Sleep No More is a theatrical production set in a five-floored building in New York City known as the McKittrick Hotel. The McKittrick Hotel was constructed in 1939 and was slated to be one of the most luxurious hotels in New York, however, after the outbreak of World War II it was locked and permanently sealed off from the public until the Sleep No More productions began. To learn more, watch this short trailer.
The goal of the Sleep No More performance is for the audience to escape reality and enter a new dimension. Each hotel room is different; there is an antique lunatic asylum, a doctor’s office, children’s bedrooms, shops, cemeteries, indoor courtyards, and so on. The environment, the actors’ costumes, and the scenery follows an aesthetic style of the early 20th century and are inspired by film noir. Film noir is a cinematic term for stylish Hollywood crime dramas, specifically the ones which emphasize cynical attitudes.
The experience begins in the operational lounge. Then, an elevator transports the audience to the main floor of the hotel. Sleep No More recreates the story of Macbeth, a Shakespearean tragedy about a Scottish general who pursues the throne with the inspiration from some witches’ prophecy. Sleep No More transforms the witches and the prophecy into one of complete silence, the actors using only body language and props. If you haven’t read Macbeth, no problem! No prior knowledge is needed to comprehend the production. Perhaps what makes this experience most interesting is that the audience members are each given a mask that they must wear throughout the entire performance.
The big difference between Sleep No More and Broadway shows is that the audience is a part of the spectacle. During the three hour performance, the audience has the independence and may choose to follow a single actor or explore the hotel as they please, hence giving each person a unique experience. In each room, the audience encounters different performances. It’s also highly encouraged that everyone touch the props and scenery by opening drawers and reading “written diaries.”
It’s strongly suggested that families and friends separate once entering the performance, so they can each have their own personalized participation. Everyone has an entirely different experience regardless of who they are and who they go with. It’s extremely common for people to watch the performance twice since it isn’t possible to explore the whole hotel in only three hours.
This entire idea—in which each individual gains the opportunity to create their own entertainment, choose what they’d like to watch, and remain completely anonymous—allows everyone to express themselves without judgement. The audience can freely behave according to their surroundings and how they personally want to be seen. Masks are used to shield or to portray a part of oneself that may not be regularly presented. Behind a mask, the audience can be whomever they want, and this is essentially the beauty of the performance. Since someone can be anyone, the viewer creates their own sequence of performances by choosing what they want watch in order to match their “masked identity.”
Overall, the experience is incredible: once you’re in there, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done in your life; everyone is an equal because everyone is wearing a mask. Needless to say, the dark helps emphasize this idea of being nameless and having no identity. The entire presentation in general is all about being who you are, watching the performances you’re most interested in, and, most importantly, being in control of your own entertainment. In spite of living in Brazil, if you ever find yourself in New York, remember to stop by the McKittrick Hotel and take a tour of Sleep No More.
(Sources: mckittrickhotel.com, sleepnomorenyc.com)