Thursday, April 5, 2012

Things I Love Thursday SPECIAL EDITION: Sleep No More

(I know! I haven't done a TILT entry in awhile- I apologize. But this is definitely something I couldn't *NOT* do an entry for.) 

Sleep No More is this off-Broadway play/haunted house/experience in New York City that is described as 'immersive theater', which sounds totally artsy-fartsy but is actually awesome. The actual 'play' you are seeing is a mash-up of MacBeth and Alfred Hitchcock, but instead of the actors speaking lines there's interpretive dancing and acrobatics and screaming and grunting. It's a lot cooler than it sounds, trust me. What it really reminds me of is stuff like Dark City and Disney's The Haunted Mansion, which are two things I adoooore. As an audience member you have free reign (sorta...) of this giant 'Hotel' that is composed of 6 floors and like over a 100 rooms or something. But you have to wear this Plague Doctor-y mask (very Eyes Wide Shut) and are not permitted to talk within the hotel. Except for in the Manderley Bar, which is like if SNM were Pac-Man and the audience members were ghosts, the Manderley would be that little box in the middle. So you wander the halls of this giant expanse of a hotel, and there's sections of rooms that look like the creepy inside of a house, a Londony street, a graveyard, an abandoned looney bin, and you look for actors to follow or dig around in drawers or just wander and take in the amazing production value. The lighting, the sound and the set designs are all top notch. I would absolutely love to see the control room of that show, like the people who run SNM should get ahold of one of those techie cable shows and have a Behind the Scenes special or something. God that'd be cool. But yeah, there's lots of gleaming reviews of the show and it's running til June now and you should try and check it out if you can. Fortunately I'm local to NYC and can see it kinda-sorta whenever I want (it's expensive tho!) and have gotten to see it 3 times now- the more you see it and know what instances to look for the better your experience. You can book tickets here at the site. But there's this whole cult following of it- message boards, tumblrs, long meandering blog threads. Just start Googling around, you'll find all sorts of neat shit.

Don't you love how if you wanna talk about a Sleep No More experience you've gotta send 20 minutes setting it up for the people who've never heard of it? Haha, the other SNM addicts get me. 
Ok, but what I *really* want to talk about is my 1:1 bait-and-switch experience with Hecate the Red Witch and burlesque superstar Dita Von Teese. That's what's really cool about SNM, everyone's story is different. Mine is kinda extra-awesome though. Just sayin'.

First, some mood music:

Ok, so I went to Sleep No More with my friend Paul who came up from Baltimore to come see the show with me on a Saturday a little over a month ago. His first time, my third. My first time I had no 1:1, the second time I got the 1:1 with the Nurse in the hedge maze. I'm a huge, HUGE fan of the show. Paul, being a typical first timer, stuck to me like glue the first 45 minutes and I walked him around showing him the coolest rooms to come back to and eventually shook him while one of the actors went tearing down the street scene. Cuz all the cool shit happens when you're by yourself. We were one of the last groups in on the final Saturday show of the night, so it was pretty packed. Stairways got clogged, people got pushed, I was starting to get pissy because alot of the crowd was very douchey. So I went to Hecate's bar/lair since it's one of the places that's always pretty cool and Hecate is always fun to watch. I go in and she's just finishing her lip-synch to 'Is That All There Is?' to about 20 people and starts laughing and hanging off some of the audience members, then stops at me and this other girl and the very end of the crowd closest to the door to the alley. It's become obvious she's looking for a 1:1 now and her and I lock eyes. The other girl got visibly uncomfortable with her being so close and kind of shrunk away. Hecate looks me over and smiles and grabs my hand and we continue holding each others gaze as she starts leading me to the alley door she'll frequently disappear into. My hearts in my throat. Everyone starts following us out into the alley. She leads me to the door and whispers in my ear 'Wait here...' all sexy and throaty, then disappears into the door, which is bathed in this red light. The other girl who didn't get picked is next to me again, impatiently tries to turn the knob and gets stopped by a Black Mask. No one else heard Hecate say 'Wait here', so eventually people start filing out of the alley, leaving me alone with the Black Mask outside Hecate's door for like 45 seconds. So the door opens again, but it's this dark blue light and a woman that's not Hecate whose face I can't see (guess whoooo???) holds her perfectly manicured hand out to mine and I take it. This woman, with her back to me, leads me into what looks like an old-timey dressing room. I can't see her face, I already notice her hair is black and perfectly vintage styled and the hand she's leading me with has this amazingly sparkly bracelet I'm transfixed by. Also, I'm rather tall, like 5'8" and I was wearing flats, and she came up to my nose. So, she leads me into the room, slowly turns around and it is revealed: DITA VON TEESE and I are going to have a 1:1. HOLY SHIT. Like, my eyes must have been GIGANTIC. So she smiles and reaches up and takes my mask off and says "It's you." And me, all sweat-faced and shiny from running and wide-eyed whisper back "Holy crap, it's *you*." She smiles knowingly at me and leads me over to a couch, coffee table and stool, and motions for me to sit on the stool as she sits on the couch right next to me. Like, knee-to-knee. Alone in this room. With Dita. Who I am a big fan of. Yeah, so I'm silently flipping out. My mind's going a mile a minute. I'm like hitting the 'record' button on my brain to try and take everything in. And OMG, she is SO PRETTY. Photos actually do not do her justice. Plus I mean I'm seeing her under perfect sepia lighting and slight fog and fucking Hitchcock music, so it's like the ultimate Dita viewing conditions.

She's even PRETTIER in real life. 
(And this is where everything crazy happens and I might have some memory fail. It was A LOT to process, so bear with me.) 
Dita pours a cup of tea from the elaborate tea set on the coffee table, puts the cup and saucer in my hands, then holds my hands holding the cup. She then starts to tell me a story about 7 ships that were sent out to sea, but one was lost. She reaches over to the table and pulls out a tiny folded paper ship and sets it on top of the tea in the teacup. Meanwhile, in amazing SNM fashion, the lighting is slowly, slowly changing from sepia to bluish grey and the music is fading out to the sounds of the ocean and ship bows bending. (I swear if SNM doesn't get any awards I'll be so mad.) Dita places her hands back on mine and says that the ship that was lost fell upon a storm, and starts moving our hands so that the tea in the teacup bobs the tiny boat up and down. The storm noises become louder. Thunder cracks. I'm not sure to look at Dita or look at the tea. It's so damn tense. She says something about how the ship sinks, and pushes the boat down into the tea with her finger. She then sets the cup and saucer back down on the table, takes out the wet paper ship and mashes it into my palm, all the while looking me directly in the eye and says gravely 'All has changed and will never be the same.' (I think. I'm freaking out by now. That's what I heard, at least.) 
Hecate scared the SHIT outta me.
MEEEANWHILE, Hecate had at some point slipped in the room unbeknownst to me, and comes around from behind me sliding her hand down my arm with this giant psychotic smile, scaring the ever loving shit out of me. Like, I HAD to of jumped. My face must have been priceless. I think Hecate put her finger to my lips to go 'Shhhhh…' then holds out her hand to me and loudly says 'All has changed and will never be the same.', because the storm/thunder/ship noises are really loud now. There might have even been wind. They start repeating 'All has changed and will never be the same.' over and over, and Hecate motions me her hand and I take it. She leads me into a pitch black closet and she comes in with me, hanging off me and cackling and spinning me around and someone sprayed me with water like it was the ocean and there were some strobes like lightning and I honestly thought 'This must be what going insane is like.' and even I started laughing with Hecate and going 'Holy fuck I'm gonna die!'. Then, everything stopped. Black silence. Hecate immediately backed up off me, I felt my mask hurriedly get put back on my face and I was pushed out a secret door at the back of the closet into Hecate's other room where she keeps all the flowers and herbs. I broke the silence rule to breathlessly exclaim 'WHAT THE FUCK.' And leaned against the back wall for a little bit the process everything. I realized I lost my fascinator on my mask and kinda shrugged it off as a sacrifice to the 'Story Gods'. Fortunately it was homemade and is easy to recreate. Maybe Hecate has it? But yeah, I saw Dita two other times that night- sitting with Hecate at the Blood Orgy where I dragged Paul once I saw him again not 5 minutes after my 1:1, and then after the show at the Manderley Bar when she was out of character with friends at a table. I was way too shy to talk to her, so I totally just watched her in awe like a weirdo. In hindsight I probably should have said *something* to her cuz her being a fan of the show herself I'm sure she'd love to hear the amazing job she did. Cuz holy crap, they GOT me GOOD.Honestly, I would love to see the script for this scene I had. Or see it from the outside. That's the crazy thing about this immersive theater shit, it's not like you can rewind it and watch it again. That experience was for what? 4 people that night? Out of however many people go to SNM. I consider myself SUPER lucky to have gotten to see this super rare scene. 

Hecate's Apothecary- where I ended up after my 1:1. Alone.

What's also super funny is that the day I was headed to Sleep No More I had posted about it on my Facebook, and one of my friends mentioned how Dita Von Teese has tweetd that day about the show and that maybe I'd see her there. And I remember literally going 'Psssht. Yeah right!!'. But hey- goes to show you that you never know! 

What I wore for the show!
PS: As much as I love SNM though it is not for everyone. You will have to work up your imagination and suspend some disbelief to get the most out of the show. As annoyed as I was with all the people pushing and clogging up stairways I still was able to save the entire night by landing that 1:1, which was one of the most surreal and amazing moments in my life, and I was extremely lucky to get the opportunity to experience it. Some people want a 1:1 so badly that the desperation puts the actors off. The actors are amazingly perceptive. They pay attention to what you wear and various visual and gestural queues that will tell them if you are an unappreciative douchebag demanding to be entertained. I’ve seen people during an obvious choosing of 1:1’s thrust their open hand right out in front of an actor who obviously wants someone else. You gotta play it cool, daddio. They’re looking for people who are into the show. I wore a retro cocktail gown (that was stretchy so I could run if needed) and clipped a feather fascinator to my mask so I would actually stand out amongst a sea of otherwise anonymous audience members. You gotta respect and love the show, it may love you back in amazing ways.


  1. Oh man! I so wish I could see that, that sounds amazing!

    1. It was! Fortunately I'm able to share it in my own special way! I would love to hear who else got this 1:1 that night.

  2. that story is just as amazing as you promised!! Wow!!

    1. Guuurl it was SO, SO CRAZY. Like I've had DREAMS that are less crazy than that. AMAZINGLY well-wriiten scene. Got me hook, line, sinker.

  3. Just stumbled up on your site, as I was looking up other Hecate encounters. Went to the show my second time last weekend, and I'm in the process of trying to write it all up just so I myself don't forget. I had the same 1:1 (without the guest star), and couldn't agree more. But, I also want to write it up because I hit the Grand Slam of Sleep No More: Hecate's ring, the Porter's ring, Hecate's paper boat, and the Narnia door. I thought my first time was an amazing experience... Your advice on being receptive but playing it cool is completely right. Show you're willing to take part, but don't run people over. I literally became the messenger for Hecate/the Porter, and because of that, the Agnes Naismith/2nd Mrs. DeWinter character took me in to her 1:1 for her protective locket. All in all, I had five private 1:1 in the same night. And danced with Hecate to "Is That All There Is." Some friends asked if my wife and I were going back a third time, and I said, "I'd like to, but how could it ever be topped?"

    1. WOW!! Grand slam indeed!! That's amazing you scored 5 1:1's! Holy crap that's so awesome! I'm on the fence about going again, depends on my job/money situation in the near future. If you post your 1:1 experiences please share the link I'd love to read about them!

  4. Just as you said, standing out a bit (I wore a red bandanna over my mask) and being in the right place, showing thru body language that you're game for the experience, but without being pushy, was the key to my 1:1 with Hecate. Didn't realize I had 'blood' on my hand from the transformed teacup 'til I got home, in brighter light. Made my SNM evening special.


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