One of the most beloved experiences to take advantage of in NYC is its vast theater culture. Many tourists and locals love to indulge themselves in the many performances available on Broadway, where you can catch popular shows like The Lion King, Hamilton, and Wicked. There’s even a lot of great off-broadway shows as well filled with popular musicals, comedies, dramas and other unique genres.
Over the last few years, the city has been introduced to an interactive form of performing arts called immersive theater. Most theater shows require audiences to sit and watch a performance on stage. However, with immersive theater, the audience actually gets the chance to participate in the performance as well. These shows break down the barrier between actors and spectators, allowing you to have a uniquely personal experience as opposed to just being part of the crowd. This has become increasingly popular over the years and many visitors and even locals have yet to find out about it. Here’s a breakdown of some of the best immersive experiences throughout the city.
Sleep No More
This is the show that has started the trend of immersive theater in New York. It’s a retelling of Macbeth with scenes inspired by Alfred Hitchcock. Sleep No More has been running since 2011 in an abandoned club in Chelsea renamed the McKittrick Hotel. The performances are dark, sleek, sexy and little bit creepy. It’s mixed with a dizzying degree of detail, dance and drama where audience members observe actors play out Shakespeare’s tragedy with minimal dialogue. Theatergoers are required to wear white masks à la Eyes Wide Shut during the entire show. One can wander across 6 floors throughout 90 different spaces over the span of 3 hours. There are drawers and letters you can investigate through to add to the intrigue. The show runs 7 nights a week and starts at various times each day.
Then She Fell
An interactive experience similar to Sleep No More, but with a more intimate environment as only 15 guests are allowed per each performance. It takes place in an abandoned psychiatric ward in Williamsburg. When you first walk up to the meeting location, there’s only a small sign on a clipboard hanging in front of the door to let you know where to enter. The premise is based off of Lewis Carroll and his books on Alice in Wonderland. Here, you’ll meet many iconic characters such as The Mad Hatter, the White Queen, the Red Queen, the Rabbit, Alice and Lewis Carroll himself. Often times you will find yourself in a room with an actor all by yourself, other times you’ll be observing the actors perform with one other guest or just a few. The actors will lead you from room to room as you go down the rabbit hole, getting lost in the midst of this crazy, chaotic adventure created for you. You might get the chance to drink tea at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, have a bedtime story read to you by the White Queen or down a shot with Alice. Everyone’s experience is completely different and afterwards you’ll be able to share your tale with your friends’ and compare how your journey was different than theirs. The show has been running since 2012 and continues to extend their run each year.
Have you ever thought of doing an escape room, but outdoors? Accomplice has created a unique experience that combines interactive theater, a scavenger hunt and a walking tour all into one. It features interactive puzzles, actors adept at improv and mysteries to be solved during your adventure. Locals and tourists have raved about this experience as it allows you to move around the city, learning new things, while being part of a story. The creator of this idea thought of combining elements from the show Survivor to a theater production and came up with this. You can choose between a three hour Manhattan tour that takes you through a mobster murder tale throughout neighborhoods in lower Manhattan or a two hour Greenwich Village tour on Saturdays. Groups are relatively small with only around 10 people, but possibly more if you want to book with a larger party. There are various unique storylines available for private groups as well. Celebrities Neil Patrick Harris and Howard Stern have publicly endorsed this production. Their most popular Lower Manhattan experience operates April through October, while the Greenwich Village and private tours operate year round.
Cynthia Buhler, a visual artist and author created the Speakeasy Dollhouse series with the ambitious idea to transport audiences back to the Roaring 20’s and drop them in the middle of a scene of a crime. Participants are encouraged to dress in 1920’s outfits to to help everyone fit into their surroundings. Here, you will enter a murder investigation based on a non-fictional event and explore a set designed to look like something out of a graphic novel. All of the different productions are based on Buhler’s investigations of mysterious deaths in site-specific, historic locations. Previous productions have taken place in the real life hang out spot of a well known mob accountant, inside of a Gramercy Park mansion and in The Liberty Theater in Times Square. The sets have all been designed with vivid detail including speakeasy bars, gambling rooms, Pre-war bedrooms and even a Parisian hotel. Audiences are invited to walk freely throughout various rooms and are even assigned a piece of paper to have a unique character to play. Professional actors will perform scenes and even ad lib and interact with everyone in attendance. The Speakeasy Dollhouse began in 2011 and just started its 4th new series, The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.