For a few thousand years or so, theater has followed one simple form: actors on a stage, audience in seats. With the explosion of immersive theater, all that has started to change. You can now get up close with the actors as you explore entire buildings designed for the show and experience the story in a totally unique way. Since New York’s Sleep No More started the trend, awesome immersive theater shows have sprung up in cities around the world. Here are some of the best you can visit this fall:
The granddaddy of the current immersive theater wave, Sleep No More began performing in its current form in 2011. At the McKittrick Hotel (really a bunch of warehouses in Chelsea), visitors explore the 1930s-era hotel and town of Gallow Green, Scotland, as actors move through the space’s 100 rooms—including a spooky hospital, swanky bar and detective agency—in an inventive noir retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The actors rarely speak, unless one makes eye contact with you and brings you into a side room to share a private story.
If you’ve ever wanted to wander through an abandoned mental ward and encounter the characters of Alice in Wonderland, then Then She Fell is the show for you! With its moody vibe and interpretations of classic characters, Then She Fell was certainly influenced by Sleep No More. But while Sleep is a huge, sprawling experience, Then She Fell is a more intimate affair—just 15 audience members explore each performance and are guided through the various rooms as they tell a complete story.
EXTENDED THROUGH JANUARY 19, 2020
3. Red Palace
The dark and sexy vibe can found on both sides of the Atlantic. In London’s Red Palace, the audience is invited to a wild masquerade ball with dancers, circus performers and more familiar characters. As you explore the mysterious Palace, you’ll meet strange takes on Red Riding Hood, The Big Bad Wolf, Snow White and more. And don’t show up to the palace in sweats—Red Palace encourages guests to attend in their own Ball attire.
THROUGH JANUARY 12, 2020
For something a little different, try Chicago’s Southern Gothic. At each show, 30 audience members are flies on the wall at a cocktail party in 1960’s Georgia. As guests arrive and you explore the house, it might not shock you to discover that behind the veneer of domestic bliss lies secrets, grudges and more. With a remarkably lifelike house built inside the Windy City Playhouse, seeing the impressive set design is worth a visit alone. Unlike some of the more ‘experiential’ shows on the list, Southern Gothic is a full play (it began life as a conventional staged production), and with scenes happening in multiple rooms at once, you won’t be able to see every single moment, but that’s part of the fun.
Heading to Chicago during the winter months? Here are seven other indoor activities to avoid those sub-freezing temps. And for the ultimate list of chef-approved restaurants and bars in the Windy City, look to our ultimate guide.