Sure, going to a play or musical can be riveting, but it can lack a certain element of surprise. Though the words and faces and costumes may change, an audience pretty much knows what they’re in for: the opening of curtains, the reciting of lines, the curtain call and the cue for applause (Exeunt.)
That’s where experiential theater comes in. Once you take the audience out of their seats, thrust them into unexpected scenarios, and force a bit of spontaneity into their workaday lives, real drama can take flight.
In this spirit of unique cultural experiences, we’ve partnered with truTV’s Fake Off to bring you six incredible performance art pieces whose creativity will blow your mind.
Make sure to tune into “Fake Off,” truTV’s next generation talent show, on Mondays at 10/9C. The New truTV: Way More Fun.
Sleep No More
Sleep No More, an interactive, no-dialogue experience based loosely on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, requires audience members to follow different characters around the abandoned hotel set in West Manhattan. Based off a London production from theatre company Punchdrunk, the experience is different for each person in an exciting, “choose your own adventure” kind of way. In its New York incarnation, you’ll move through rooms of the McKittrick Hotel and stumble upon actors portraying everything from mundane chores to cold-blooded murder, and you’ll piece together a version of the play that is truly unique to you. (If you’re lucky, you’ll even get pulled into a one-on-one scene.) Onlookers are required to wear carnival-style masks and are forbidden to speak during the two-and-a-half hour production.
The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions Of Eugene O’Neill, Vol. 2
This is a preview of Volume 1, the predecessor to Volume 2.
It sounds like a silly parlor game: What if we put on a play and ditched all of the dialogue … but kept the stage directions? But the New York Neo Futurists found a way to translate this to the stage, with hilarious results. A narrator reads Eugene O’Neill’s (famously exacting) stage directions aloud while four actors bring the prompts to life. In this kind of setting, body language is literally everything.
This play is currently not showing, but the New York Neo Futurists are performing “Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind” every Friday and Saturday night at the Kraine Theater in Manhattan.
This clip shows Christian Marclay’s 1989 appearance on “Night Music.”
In 2009, Christian Marclay, known for his use of sound in art, organized a live “simultaneous concert” featuring 180 musicians, from hip hop DJs to opera singers to an accordion orchestra. Marclay, who acted as the conductor, held up cue cards to signal which groups should be playing and for how long. “The Live Mix,” as Marclay called it, was performed in a former Berlin train shed.
In this clip, Vinny DePonto highlights the five ways you’re being manipulated right now.
Charlatan is a production that works off the premise of cold, hard lies. Vinny DePonto leads the show, which includes magic and plenty of audience participation. According to Theater Mania, the show “advances the idea that humans need deception in order to make sense of the world, and, more cynically, that human perceptions are intentionally manipulated by others at every turn.” Upon arriving at the performance, audience members are asked to write down a personal confession that is then placed in a sealed envelope at the foot of the stage. DePonto doesn’t reveal what these will be used for until the end of the show, keeping the suspense at an all-time high.
Charlatan is currently not showing, but check here for Vinny DePonto’s upcoming shows.
This clip is somewhat NSFW.
If you haven’t guessed by it’s name, The Slutcracker is a very loosely based, adult version of The Nutcracker. The Boston-based show opens up with raunchy comedy sets and then proceeds into a neo-burlesque style rendition of the holiday classic. To further embrace the burlesque theme, sex toys are given away during what the production calls the “12 days of Slutmas.” Unlike the traditional ballet, applause and hollering are encouraged throughout the show.
Take Me Home
You won’t be in a performance hall to watch this piece, but instead in the back seat of a New York City cab. With an audience of only three people, you get a truly personal experience where the line between reality and drama is blurred. While certain elements are planned — like interactions with certain people along the route — others, like encountering jaywalkers, are just part of the daily adventure of driving through Manhattan.
For even more experimental hijinks, tune into truTV's "Fake Off" on Mondays at 10/9C. Check out the following clip for a preview: