I got back from my trips to NYC and Las Vegas a couple weeks ago. There are a lot of great stories I want to share, but I first want to tell you about the best interactive theater experience I had at Sleep No More.
A few months ago I heard about this interactive theater show in New York City called Sleep No More and I knew I had to check it out on my trip. Before you think this is just some cheesy experience where you’ll get pulled up on stage to sing and dance let me assure you that Sleep No More is much cooler, and much more complex than that. Originally Sleep No More was produced by Punchdrunk and ran in Boston in 2009/2010. Now Emursive is running Sleep No More in an old building called the McKittrick Hotel (not an operational hotel by the way) in New York. The entire building is decorated for this show alone.
The show takes place in the evenings, and you book a start time, which start at 6pm and go until midnight (depending on the night of the show). The entire experience takes 2 to 3 hours (or more if you decide to have a drink after the show). Yes, there’s a bar you visit before the show begins, so you need to be at least 21. The website does mention those 16 to 20 can be admitted when accompanied by a legal adult, but I would contact someone from Sleep No More directly if this situation applies to you.
You’ll have to check your coat, and any bags (including purses and umbrellas) once you go inside the building. I advise you to leave your coats and bags back home/back at the hotel to save yourself the $4 coat check fee. Also wear something with pockets, so you can keep your cash, ID, and credit card on you. While you could keep your phone and/or a small camera in your pocket too, you won’t be able to use them during the show.
After the coat check, you’ll be given a playing card, and will be lead into a room that looks like a 1920’s Speakeasy. There are bathrooms here, which you might want to make use of since you may not find the washrooms in the show. You can sit down and order a drink, but soon a man will get on stage and announce everyone holding a certain playing card (say everyone with an Ace) will need to go with him. You won’t be able to take your drink with you after you leave the Speakeasy.
If you came to Sleep No More with a group of people you might have different playing cards, but don’t try to switch cards in order to be with someone you know. Eventually, you will be separated from everyone in your group. Sleep No More is a very individualized experience. Going through the show on your own adds to the fun and excitement.
After hearing a few instructions (some of which I mention below) you’ll eventually be taken somewhere in this strange/dimly lit/freaky/crazy/cool awesome show. At this point, whatever you want to do or check out is up to you. There are people called guards (wearing black masks) who will stop you from going to any rooms or floors that are off limits so you don’t need to worry about going somewhere you’re not allowed. At the same time that you’re wandering around there are different actors in the rooms performing scenes related to the overarching story of the show.
Sleep No More is like seeing a play (with interpretive-type dance performances), going on a scavenger hunt, and being in the setting of a David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock movie all at once. I won’t spoil anything about the show, but for anyone planning to go to Sleep No More or if you’re at all intrigued by this show and might be interested in going I’ll share a few tips to help with the experience.
- Once you are lead out of the Speakeasy, there is no talking during the show. Even the actors and the performances will be done (for the most part) silently.
- You’ll be walking and running from room to room (and up and down stairs) a lot. Be sure to wear comfortable clothes and good shoes. Within the show, there are several chairs and couches you can sit down at if you need a break.
- You have to wear a mask during the show. While it sounds strange wearing the mask let’s you recognize the actors easily (because they do not wear a mask), and it let’s you stay focused on the show itself. You also get to keep your mask after the show is over.
- You can’t take photos or use your cellphone during the show. Some of the rooms and the things I saw were pretty cool, but I was glad to be disconnected from technology for this experience as it allowed me to be fully immersed in the show.
- The set, the props, and the costumes in this show are incredible. I got a bit obsessed with some of the details within the set, but I would strongly recommend paying attention to the actors and the scenes that are being performed as well.
- Actors can be found in various rooms performing different scenes. An actor might perform a scene in one room, and then move to a different room and perform another scene. You can choose to follow that actor or you can go somewhere else (it’s up to you). The actors will perform the scenes as if you’re not there, but there are some cases where an actor may interact with someone from the audience.
- You won’t get a program before the show to tell you where to go for each scene, or to let you know what part each actor is playing. You won’t see everything that happens in Sleep No More and that’s okay. Our society has a FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) complex, but it’s important to remember you’ll never be able to experience it all. Enjoy your experience with the show and don’t worry about what you might be missing.
- I didn’t have a phone or a watch with me, and there were several moments where I thought to myself, “I have no idea how long I’ve been here.” Being away from any device to tell me what time it was was kind of a cool experience – I kind of felt like Alice going down the rabbit hole. If you’re a bit time obsessed make sure to wear a watch or bring your phone (but put it on silent so as not to take anyone out of the show).
- There are bathrooms in show. I can’t remember what floor they are on, but you can tell they are the bathrooms because they look like working bathrooms, and they have a door that can close and lock. There is a room with a bunch of bathtubs, but that is not one of the bathrooms.
- While there is often ominous music playing, and the building is dimly lit (adding to the atmosphere) Sleep No More is not a haunted house. No one (unless someone you know decides to be a jerk) will jump out at you and try to scare you. Now that I mention this fact, please do not use this as an excuse to be a jerk and scare people during this show. It’s freaky enough without someone immaturely pretending to be a ghost.
- Sleep No More has adult themes, and you may see scenes of nudity and violence.
- My friends and I went to a 10:45 p.m. show on a Friday night and it was quite busy. This made some of the scenes (where a large group from the audience had gathered) hard to see. Going to a Sunday to Thursday night show may be less busy than the Friday/Saturday shows (although I can’t make any guarantees about that).
- When you exit the show you’ll be at the same Speakeasy where you were at the very beginning. If you came in with other people this is handy to know where you’ll be able to meet up afterward.
What I loved about Sleep No More is that it is such a unique experience – I’ve never seen any theatre production like it. No matter when you go you’ll have a different experience with Sleep No More than anyone else (including anyone you know). Even if you went back to again you’d likely see and experience something different than you had before. I don’t believe there’s a “wrong” way to see or experience this show. Apparently I missed out on the big finale, but I still loved my experience with it. Sleep No More is a unique and exciting performance to see/experience, and if you live or are visiting New York City I recommend checking it out.
Emursive’s Sleep No More takes place at the McKittrick Hotel at 530 West 27 Street in New York City. Ticket prices range from $80 to $170 (excluding fees and taxes). As the show can sells out regularly I recommend purchasing tickets in advance.
Please note that this post was not read, edited, or endorsed by Emursive or Punchdrunk or anyone else associated with Sleep No More. I paid full price for my ticket, and I would gladly pay full price to go Sleep No More, or another Emursive or Punchdrunk production in the future.
Have you been to an interactive show like Sleep No More?