When I look back to Spring Break, I’m probably still enamored by my memory of Sleep No More. It was a very fun, nerve wracking, and thrilling experience.
I went with three friends to see Sleep No More during our Spring Break trip to NYC. Sleep No More is an interactive play that has multiple scenes from the whole story happening at the same time. This meant that actors, props, and the audience were constantly moving across time and space; the audience is able to experience the story in a nonlinear fashion. This pretty much ensured the separation of groups and I found that idea quite nerve-wracking at the beginning. Except not too long after the play started, I discovered running off on my own was actually really fun!
At the beginning, my friend and I wandered together. The first couple of scenes we saw my friend and I always ran after the actors/actresses that escaped the scene first. But once I began to feel intrigued by a character and jolted off the opposite direction of my friend, I really enjoyed wandering at my own pace and let myself get lost. However, I think one of the main highlights of Sleep No More for me (and many others) is interactions we have with the actors. Below, I talk about the three encounters I had.
1. Hecate (Goddess of witchcraft)
In the room where the rave occurs, she embraced and kissed me, leaving her red lipstick on my forehead.
Every audience member must wear a white mask while inside the McKittrick Hotel and was not allowed to speak; it was one way to separate the audience from the actors. I felt that this aspect was a unique way to give the audience autonomy to immerse ourselves in the plot in which every way they decide to while remaining anonymous. Over time, I definitely felt bolder and braver my mask on as I would chase down actors and even wander in dark, ominous rooms by myself. (I probably could never do this otherwise. I would pee myself).
2. Speakeasy Bartender
(At his own place where he plays drinking card games)
He makes eye contact with me and extends his hand out to me. I take his hand and examines my hand. He sees the X on my hand, – this simply means I’m not allowed to purchase and consume alcohol- reaches for a little dainty metal jewelry holder, and takes out a cross with Jesus on it and places in my hand and closes my hand and holds it firmly for a while holding strong eye-contact with me. He says nothing then extends his hand out to a male audience and checks his hand and then takes him to a separate room for a one-on-one. At this moment I simply thought: “I swear if I didn’t have these X’s on my hands, I could’ve had a one-on-one with the speakeasy bartender!!!!!!”
This is the cross that the Speakeasy Bartender gave me. The playing card was my “admission” into the Sleep No More stage. Everyone is given a different number as it indicates your group number to enter the McKittrick Hotel. These cards are from their customized Sleep No More playing card deck.
3. Mr. Bargarron (Taxidermist)
He was cleaning his shop and my best friend was interacting with him. One of the characters (Agnes I believe) comes in and stands next to me and then leaves his shop. He then walks towards the place where she stood and then faces the door she left from. And suddenly extends his hand on the side for me, without making any eye contact. I took his hand and he leads me to a secret door in the wall. Here we have a one-on-one.
(The one-on-one is below in white text. Please highlight the text if you choose to read the spoilers of my one-on-one.)
It was really dark and couldn’t really tell what was in the room. But he firmly holds me by my shoulder, making intense eye contact. Then he slowly unmasks me. It was an odd feeling. After being masked for over 2 hours, I felt extremely naked and vulnerable. Once unmasked, he brushes my hair away from my face, takes my hand and leads me into a pitch black stall, has me sit down on a chair, and tells me he will be back in a minute. I suddenly hear water running, and through the crevice of the stall where light creeps in, I can see him wash his hands. Once I hear the water stop running, the room slowly dims until it’s pitch black, and he enters the stall and turns on a lamp. Under a light lays a metal tray with two cylinder-like items, a bottle filled with a dark fluid, and a syringe. He opens the bottle and uses the syringe to inject the liquid into the cylinder like item until it turns pitch black. (The item turned out to be a dum dum). Then he lifts up a finger, indicating me to choose one. A little hesitant, I ended up choosing the white one. He pops the black one in his mouth and then I pop the white one in mine. Afterwards, he leads me outside the stall takes my mask and gently puts my mask back on for me. Then he opens the secret door and I step out back into the main set. It felt weird coming back to this “real” world after the one-on-one.
I would love to go back; there was so much more I wanted to see. Sleep No More was definitely very unique and the experience is tailored to each individual’s own wanderlust, instincts, and interests. I have not seen many of the scenes and rooms my friends had described. And I think that’s pretty amazing considering that all the scenes loop 2.5 half times.
I hope to return to do these kinds of shows again (Alice in Wonderland: Down She Falls, wait for us to come back!).