The success of a play is reliant on how deeply it engages its audience. While traditional theater accomplishes this through plot, staging, and costumes, immersive theater adds an additional element by actively involving its viewers in the performance. From characters that leave the stage and interact with the audience to free-form plays that let individual viewers define their own experience, immersive performances add a new dimension to the theater. This Plan examines immersive theater through the lens of two retellings of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Punchdrunk and Emursive’s Sleep No More and an original reinterpretation by the author, titled The Vengeance Game.
Instead of a traditional theater, Sleep No More takes place in an abandoned warehouse in New York City, converted to resemble a hotel. The play takes place throughout the building, and multiple scenes often play out simultaneously in different rooms. Audience members don white masks and are free to wander the hotel as they please, giving each viewer a unique experience of the drama. In The Vengeance Game, cast members enter the audience at various points in the play, increasing immersion and emphasizing key points in the narrative.
“Based on my research and personal experience, I define immersive theater as performance that not only suspends disbelief, but reconfigures belief entirely to create a new ‘consensus reality.’”
“With The Vengeance Game, I expanded the performance space into the audience. I wanted to create a fully immersive production – the idea of having the performance take up the entire space was central to my staging.”
“Sleep No More shakes up traditional theater by encouraging individual exploration – though audience members can choose to simply follow the actors, the venue provides an incredibly rich experience for those who choose to strike out on their own.”
Reflections on Plan
“The most memorable part of my process was rehearsal for my production of The Vengeance Game; it was my first time directing, and I gained a lot of insight into the process.”