Extending Sleep No More

In a special collaboration between the Punchdrunk theatre company and the MIT Media Lab, we experimented with new ways of connecting physically present audiences with remote, internet-connected ones. Punchdrunk’s acclaimed New York production of Sleep No More invites masked audiences to move through the narrative as it unfolds, walking freely through the nearly 100,000 sq. foot space to follow individual characters and storylines or closely examining the details of the intricately-designed set. Our project added an online platform through which remote (online) participants were paired with individual audience members onsite during the show.

The pairs communicated through specially-designed portals embedded in the set as well as through each onsite participant’s augmented mask. The portals were set objects with magical powers that could be activated by the joint presence of a pair of participants; among them: a 1930’s typewriter that could type itself in response to voice queries, a one-way mirror on which handwriting would appear, an old radio that the online participant could remotely tune, and an actuated ouija board.

In their work, Punchdrunk seeks to create a unique, memorable and emotional experience for each audience member. Our goal was to manifest their vision in the online realm by bringing elements of the play in real-time to the remote participants, while also enhancing the experience of the onsite audience.

For more on Sleep No More, see the New York Times review.

Project collaborators:
Tod MachoverPunchdrunk, Akito Van Troyer, Ben Bloomberg, Gershon Dublon, Jason Haas, Elena Jessop, Brian Mayton, Eyal Shahar, Jie Qi, Nicholas Joliat, and Peter Torpey.

Our collaborators Adam Mayer and Shelby Arnold (both of NYCResistor) did incredible work building the actuated typewriter.

Press Coverage
• A Guinea Pig’s Night at the Theater (New York Times)
• Innovation in arts and culture #4: Punchdrunk – Sleep No More (The Guardian)
• Sleep No More: What It’s Like Inside the World’s Most Interactive Play (Gizmodo)