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Sleep No More inspired party

1501 Views 6 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  handfulofrubies
Has anyone here ever been to Sleep No More in New York City? My sister and I based our first Summerween party two years ago, lightly based on Manderley, the SNM bar. We did a haunted hotel with the look of Manderley. I just got back from my recent trip to NYC and SNM and I'm inspired all over again. SNM takes place in a space that looks like a 1930's hotel and bar. It has approx 100 rooms and they are all intricately decorated. The production is based on Macbeth, with references to Rebecca and Hitchcockian vibes. I'm obsessed once again and I want to recreate the experience for friends, but the scale of the space and expertise of the actors are impossible to replicate. But I can do something inspired by, doing it on a much smaller scale. I'm hoping someone in here has been. I'd love to bounce ideas off of you.


You can click the above link to get an idea of the set. For this new party, I can use some of the previous decor items. On top of just getting the look right, I want to add more of the experience. Here in lies the problem. SNM has expertly trained actors with years of experience and training. I'm trying to figure out how I break that down to my level. At our first party, my sister and I, and two friends took on character roles of the people who lived and ran our hotel. We all came up with our own characters that worked well together, but it was mainly improv (nothing too thought out). We did well the first 30 minutes, but guests arrived late, and only 1 or 2 guests got to experience the more intense spectacle of our interactions with each other.

In SNM, the actors loosely act out scenes of Macbeth, but its not linear. They are constantly moving around (over several diff floors) and you often catch a scene here and there and you're trying to put all the clues together as to what is happening. It's kind of a choose your own adventure experience.

In addition to all of their performances during the production, all the actors have private spaces throughout the hotel. They choose diff audience members, pull them into those spaces and act out diff all kinds of things. They are called 1 on 1's and are pretty much coveted by returning fans of the show. Basically because its just you and the actor, and they are more intense and emotional.
I've even thought about creating 1:1's for those of us who will be acting at the party. Maybe concentrating on more on each having a 1:1 and making the guests, in some way, work to get those. Whether they have to do something to get a 1:1, or maybe they just wander into the "right" space and we whisk them away. If possible, I'd like to replicate that, omg, Adrenalin rushing, "what's happening" feeling you have at the show.

How do you get your guests excited about participating? Have you had success with participatory events, like scavenger hunts, games, etc..
Do your guests like to "participate" at your parties? In the past, I've had some that wouldn't even dress up. But I have some that are really into theater and some that love haunted houses. I'm just trying to figure out how to mesh it all together.

My goals right now are:
Figure out when to do the party. Just had Summerween. It doesn't have to be Halloween for me, it could be later. I have even considered a Valentine's Day themed event, but just as creepy as something on Halloween.
Get the space I want
Start collecting the needed decorations. More apothecary items.
Come up with a manageable interactive experience that is like SNM, but doable with 4-5 actors

Can you do Macbeth inspired with 4-5 actors? Or, do I come with an equally creepy narrative that has 4-5 actors and what is that?
I love the witches of Macbeth, but Macbeth doesn't really work without Macbeth himself and someone for him to kill.

I'm really excited about decorating the space. The hotel we did before was awesome and turned out well. We covered the walls in black patterned plastic, and had tons of red lights. Light played a huge roll in transforming the space all over the house. This time I'd love to incorporate mirrors, as they play a big role in SNM. I need to be on the lookout for them. Also, I'd love an old, old record player. I saw one at a flea market a couple weeks ago and it was perfectly old and scratchy when it played music. I should have gotten it :( SNM has a huge apothecary room and a taxidermy room that would be fun to do. They have bars and detective rooms, and candy rooms - so many rooms to choose from for inspiration.

Any suggestions are appreciated. Its going to be quite a task to pull off.
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Wow, this seems like an intense undertaking. I think if you can follow through on your vision, it could be an incredible experience for your guest. A few thoughts:

* I think Macbeth can be done without a strict narrative. You can have Macbeth and his Lady (who's awesome) and the witches without having a set adversary. Really the undoing of Macbeth is his pride and greed-- then paranoia and remorse. These are big themes you can tease out in myriad ways.

* As for participation of guests, I think it's largely about setting expectations. The murder mystery parties we've thrown have been very successful because we let guests know that they would not be interacting with us as hosts, but as characters, and that they'd get the most out of the experience if they did the same (i.e. interacted as characters, not guests). Along this line, there is a spectrum of creativity: we had character guidelines for those who needed a little direction, but let those who showed up with a character in mind run free.

* We are lucky because many of our friends are in theater, so we were able to get some friends to act at the party who do so professionally. I would try reaching out to see if anyone you know has any connections to people in theater in your town.

Good luck! I'd love to see what kind of progress you make. :)
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This definitely seems like an intense experience!
I have not witnessed anything like it, but one of the problems you mentioned is that in the past, you did well initially, but with late party-goers you had people who missed out on certain aspects. Could you do some kind of schedule or rotation where perhaps your actors 'replay' certain scenes once each hour or something like that? And then those who have already witnessed that scene might experience some of the one-on-one interactions at the same time?

I hope you can work some of the issues out - sounds like a really interesting event if you can pull it off!
Just saw this post and I am totally fascinated. I think you know your guests best in regards to how this environment will be received. You did a "test" run and saw what your limitations are (late guests, not enough time for actors, possibly some guests not into all the work of participation). What the set designer in the video says is key, It's about the journey through the space. You can follow the actors but you can also explore on your own. There are many things hidden so the more you explore, the more you find.

So in that vein, I would suggest creating your own tragic story. Hotels have lots of history. I did the hotel theme last year and my secret reaper sent me a series of letters talking about a doomed romance, an accident--or is it murder and a ghost. Create your own narrative. Set up a scavenger hunt that walks guests through that narrative. In those rooms, your guests that are into this might be able to delve deeper. As they look for the item, they might uncover letters, items from the characters, possible murder weapon, etc. Your characters could be ghosts of those people who might hint towards where the hunt items are or offer other clues. Those who come late can still follow along the hunt without taxing your actors. Those who don't want to play can still enjoy the atmosphere you set up. Think of it like some of the more immersive TV shows. You can enjoy just the show. Or you can go down the rabbit hole of texting, videos with side stories and forums about the show.

On a side note, the example I gave was of characters from the past and their ghosts being part of your narrative. But you might create some tension if there is a potential killer lurking about. Then seeing each actor would be a scare. Are you seeing the ghost of a victim or the killer? I could see you incorporating Jack the Ripper as your story. I think it would work really well with what you are doing. You can set up several victim scenes, Jack's secret lair and a room showing who he might be--living the life of aristocracy.

A fun idea might be to incorporate some QR codes. You could act out scenes ahead of time and put on Youtube. Then for various parts of the scavenger hunt, guests can use their smartphone to read the QR code and watch the video. http://www.qr-code-generator.com/start-a/#.VZ6U4uez4-A I've used QR codes for my parties and, as long as I've promoted it ahead of time, our guests have had fun with it. You can upload QR readers for free to your phone.
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Those are some great ideas. I like the idea of the ghosts. I've never thought of using QR codes. I'll have to figure out if I can work that in. And that inspires me to use QR codes in another project I might do. Thanks!!
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