I visited the McKittrick Hotel for the first time in 2015.
I had heard of Sleep No More before, but knew very little about it. All I knew was that it was an indoor "immersive" theatrical production. I knew that I’d have to wear a mask. That was it. I went in totally unaware, and I’m so glad I did. It was one of the most mind-altering theatrical experiences I’ve ever had, and I loved it so much that I went back the following week!
Sleep No More is an interactive theatre piece that is the brainchild of British theatre company Punchdrunk. It was supposed to have a limited run in Manhattan, but continues to play to sold-out crowds nightly.
What is Sleep No More, really? It’s a wordless retelling of Macbeth. Sort of. It’s a haunted house. But not really. It’s performance art. In a way. It’s utterly impossible to describe it succinctly, it’s the type of theatrical experience that has to be seen to be believed.
During Sleep No More, you wander free. Hidden only behind a beaklike white mask, you’re free to walk anywhere you’d like. You’re able to meander through a hospital ward, through an outdoor forest, in a room dominated by a bloody bathtub, or a hotel lobby.
You might find yourself in an old candy shop, where you can eat the caramels. You might come across a nude Macbeth, being frantically washed in a bath by Lady Macbeth. A hand might be extended in your direction from an open doorway, and you’ll find yourself in a wardrobe while someone whispers urgently in your ear, gives you a locket, and presses you through a wall into a crematorium.
Is it scary? Not really. It’s immersive in the best way possible. You exit into the Manhattan night a little different, a lot off-kilter, and totally disoriented. It takes days for your mind to leave the McKittrick. Does it ever really leave? You tell me.
The idea of creating Sleep No More photography has stuck with me since that first night in the McKittrick. I was thrilled to finally work with Sleep No More cast member Maleek Washington on some portraits in the studio.
I wanted to bring the same artistic sensibility that he brings to his Sleep No More performance to the portraits that we created for him. What makes him a marvelous performer is his grace, strength, and incredible presence. He is both poised and fluid, strong and smooth at the same time.
I am always thinking about Sleep No More photography when working in the studio.
What drew me to Sleep No More the most was the intense lighting. Every scene in Sleep No More has been perfectly lit, drawing the eye of the viewer to exactly where it should go. That is the way that I like to light my in-studio portraits. The light is precisely chosen to illuminate my subject.
I also love the moody feel of being inside Sleep No More, which is something else that I try to bring to my portraits. I love that Sleep No More takes you on an emotional journey as well as a lyrical, visual one. I try to do the same with my photography.
I hope one day to be able to photograph the actual production of Sleep No More for Punchdrunk. It was a pleasure to work with one of their performers, and I hope to do it again in the future!
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