The Golden Age Of Immersive Theater

by Awl Sponsors

This is the last in a three-part series about the history of interactive theater, presented by Heineken. Check out Parts One and Two, which detail the early years of interactive theater and its Twentieth-Century flourishing. In this final installment, we discover where the form of entertainment is headed, with Heineken leading the way.

A few weeks ago Heineken premiered a unique one-night only immersive theater experience in New York City. Watch the video above to see how a few brave guests became The Guest of Honor. This unique one-night-only experience put just one person at center stage and asked them to share their unique talents as actors guided them on a bizarre, dream-like experience.

Immersive theater has really come into its own over the last several years, solidifying its status as a cutting-edge art form that’s been embraced across the globe.

Theater audiences experienced an entirely new way to experience the traditional stage play and literally get inside characters heads when American Standard debuted in Los Angeles in 2005. The audience had the opportunity to hear the inner thoughts of the characters via a headset they wear throughout the show. Audience members could switch from character to character, hearing what’s going on inside the actors’ heads.

In 2007, The Boomerang Kid allowed audiences to make choices for the main character using handheld wireless technology. This would allow for over 50 possible variations in the narrative, like a crowdsourced “choose your own adventure” story.

Running in parallel to these productions is perhaps the most famous immersive theater production yet, Sleep No More, which happens to also take place at The McKittrick Hotel, seen in the above video. It’s a reimagined remake of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, as told through a series of brief encounters between actors and spectators. Audiences actually are able to move about the hotel, exploring rooms and objects, interacting with actors and environments. They wear masks as they move about a chilling 1930s environment before they are ushered into a cocktail lounge for a final musical performance.

Finally, we have The Guest of Honor, brought to you by Heineken. In the video we see a new level of immersion. This production builds on the work of everything we’ve seen before and offers something fresh and now by literally asking show attendees to take the stage. It’s a natural extension of the form, leading the way for a new generation of entertainers.