In 2015, I went to visit one of my dearest friends in New York City during an internship of his. Though he was working during the day, he asked, "What would you like to do tonight," and I answered with, "I want to go to a haunted house," which was peculiar since it was August. Of course, there was little to nothing that sounded interesting along the lines of a haunted house, but what my friend suggested instead was far better than I could have ever imagined - in fact - I still remember the experience like it took place a moment ago.
He knew I enjoyed theater, and obviously all things creepy, so he pulled up the website for an immersive theater experience called, "Sleep No More," that told the story of Macbeth through a Noir/film-esque lens. Of course, looking at the page I had no idea what to expect once we arrived, and no matter how much he tried to explain it to me, nothing could prepare me for what I was about to endure.
At last our taxi pulled up to the McKittrick Hotel, and this is where our journey began.
We continued through the front doors of the "hotel," and walked up to what would be the "check in," booth. Here we both were given a different suit from a deck of cards along with a hole-punch to send us on our way. This would be our admission ticket once we made our way up the red-velveted stairs.
After ascending a few floors, we entered through a curtain and into a type of jazz-bar from the 1920s. The walls seemed to be made of red satin and velvet, the bar a dark wood, and the floor was decorated in dozens of small, round tables with two chairs at their sides and holding a candle in the middle. At the front of the room stood a small platform stage with a drum-kit, piano, and standing microphone. My friend and I walked over to the bar to get a drink, cards still in hand. I asked, "what happens now?" "We wait," he replied. But for what? We made our way to the middle of the room when a man dressed in a roaring twenties, period appropriate suit and tie spoke into the microphone with a mid-Atlantic accent. He said we would be separated from the parties we came with and that we could interact with all we saw within the walls of the hotel. By the way my friend was looking at me, he could obviously tell I was confused. Before he had the time to explain what would happen next, the suit and card I was given was called. My friend pointed me in the direction that the five others with my same entry pass were headed and said he'd meet me back in the bar afterwards. I walked away from him and then entered a whole new world.
I was given a white mask with a long beak, much like a plague doctor costume, as were my fellow attendees, as we rode six floors up in an elevator to where our experience began. We were told these masks were to prevent us from finding our friends and allowing us to have an experience all our own - to truly immerse ourselves in the story. After the doors opened we were set free to roam throughout the hotel where there were six floors of different sets such as a forrest, a taxidermy shop, a graveyard, a ballroom, a mental asylum and hospital, etc....all of the things you would never imagine finding. Within these rooms, clues were hidden to help you discover who murdered who, where these people were hiding, and ultimately how you would find out the way they met their demise - but who are these people I'm speaking of? Truth is, I had no idea any characters would be roaming these halls.
I found out from a little birdie within those walls that there were 12 different characters from an altered, more noir version of Shakespeare's Macbeth. These actors were roaming around the six different floors and played a detrimental part to the end of the story. They couldn't speak unless they specifically brought you somewhere behind closed doors to tell you an unknown piece to the story to the naked eye. You also had the option to stay with the character you found first and go throughout the story through only their perspective, or roam around the rest of the floors to find other characters and how they interacted to ultimately find yourself in one of the 12 endings of the story based on which character you followed or found by happenstance.
In the 90 minutes I was roaming throughout the hotel for (it could have been very well over 90 minutes - as no one ushers you out - you just maybe see things for the second time and realize "Oh, I should probably find my way out" [in other words I was definitely in there for longer than 90 minutes.) I found several clues, followed multiple characters, and throughout felt like I was living a completely different life as a character within a Shakespearian filmscape.
I had fake blood splattered on me, I hid in a graveyard so a character wouldn't see I was there, I was a part of a satanic ritual and performance, and was within a grand ballroom as elegant men and women waltz with one another. Being a part of Sleep No More felt like I was living in this magical dream. It felt like I was living the reason I got into film and storytelling in the first place. It's always been my dream to create a world where people can escape to with their imaginations on high intensity. Sleep No More did this for me as I was able to escape and completely forget about reality for an hour and half. This experience inspired me to make a musical I directed, "The Wild Party," by Andrew Lippa and immersive experience, and it continues to inspire me to create worlds that I can build in real life to help fellow artists and every human being forget about their cell phones, forget about their problems, not care about what time it is or what they have to get done - they're just living in this completely fantastical world and living in the moments being created.
If you're ever in New York City, I URGE you to experience Sleep No More or any other event the McKittrick Hotel has to offer. This form of entertainment is just as and possibly far more powerful in its own way than a Broadway show. This is something you will remember forever, and you'll think about often. It's a heightened level of entertainment and a completely tangible version of virtual reality. Live in this human life. Make things happen - like going to Sleep No More. You'll only regret it if you don't go.
Buy Tickets Here:
The McKittrick Hotel
& Sleep No More
530 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
Standard Guest: $149.50
Maximilian's Guest: $240.00
#sleepnomore #MckkitrickHotel #NYC #NYCnightlife #Broadway #betterthanbroadway #shakespere #Newyorkmag #entity #thewing #huffingtonpost