ART & CULTURE

Sleep No More, an experimental performance beyond your imagination
In Chelsea’s 27th St. in Manhattan, there’s a hotel that only opens at night. A special show is performed there, where there are no boundaries between the stage and the audience. “Sleep No More” is an Off-Broadway show where the audience gets to engage in the play by running and walking around with the actors.
Around New York’s Times Square, there’re a lot of unique shows performed by individual studios or small performance groups. There’s always some fun to be had discovering something new and unique. “Sleep No More,” which premiered in 2011, is one such show. When it first premiered, the performance was so dramatic that it received the Drama Desk Awards.
It is an immersive theatre play, where the audience gets to relate and experience the story with the actors. There’s no stage or seats in the theatre. The big storyline behind the play comes from William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”
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“Sleep No More” promotional poster

“Sleep No More,” a show where members of the audience interact with the actors and become part of the narrative, has been turning heads with its extraordinary performance since its premiere.
Macbeth, a Scottish general, receives a prophecy from three witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Filled with ambition, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the Scottish throne for himself. But afterward, he struggles to sleep as he is filled with guilt and paranoia.
The title of “Sleep No More” comes from that same psychological state. In addition to its unique storyline, the artistic direction of the space, music and outfits makes the show a perfect artistic performance. Over the past nine years, it has become of the most well-known Off-Broadway shows in New York.
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A theatre that does not have a boundary between the stage and the seats
The lights at McKittrick Hotel, located on 27th St. will only go on at 7 p.m. This hotel is not for accommodation. It used to be a warehouse space but was transformed into a hotel from the 1930s by UK theatre company Punchdrunk for “Sleep No More.”
The hotel is reminiscent of the hotel from “The Shining,” directed by Stanley Kubrick. A six-story high building, the hotel includes 100 rooms, a lobby, hallway, emergency exits and plenty of small spaces for storytelling. In addition to all these settings, the gloomy atmosphere increases the immersion level.
The biggest characteristic of this play is that there’s no distance between the actors and the audience. Performed over about three hours, the play is divided into 25 actors’ point of view from different areas in the hotel at the same time. Audiences are free to move around the rooms and choose the actors they want to see and which part of performance they want to watch. 
This is completely different from a traditional theatre, where audiences sit in assigned seats and watch the performance. At “Sleep No More,” the audience has to find its own way into the show.
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My own storyline
When you walk around and drink a cocktail at Jazz Bar Manderly, located on the first floor, you’ll receive an ace card. Using the elevator, if you go to the floor, according to the number on the card you were given, that’s when the play actually begins. The actors, who were enjoying a party on the lower floor, are suddenly dispersed on different floors of the building. If you want to follow the main plot, you’ll need to find the actor who plays Macbeth and follow him throughout the show. 
But since it’s dark and smoky, it’s not easy to follow one actor. Honestly, it might be better if you follow your curiosity, avoid the crowd and get lost within the hotel. You can watch the same scene three times or by going through different characters, you can create your own storyline.
More than just lines
When you watch a Broadway show, there may be a moment when you struggle to understand a scene as they use old English expressions in the songs and lines. But in “Sleep No More,” there are no lines. As the play is mostly unfolded through physical movements, it can be enjoyed by audiences who don’t speak English. 
Despite all this, do you still want to understand the story better?
The only way to do so is to get closer to the actor who is performing. Each audience member will get a white mask along with the ace card when they enter. The white mask is the signature item of “Sleep No More,” and you have to wear it from the start to an end. Thanks to the mask, the audience doesn’t need to worry about being embarrassed watching actors take their clothes off or end up in a fight covered in blood.
Keeping your distance so the actors won’t get distracted with their performance, you can feel their anger, sadness and agony.
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A museum filled with various experiences
Just as much as the performance, the charisma of the space at “Sleep No More” surprise the audience. As it is created with a lot of detail, it is almost like being in a museum. When you go into a doctor’s office, for example, you can see the reservation list, handwritten letters, surgery gowns, surgery tools, bottles of medicine and even hair samples. 
This level of detail makes it more fun. Just like the tragic story of “Macbeth,” the mood of the play is dark. Once you walk through the cemetery, you feel the cold air in the forest and in between, you’ll see birdcages and dolls without hair. Bathrooms with bloodstains add to the creepy mood. More than anything, you can never lose the tension as the actors sometimes suddenly pop up out of nowhere.
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Re-living the experience
As the show approaches its end, the audience, who have been wondering around the building gather together for one final sequence. The play ends at Gallow Green, McKittrick Hotel’s rooftop, and there, you can finally reunite with your friends and talk about your experience while drinking a cocktail.
Talking about difference scenes you’ve experienced throughout the play may be the best way to enjoy your lingering imagination.
In the summer, it’s a garden in a city with shades of trees but in the winter, the space turns into a log lodge. If you want to chat about your experience in a quieter place, head to Bar Manderly on the first floor. Back at the jazz club, listen to some live swing music and breathe some clean air after the thick smoke in the hotel.
But if you’re rushing to get yourself out of the darkness, head out of the hotel and walk around the Meatpacking district — suddenly, you’re back in modern-day New York.
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Tips to enjoy “Sleep No More”
Tip 1. Reserve tickets online
Since ticket prices vary and the entrance time differs, it’s important to check the information beforehand on the “Sleep No More” website. For example, if the show starts at 8, the first entrance will be at 7 and the entrance will open every 15 minutes. But the earlier you go in, the more time you have at Manderley Bar. 
However, since the official play doesn’t start beforehand, you can buy your tickets to enter at 7:45, the last entrance slot.
Website sleepnomorenyc.com

Tip 2. Take your glasses off, wear sneakers and save energy
It is not an exaggeration to say that a successful viewing of “Sleep No More” depends on the audience’s energy level. Whether you run after the actors or walk at your own pace, you’ll have to climb up and down the floors and run around the rooms. To do so, you’ll need to wear something comfortable and running shoes. Since you’ll have to wear a mask throughout the show, contact lenses will be much better than glasses. Just a reminder, McKittrick Hotel staff wear black masks. 

Tip 3. Things to bring and things not to bring
As a friendly reminder, you don’t want to be carrying lots for the three-hour show. Since you can’t film during the show, you’ll need to pay to store all your valuables before entering the show. Due to this, it is best not to bring them with you at all. As performance includes suggestive and aggressive scenes, it is only open to adults. Do not forget your ID. 

Tip 4. You can do it on your own
Immersive theatre breaks the invisible wall between the audience and the performance, which allow the individual to maximize their experience. Based on one’s interest and instincts, “Sleep No More” allows individuals to find their own storyline. Due to this, you shouldn’t expect yourself to be with your friends throughout the show. Keep in mind that holding hands and running around together can be a distraction to other audience members. Also, speaking during the show is prohibited. 

Tip 5. Be open to everything
Engage in the performance with an open mind. “Sleep No More” is always filled with new mysteries and excitement as audience members get to experience something new, even if they’ve watched the show more than twice. More than anything, actors pass through the audiences according to their individual storylines during the show. At one point, they’ll grab the hand of an audience member, take them to a room and start a one-on-one performance. It’ll be like whispering, kissing a hand, or giving a gift. Don’t forget that you could end up being the main character in the performance. 
If you’re overwhelmed by this, just stay in the middle of the crowd.
Where to stay in New York: LOTTE NEW YORK PALACE
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LOTTE NEW YORK PALACE is a 55-story tower built by Henry Villard toward the end of the 19th century. It is a hotel with a modern tower behind a historic house. It became a must-visit place after featuring in the popular drama “Gossip Girl” and many more movies. It has a total of 909 rooms and includes the Villard Restaurant, where breakfast is served, and cocktail bar Trouble’s Trust. It also has a beautiful garden designed based on an Italian cathedral from the 15th century and, during the Christmas season, it welcomes travelers with an eye-catching Christmas tree.
Address 455 Madison Avenue at 50th Street, New York
Phone +1-800-804-7035
Website www.lottenypalace.com
December 2019 Editor:Kim Hyewon
Writer:Jinhee Lee

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LOTTE HOTELS & RESORTS
  • December 2019
  • Editor: Kim Hyewon
    Writer: Jinhee Lee
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