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Theatre for the [Younger] Ages

After reading this I’ve noticed the shift in audience ages that is happening. As a student who enjoys theatre I was constantly a minority whenever I went to see a show. The overwhelming number of people from older generations can be intimidating when you’re experiencing something that isn’t as familiar to you. I think a response this is immersive theatre. Immersive theatre is creating a whole new generation and type of audience, but what is immersive theatre?

Immersive, or interactive, theatre is a presentational or theatrical form or work that breaks the fourth-wall that traditionally separates the performers from the audience both physically and verbally. When done well, this art form is incredibly powerful and fun. My first experience with immersive theatre was when I was 17 and interviewing for schools in New York City. One of the people there suggested I see Punchdrunk’s production of “Sleep No More.” Although I was applying to study theatre I had no idea what this so called “immersive theatre” was. What I found was a really interesting show where I didn’t feel like I was watching the same story as the other theatre-goers. The fact that I wasn’t in a minority due to my age really surprised me.

Punchdrunk NYC’s production of “Sleep No More” with audience members watching in masks.

Is my generation leaning more towards feeling included in a production as opposed to just being entertained? Immersive theatre done well is a really enjoyable experience that does have a younger feel to it. It’s different and experimental and as a Millennial who says “no” to the traditional rules set by our predecessors. Theaters have begun to realize that the younger generations are attending more and more of the immersive theatre pieces and have started trying to create immersive theatre environments without involving the audience and I think the overall feeling is that the surroundings created an awkward and not artistic environment. Bringing the world of the play into the audience isn’t immersive theatre; bringing the audience into the world of the play is.

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