Immersive theater: All the world's a stage

Since Punchdrunk’s “Sleep No More” took New York by storm, newsite-specific works are cropping up all across town to keep theatergoerson their toes.

Since Punchdrunk’s “Sleep No More” took New York by storm, new site-specific works are cropping up all across town to keep theatergoers on their toes – or at the edge of their seats – in unconventional ways.


“The Tenant,” produced by Woodshed Collective, follows the story of a man who rents an apartment following the suicide of its previous occupant. It was initially conceived in Roland Torpor’s 1964 novella and then replicated in Roman Polanski’s film by the same name in 1976. Here, participants enter a dilapidated church and wander through five floors where they can mimic the very ghost of the newly deceased former resident by spying on the private lives of the depressed, repressed inhabitants who may or may not have had a hand in the Parisian girl’s death. As the central character, Trelkovsky, gradually learns about his neighbors, his sense of paranoia and claustrophobia grows. By six playwrights, the storyline is impressively woven together via the use of black-and-white television sets, where clues and pieces of script spring up at surprise intervals to tease out even more anticipation and tension – until the play’s sudden, violent end.


The Amoralists’ “HotelMotel” places two contrasting works back to back: first you enter an upscale, familiar hotel room in present-time Manhattan, and then you’re transported to a motel in the dead of winter in the middle of Boone, N.C. First, Derek Ahonen’s “Pink Knees On Pale Skin” invites 20-member audiences to watch as a self-destructive and devious sex psychologist counsels couples through intimate sessions that rouse debate on doctor-patient privilege. Following a 20-minute intermission, Adam Rapp’s “Animals & Plants” takes center stage in the same – but thoroughly transformed – space. Two drug dealers and best friends find themselves trapped in a blizzard. Tempted by rare opportunities and tested by supernatural incidents, they find it necessary to quickly discover what it means to be real men.


Find playwright/director Adam Rapp’s take on site-specific theater at T. Michelle Murphy's blog, Well Played.

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