I waited on the front stoop with 14 strangers. A few conversed in low murmurs, but the rest of us simply stood there, looking up at the dark building, or out onto the quiet road. The night breeze brushed against winter coats, its cold fingers seeking purchase on our wrists, ankles, noses. One fellow lit a cigarette — despite not being a smoker, I understood his position: it’d be the last one he’d get to have for the next two hours.
Right on time, the front door opened, and we all entered Kingsland Ward — a performing arts theater that’s been the site for Third Rail Projects’ Then She Fell for the past four years (and counting — the show’s been extended through April 2017).
Third Rail Projects, for those wondering, is a company focused on creating “site-specific, immersive and experiential dance theater.” I worked for them a few times when I lived in NYC. They’re a lovely, creative, brilliant bunch of people.
If I could recommend only one theatrical, quintessentially New York experience to everyone, Then She Fell would be it. Per the show’s website, it’s “an immersive theater experience combining a hospital ward, the writings of Lewis Carroll, and only 15 audience members per show.” Additional descriptors for the show include, “lush,” “multi-sensory,” “shrouded,” and “dreamscape.” (And I would add “ethereal,” “poignant,” and “inspiring” to that list.)
In layman’s terms, “immersive theater” is a performance where you, the audience member, essentially double as one of the performers. You are drawn into the story and encouraged to interact with what’s happening within the space. In the case of Then She Fell, performers literally take you by the hand and guide you from room to room, where you end up partaking in these two things, at the bare minimum:
1.) Exploring the room, usually by yourself, in order to discover keys for locked boxes, letters from (or for) a variety of characters, and more.
2.) Interacting with the performers. I’ll say no more on this, because the show’s site does not go into great detail on purpose, and neither will I.
What I WILL say is that the show does take place in a hospital ward. Medical diagrams line the walls, there are display cases full of various bottles and beakers, and several nurses and doctors make their way through the corridors as easily as you slip further down the rabbit hole.
And yet, the show transcends that setting, in a way. Near the start of the experience, a part of me remembered that I was in a hospital ward, which was actually a theater set within Kingsland Ward, which was actually a building located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just off the Grand Street stop for the L train.
But then the show began, and I forgot all of that.
I was in Wonderland, just in time for tea. And once the show had ended, it honestly took me several blocks of walking to “come out” of the experience, and return to Brooklyn’s relatively quiet streets. Curiouser and curiouser…
I’ve actually gone down the rabbit hole two times now. The show’s set up in such a way that you can’t possibly see everything in one performance (a hint from me: at the beginning, choose your chair wisely), and so you’re able to have a completely different experience each and every time you go. I deeply hope that I get the opportunity to see it one more time before Lewis Carroll, Alice, and all the rest make their final exit.
Thanks for reading,
Additional notes for you lovely folk:
Third Rail Projects didn’t pay me to write any of this, and I bought my own tickets — this is honestly an experience I think everyone should try, if they have the means.
The show’s been extended through April 30, 2017. Purchase your spot in Wonderland here.
Finally, if you do end up experiencing Then She Fell, or have a different immersive theatre experience of your own (like Sleep No More, as an example), FEEL FREE TO TELL ME. I’d love to hear your tale!