Immersive Storytelling: Sleep No More
Frank Rose has written a short March 12th, 2012 piece for Wired about Sleep No More, the wonderful immersive theater experience that continues to draw sell-out crowds in NY.
Sleep No More represents a boundary-busting form of theater - where the masked audience follows performers through a 5 story space. A former warehouse has been decorated in a highly detailed and evocative way. There is a red-velvet nightclub, a barren graveyard, and rooms that suggest old-world wealth and dissolution. As the mostly-silent characters of Sleep No More come and go, audience members in Venetian masks are on the move, choosing where to stand (silent voyeurs) and whom to follow. While the characters barely acknowledge the audience's presence as they love, fight and scheme, the paying customers are (in ways that are subtle but game-changing) more active participants in the storytelling process. Maneuvering through the experience, each viewer must decide which character to follow, what the actions might mean and where things might be headed. The simple act of positioning yourself physically in a strange space to watch performers playing out scenes that have the logic of a dream immerses you in the events in ways that traditional theater or films can not.
New World filmmakers and storytellers are learning a lot from Sleep No More. The panel that included Frank Rose on Monday March 12th, 2012 at SXSW Interactive drew the parallels and distinctions between the Sleep No More style of immersive theater and the games and online experiences that New World storytellers are creating in their efforts to use the new tools to make their experiences more immersive and sticky.