Interactive Theater

Most Requested Immersive Theater in NYC

At these highly popular, boundary-busting spectacles, audiences get in on the action—literally.

“Then She Fell” / Photo by Adam Jason

An enduring trend in New York’s vast live-entertainment galaxy is immersive theater. Ever since the 2011 hit Sleep No More allowed masked audiences to, essentially, “choose their own adventure,” theater and production companies have been trying to capture that same thrill of unpredictability and total involvement.

What exactly is immersive theater? Any theatrical experience that breaks the barrier between spectator and performer and surrounds you in the drama qualifies. Some immersive shows create one-on-one moments for individual audience members in close quarters; others encourage you to get lost in a crowd wandering over large distances. And just like traditional theater, some performances are better than others at pulling the audience in.

Which ones do the best job? Below, the What Should We Do?! experience advisers share the immersive productions requested by our members. These are the performances our clients are most excited to see, and the ones they ask for repeatedly. Not surprisingly, they are also the shows our experts highly recommend. Hurry to see them now, as some run only for the next several weeks!

Sleep No More

When I think back to when I first saw—no, experienced—this gothic, immersive, choose-your-own-adventure extravaganza, it seems like a weird, vivid dream. Well, it’s a dream from which the city has never awoken. More than six years later, Sleep No More is still drawing crowds of masked strangers to the McKittrick Hotel for a unique mashup/deconstruction of Psycho, The Shining, Shakespeare’s bloody Macbeth, and other influences. Maybe it’s time you lost some sleep.

Drunk Shakespeare

Some of these immersive events will give you a bit of a workout: chasing actors up and down stairs, trekking through warehouses, dancing. Drunk Shakespeare ain’t that. Can you drink? Then you can handle this show. It’s a sozzled and raucous retelling of Macbeth. One of the ensemble’s actors is chosen, at random, to narrate the plot after downing several shots. There’s an interactive element, too: Audience members are selected to play king and queen. As for how immersive it is? Well, the buzzed and highly energized cast dash around the Roy Arias Lounge trading barbs and wisecracks with the audience. It’s probably a little bit like seeing a show at Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre in London, circa 1600. Lots of booze, noise, and unscripted remarks. Not as smelly, though—thank goodness.

Accomplice

For more than a decade, this unique blend of walking tour, mobster murder tale, and scavenger hunt has been delighting audiences with an appetite for mystery and adventure. A small group of about 10 gather in an undisclosed location in Chinatown to follow clues and solve puzzles that lead them into Little Italy and maybe onto the Brooklyn Bridge. Along the way, they interact with several eccentric characters, played by actors highly skilled at improvisation. The whole thing takes about three hours and probably engages your imagination and mental abilities more than most theater. What better way to see the city than to get lost?

Broken Bone Bathtub

Actress Siobhan O’Loughlin’s one-woman show is by no means ordinary, even by off-off-Broadway standards. Evolved from the true tale she shared at The Moth—she was in a serious (and hand-fracturing) biking accident after colliding with another cyclist one night in Brooklyn—Bathtub is an exploration of the courage it takes to reach out for help when you feel fragile and hopeless. Performing the entire show while bathing in a tub (real water, real bubbles) could have played like a theatrical novelty trick, but O’Loughlin makes the premise a poignant metaphor for vulnerability.

Then She Fell

As Macbeth is to Sleep No More, so Alice in Wonderland is to this smaller but no less popular event in Williamsburg, which has been running since 2012. Describing itself as “a fully immersive, multisensory experience,” this ingenious installation by Third Rail Projects invites 15 audience members per performance to wander through a dreamscape where every alcove, corner, and corridor has been transformed into a lushly designed world, inspired by the life and writings of Lewis Carroll. Curiouser and curioser!

Flight

Step inside the creaky, wood-paneled elevator at the McKittrick Hotel and prepare for a singular theatrical experience. Unlike Sleep, you won’t be scurrying after actors in a goth-y mystery, but rather escorted into a darkened room and seated in front of a slideshow for one. There you will see the story of two young Afghan refugees as they attempt to flee their war-ravaged country in search of safety. You hear the boys’ voices (played by actors Farshid Rokey and Nalini Chetty) on headphones and take in the intense tale through the flickering images before you. This is a most timely show—running through March 25—and one that needs to be experienced.

The Hidden Ones

Picture The Diary of Anne Frank reimagined as an immersive theater piece, and you are getting close to what this experience delivers. Ten audience members intimately feel the tension and fear of Jewish families and friends hiding from Nazis during the Holocaust. Based on true stories, the show was created by Anthony Logan Cole and choreographed by Lorna Ventura. The address to the secret venue where The Hidden Ones takes place will be provided upon purchase of tickets. (Note: This is an aerobically involved performance and, as an audience member, you will be climbing stairs.)

The Signature Project

Part mural, part monologue, The Signature Project is a moving performance by Irish-American writer and actor Patrick Dunning. The signature in the title refers to those of the some 300,000 audience members (and counting) who have contributed their John and Joan Hancocks to a 76-by-36-foot mural. Many folks have also added their own stories to the massive tapestry of humanity, and it is these tales that Dunning uses to quite literally bring the mural to life. You will hear about the lives of theatergoers who have come before you, and you’ll have the chance to add to the ever-evolving show by offering your own signature—and perhaps a story—to the mural.

The Bloody Deed of 1857

True-crime stories have gripped large audiences ever since Cain and Abel were born, but the genre has reached a fever pitch of late with grisly depictions dominating the airwaves (HBO’s masterful The Jinx), podcasts (Serial and a million others), and beyond. The producers of this tale of the murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell in 19th-century New York City tap into our desire to play sleuth and watch a case unfold before us. Though the crime here is not exactly true, it comes viscerally alive as 26 audience members gain access to historic documents and witness testimony in an effort to learn the bloody truth.

Get in touch with our experience advisers to see one of these
immersive theater shows for yourself.