Do you know what Interactive Theater is? How about the Fringe Festival?
You should. And you will.
Starting in 1985, the Vancouver Fringe Festival is a place for alternative theatrical productions to take center stage and be celebrated. These are professional works of strange content, some of which later spill out into their own projects – it is a locus for emerging talented artists from all along the North American west coast.
It is, therefore, no surprise that Geekenders and the Instant Theater Company would find a presence here, combining their efforts and playing to both their strengths to produce something utterly magical. Geekenders is known for their nerdy burlesque and parodies, while the Instant Theater Company provides some of the best improv and training for actors you could hope to find in this city.
The two groups have put together a rendition of the play within a play from the Bard’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the one where players are brought in to perform during a wedding and faeries get involved. The play is one of Shakespeare’s most famous works and has seen hundreds of iterations over the years, but nothing like this.
Slumber Here is an interactive play that relies on the audience for its narrative and even it’s ending. Multiple outcomes are possible depending upon the choices made and the quests completed, as an audience will come to see one play before finding Pucks that will take them off on one of six different paths. Every path comes with quests and adventure. In the forty or so minutes that it takes to go through the adventure, there are more than six hours of content, encouraging multiple viewing to complete every possible outcome and ending.
The process encourages audience participation and interaction with the actors of the play, but also the wandering faeries that hold court and go about their trickery all along a transformed Ron Basford Park. You can visit the wrathful King Oberon or the enchanted Queen Titiana, among others. There are many choices, many outcomes, many dreams to be had and found and claimed. We sent two people who had very different experiences:
My experience started with the players beginning their performance when a mischevious voice whispered in my ear: “Would you like to meet the king?” I turned to find a glimmering grinning Puck, teeth gleaming, and how can one say no to such an offer? Two other audience members followed him up a Faerie Mound to meet a fuming Oberon, he lashing out at his entertainment and failing to cow us into silence.
We had to help his poor entertainment, who was banished for our aid and her insolence. She sought solace from the Queen and invited us along with her, where we learned of a fury-borne curse meant to bring a loyal and noble soul low. How could we do other than trying to break the curse, regardless of the cost? We were not knaves, not we; we stood and made our offerings, found the means to break the curse and teach a King his worth should he come to lack a kingdom.
It was an adventure, a slippery gate into a different world where magic is real and faeries still dance and duels are waged with pillows instead of rapiers. It is very much a thing to experience, a show to be had and won and claimed.
I am guided by a person in white in a group full of friends and strangers explaining to me that I am a mortal and I shall be entering the fairy world. We are led to place where the Mechanicals are getting ready for their play and surrounding you are people in green who are making direct eye contact and interacting with you on an intimate level but not in a way that makes you feel like you are the same as them, it is obvious they are different than the mortals in front of you. When the Mechanicals are done you are engaged by “The Puck” the people in green who explain to you that you are part of their fairy world now and you are quested to help them with the story that is unfurling.
I, however, was not going to do that, because I got whisked away by twin fairies Primrose and Abalone to have a fairy makeover and to talk about my secrets and to find my one true love. After the intimate and sweet makeover, I was led to “Look into the eye of an ass” which was my cue to go see Titania proclaim her love for mini-donkey love that was a trick that Oberon had played on Titania. I gave them my ID because they needed something old (over 30 years). I petted a mini donkey and has beautiful soulful eyes. Because I was Un-Pucked in this, I was able to run around with free will and free reign and experience this as I would most things.
Primrose and Abalone found my one true love for me, we got married eventually.
I had a sweet and kind hearted encounter with Caliban who played me Greensleeves and I gifted them with a flower as a thank you and I got a hug.
I was asked to be part of the Mechanical’s play in which I was a Romulan (from Star Trek) but couldn’t get through the script for a full minute of giggling happened because they kept heckling me when I was trying to say my profession. I gave up and said I was a professional human.
After it was over, I wanted to do it again and again and again, because, I only did a very small fraction of what was available to me. I could see this sort of thing is absolutely my type of “gaming”. I would be the international champion of interactive role playing adventures if I could. And you should absolutely go to this. It is such a beautiful expression of community and much like an ongoing public ritual that initiates you in the rites of fantasy.
Slumber Here starts at Granville Island’s Sculpture Garden, which is viewable from the boardwalk behind the tennis courts. Tickets are $14 and include food, though if you have a nut allergy let the faeries know. Tickets can be purchased online, or at the show 45 minutes in advance. Be aware that Slumber Here always start exactly on time and that latecomers are never admitted. The venue is wheelchair-accessible and you can determine the degree with which the Fae interact with you.
Performances are as follows:
Sunday, Sept 10: 1pm, 2pm, 3pm
Monday, Sept 11: 7pm, 8pm, 9pm
Tuesday, Sept 12: 7pm, 8pm, 9pm
Friday, Sept 15: 7pm, 8pm, 9pm
Saturday, Sept 16: 1pm, 2pm, 3pm
Sunday, Sept 17: 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8pm, 9pm