New Play Sends Audience to Sleep — Just as Intended!

Who says you have to be awake to experience art? Certainly not theatre director Jim Findlay, whose Off-Off-Broadway show “Dream of the Red Chamber: A Performance for a Sleeping Audience” just finished its run. The performance, which was an adaptation of the 18th Century Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber, had all the elements of a typical play, with music and elaborate costumes, but there was a key difference: unlike most art, it was intentionally designed to send spectators to sleep!

Projected images and dim lighting create a surreal, dreamlike show


That’s right — while for most artists a snoozing audience sounds like their worst nightmare, the dim lighting, repetitive movement of the performers, and constant, gentle music of “Red Chamber” was brought together to filter into the attendees’ subconscious so that they could experience it while sleeping. Different parts of the story were strung together in random ways to mimic what happens in our dreams. Mr. Findlay’s aim was to explore the perceptions people have during the third of their lives that they spend asleep.

It initially sounds like a total con, but the performances were free, with audience members allowed to arrive, leave, and return at any time. Evening performances ran from 5pm to midnight, with special overnight performances lasting 13 hours, giving more than enough time for a decent amount of sleep. Attendees were even provided with beds from which to enjoy the show!

As for whether it works, attendee Daniel Varotto, a Brazilian film editor, who spent six hours sleeping at "Red Chamber", called it “truly amazing”, saying, “It gets in your mind in a way that you’re not really set for. They’re going into your dreams.” Sounds like Jim Findlay’s experimental piece had exactly the effect he was hoping for!

So, is this the art of the future, or are you yawning at the thought? Tell us what you think!

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