So get this: I went to see three one-act plays. Crazy, right? Yea, it isn’t. Except that I didn’t watch these three one-act plays from a frayed, faux velvet seat facing a stage. Each play was staged in a hotel room at the (haunted1) Grand Summit Hotel in good old Summit, New Jersey, with me in the room as the only participant in the play with no lines. It was the coolest, most stimulating, mind expanding thing I have experienced in a very long time.
The Hotel Project was produced by The Internationalists, an organization that brings together theater producers, directors, actors, and other devotees of the stage arts from around the world. These hotel room plays were put on in Summit, NJ, New York City, and I think Mexico City. It is such a cool concept. It plays into the human predilection toward voyeurism, and brings interactivity to an otherwise passive experience. It’s exhilarating. I came away from the hotel feeling literally expanded.
Even the set-up is fun. I walked into the hotel (which is truly Grand, just as the name boasts – it’s gorgeous) and was greeted by a receptionist that told me my escort would be with me shortly. I could help myself to a beverage and snack, but chose instead to flip through one of the magazines piled on the table in front of me. Since each play is put on for just one person at a time the ticket start times were staggered by 30 minutes or so. The start time for me was 9:40p on a Sunday night, which added to the drama. Out late on a school night! Exciting stuff for me, sad to say.
I was nervous as the escort led me down a long corridor (think Get Him to the Greek but without P. Diddy chasing us) to the first hotel room. He led me to the door and told me he’d be back to get me, and then walked away. I heard voices within the room, arguing. I love that I had to open the door – it added to the sense of intruding into someone else’s life.
I actually knocked first before opening the door (hard to shake off the inhibition) and then entered a room where an argument was raging between a distraught bride and her long-suffering bridesmaid. I pressed myself against a wall while the two actors ranged all around the room – I even had to move a couple times to get out of their way. About 5 minutes in I realized there was another scene playing out in the connected room, the door to which was slightly cracked open. Getting more comfortable with each minute, and completely overcome by curiosity, I slowly pushed the door open to reveal the groom and his best man involved in their own drama. I spent the next few minutes (3 minutes? 10 minutes? I have no idea – it was so engrossing) going back and forth between the two rooms, piecing together the story. Eventually all the players, me included, ended up in one room. The play ended with them leaving to return to the reception, and with me standing alone in the hotel room still reeling mentally from the experience. I LOVED it, and there were still two plays to go!
The other two plays were equally engaging and so creative. It was so stimulating to walk into the middle of someone’s life and then piece together his or her story and motivations. I loved the intimacy, and the feeling that I really was observing an actual personal drama play out for the characters.
Everyone involved in the production of Hotel Project did an exceptional job at his or her piece of it. I love the concept, and loved the execution. I hope the Hotel Project or at least the concept of single spectator theatre takes off and becomes something more people can experience. I know it’s something I’d love to try again.
1 So says a friend’s 18-year old daughter who works the front desk