

#40- AMERICANO HOTEL
http://www.hotel-americano.com/

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