Editor’s note:?The discerning reader will?notice Jenny Potter’s “most creative thing” is also Sleep No More.?Check out her?take?on the what made it the most creative thing she’s seen.
The most creative thing I?ve ever seen? Three words: Sleep No More.
(And let me begin with this disclaimer. Sleep No More contains adult themes and situations including nudity. So this isn?t necessarily an endorsement. It is, however, the honest answer to the question.)
My friends had just returned from NYC, ?You have to go to this thing we went to,? they said to me, and from their short description I was hooked. Several months later, we all flew to New York so they could take me. As dusk approached, we walked up the High Line to 27th St?an unassuming street in Chelsea. There was a door with a short line outside. These people were queuing up to see, or rather experience, Sleep No More, a production of the immersive theater company, Punchdrunk.
We were immediately transported back in time to a dimly lit bar, the first glimpse of The McKittrick Hotel?a five-story theater built in the fashion of the 1930?s. After a short time, our group was called, and we followed a tuxedo-clad host into an elevator.
?Fortune favors the bold,? he told us as the elevator door opened and closed on each of the five floors, letting a few audience members out each time.
I was last on the elevator and was let out into a dark space somewhere amidst the dozens of rooms and hallways of the building. Loud music pulsed through the theatrically-lit corridors, and suddenly another man in a tuxedo ran by. I set off running behind him.
As I followed him through a ballroom, a hotel lobby, guest rooms, a taxidermy shop, and a mausoleum, I soon discovered this was Banquo, one of the characters from Shakespeare?s Macbeth. This was the story unfolding as characters and audience members traversed the hotel, coming in and out of contact with one another.
There was little noise in the theater apart from the constantly shifting music. The characters rarely spoke to one another but told the story through modern dance and some stage combat. Each audience member was experiencing something completely different as they made decisions about where to go, who to follow, and even when to wander through the space. We were able to open drawers and discover hidden rooms.
As I ran just a few feet behind Banquo, he ascended a stairwell, got to the top, and turned around. He looked me in the eye, took my hand, and led me into a room. He sat me down and locked the door behind us. Over the next several minutes, he performed a coronation ceremony addressing me as his son, Fleance.
All of this and more happened on a Wednesday night. I was scheduled to fly home the following morning, but I pushed my departure back a day, so I could attend the show again Thursday night.
I could tell dozens more stories of my experiences at Sleep No More and The Drowned Man (also produced by Punchdrunk), which had a one-year run in London. And perhaps that?s one of the main reasons I think this is the most creative thing I have ever experienced. It has become part of my story, and it has given me stories I tell often. Ask one of my friends if I?ve ever talked to them about Sleep No More, and the answer is likely ?yes.? But what was going on below the surface that engaged me so deeply? What made it creative?
It was wild.
We live in a sterile world. A world so sterile that researchers point to it as a factor in the rise of autoimmune issues like allergies and asthma. In our sterile world, our own immune systems are ?bored? to the point of attacking us. And I think this tendency toward sterility affects our emotional and relational lives as well.[quote]We live in a sterile world.[/quote]
We try so hard to avoid conflict and tension and stress. We try to eliminate risk and make our lives neutral. And the visceral, intimate, up-close experience of characters in conflict can remind us that all these things?conflict, tension, stress?are at times integral to living.
The stories we encounter in things like Sleep No More don?t come to replace our daily experiences. They remind us of the value of taking risks and living life with a little bit of wildness.
It was relational.
The days of the passive consumption of content are passing us by. And we?re discovering what it means to have a relationship with content?whether that?s interactive technologies, responsive design, or immersive theater. We now have a new ability to touch, feel, respond, and be responded to. This interactivity brings a new level of intimacy to the experience of things.[quote]The days of the passive consumption of content are passing us by.[/quote]
As we consider creativity, we have the opportunity to go beyond asking, ?What do I want to communicate?? and can now ask the question, ?How can I help the audience actually experience and engage with this idea??
It was innovative.
At one point, the people of Punchdrunk sat in a room and asked the question, ?How can we do this differently?? This question is the basis of creativity. We look at something and don?t assume it is the only or best version of itself. Creativity is our willingness to accept that things can shape, shift, and grow. Sleep No More is an example of what can happen when we?re willing to ask these kinds of questions.[quote]Creativity is our willingness to accept that things can shape, shift, and grow.[/quote]
One of the places most averse to change is the Church. We have our methodologies, our practices, and our traditions. And those things can play an important role in our spiritual lives. But are they the end-all be-all? Are they the totality of what it means to be a person of faith? Is the way things are done today the way they have always been done, and should they be done that way forever?
The very root of the Christian experience is life-change. So why are we so resistant to innovation? Perhaps it?s time for us to embrace innovation and awaken to a new dawn of creativity.