Immersive Theater: Sam’s Place…

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

If anyone ever asked me what my earliest immersive theater experience was, I would immediately say “Sleep No More”– but not the obscenely priced incarnation that exists in New York City today- but the smaller, more intimate, more eager version that took place in an abandoned school in Brookline, Massachusetts circa 2009.

My best friend Sean was the one to discover “Sleep No More” that Fall when we were looking for new things to do around Halloween that didn’t involve tripping over children at haunted attractions or getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic in Salem. This discovery, in turn, served as my introduction to immersive theater. For those who have never experienced it before, immersive theater is a play/production that goes beyond the limitations of a single stage and allows the audience to participate and explore the performance spaces freely, interact with the actors, and sometimes change the outcome of the performance with the decisions they make along the way.

It’s a very unique style of performance art and has quickly become one of my favorites over the years. I am by no means an actress or a seasoned veteran of the arts- but if given the opportunity to perform in an immersive theater play- I would absolutely agree because it’s not a matter of learning lines or the repetition of motions. Everything is spontaneous, off-the-cuff- and depends entirely on the audience member you’re interacting with. It’s improv- and like improv- you have some basic guidelines to drive your character. The rest is completely up to you- and the crowd.

“Sleep No More” has become the pinnacle of immersive theater- with hundreds if not thousands of people flocking to see it at it’s current home within the McKittrick Hotel in NYC every year. I’ve been to many of their performances and parties over the years- and I’ve always had an incredible and memorable time- but the problem with “Sleep No More” is that it’s so big, so expansive, and so easy to get off track. If you wander the wrong way for even a moment- you risk missing huge parts of the play/story, if not the whole thing. Actors/Actresses move from room to room, they separate and head into different directions- and with four or five floors with multiple rooms, nooks and crannies to cover- it’s easy to get lost.

I’ve seen “Sleep No More” possibly seven or eight times- potentially more- and I have yet to see the full performance. Even following guidelines that have been laid out by other enthusiasts online to help those in similar situations has left me stuck- roaming from empty room to empty room in silence until a stage hand directs me to the big finale and that’s it.

I’ve kept my eye out for other companies doing similar work but on a smaller, more tightened and less sprawling/confusing scale. Last year, my dearest Troy invited me to see an immersive theater performance he had been involved in called “Deux Ex Machina” which was put on at the Shea Theater Arts Center in Turners Falls by Eggtooth Productions. I was blown away by the show- which encapsulated everything I loved about immersive theater but with a more reasonable price of admission and a venue that prevented audience members from getting lost and/or missing out on key elements and moments of the show. We were still allowed to roam freely- but there was always a cast or crew member to guide us back to the action if we were getting too far off track.

The sets, the costumes, the spooky, sort of otherworldliness of the story and the characters was spectacular- and I’ve since become a big fan of Eggtooth’s other works.

Since moving to the Valley, I’ve met a few people- friends of friends, etc.- who have been so kind, welcoming and enthusiastic about me being a part of the community now. Through Troy and my own curiosity, wonderful people affiliated with Eggtooth had encouraged me to come to their most recent event: Sam’s Place (which was also held at the Shea.)

The event spanned across three nights- with each night representing a different era in the club/bar scene. This past Thursday night’s performance was inspired by 1920s speakeasies. Friday night’s performance was a nod to 1960s folk clubs- and Saturday night- the event I went to, was a neon and Aquanet soaked throwback to 1984 and all it’s decadent glory. Although I didn’t really have a 1980s inspired outfit to wear- I did rock some teased hair and neon eyeliner- so at least I can say I tried.

I had an incredible time, and the multiple interactions I had with the cast in various areas of the theater were so wonderful. I left with a pocket full of mementos that were handed to me at various intervals (pictured above)– including a portrait of me that was done by one the actresses who never actually looked at the paper. She just stared at my face and drew. An uncanny likeness, if I do say so myself.

And closing out the night dancing to 80s club hits (I lost my mind at “Sheila” by Ready For The World) was a pretty perfect way to end an evening and wind down what had been a pretty long, tedious week.

Speaking of winding down- June is nearly done and over if you can all believe it- so the next few days will be spent recapping my favorite things from this past month as well as looking back at these past few weeks a whole in my “In A Nutshell” post (which will be up on Sunday!)

On Wednesday, though- I’m giving you all a glimpse into an incredible roadside Summer shack I discovered over the weekend. I’m still so full of lobster and fries as I write this!

Have a great start to your work week, everyone! Let’s see it through to Friday!

xx

– Ashley –

Lights, Camera, Action!

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Today at work is our impromptu Bruins celebration/pep rally in preparation for Game 7 tonight- so I’ve essentially been forced to wear the only black and gold ensemble I had stored in my closet. I don’t mind too much, since the weather is shaping up to be nice again today- but I’ve admittedly been pretty lax on keeping up with hockey this year so I feel a bit like a bandwagon fan right now!

I’m sure I’ll swing by the bar near my apartment tonight to grab a beer and tune in if it’s not too crowded, though!

This past weekend, hot and humid and filled with sunshine- was also filled with lots of work for PaintBox Theatre since our 16th season kicks off near the end of this month! I spent some of my afternoon(s) writing e-mails, putting together show advertisements for local publications- and designing social media content to get us through the next few days. It might sound pretty simple- but it’s a lot of work with a lot of different people and processes involved! Everything has to be *just* right.

The cast are cutting some radio ads this morning, and I am anxiously awaiting the behind-the-scenes photos to share- but before I do that- this recently edited video we launched across our platform can give a little hint of what PaintBox is all about and how much energy the crowd packs into every performance!

That is seriously one of the cutest things ever and I’m so thrilled with our audio/video team for capturing it!

If you live in or around the Pioneer Valley- I really hope you’ll come say hello and enjoy a show with us. All dates/times and ticketing information are available on the website linked above!

Apart from continued work with side projects, lots of iced coffee, and some bedroom ballet/stretching- this weekend was also spent lounging lazily with friends in the area and ordering takeout. Not a bad way to beat the heat- if I do say so myself.

A little later on this week (Friday) I’ve got a super quick and easy recipe to share that is perfect for your next Summer BBQ/Get-Together- before we once again reach the weekend and I get to do a little more exploring/photographing around the Valley. I’m super excited about the places I’m planning to visit!

Here’s to a quick and painless “Hump Day” . We just gotta’ get through the next couple of days, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Reader’s Choice 2019!

Good Morning and Happy Thursday, everyone!

As we ready ourselves for Friday and the weekend- I wanted to take a moment to talk about some super fun developments with the family theater company I’m involved in- and ask for your help (and it’ll only take 2 minutes of your time- I promise!)

As some of you (most of you?) know- I signed on earlier this year to work with my friends at PaintBox Theatre based out of the Pioneer Valley. I’m their current marketing and publicity director, and even though the season doesn’t officially kick off until the end of June- it’s been a really fun journey so far!

A little background information on PaintBox: they are a family theater company, gearing up for their 16th (!!!) season. They take beloved children’s’ stories and give them an updated, modern twist on stage with enough subtle humor to keep the adults laughing, as well- all while encouraging literacy, self-expression, creativity, inclusiveness, kindness and play. The costumes and props are easy to replicate and made with simple materials- so children can utilize things they have at home while letting their imaginations take care of the rest.

And all of this is done with a talented cast, a dedicated crew- and the love and support of our community and sponsors who keep us going!

All that being said, we’ve been nominated for “Best Summer Theater” in the Daily Hampshire Gazette– an honor we won last year and a title we hope to hold onto this year, as well!

Voting takes- legitimately– a minute, and it would mean the world to me, the company and everyone PaintBox has made smile over the years if you could take the time to vote for us. Our category is under “Arts & Entertainment.”

CLICK HERE TO VOTE

If you did- thank you so, so, SO much!

And if not, the voting is open until 5/19/19 at 5 PM (EST.) Please consider helping out!

And of course, if you’d like to learn more about the company and our impending Summer season- please feel free to visit our website (linked above) or our social media accounts (you’ll see my designs on each!) It’s going to be a wonderful season of really great shows the whole family can enjoy!

I’m off to work for the day, and then keeping busy tomorrow through the weekend. I’m going to be back on Monday when the posting schedule returns to normal- and right before I leave for my trip to the West Coast!

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful rest of your week and a warm, safe, fun weekend!

xx

– Ashley –

The Santa Show!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

After (very) recently finding out I had a few unused days off at my job that I needed to take before the end of 2018- I opted for a long weekend and took last Friday and today off. I think I’m going to try to take some additional days later on this week or near the end of next week, as well- but we’ll see how it goes as we get closer to Christmas!

This past weekend was a mixed bag- busy and relaxing at various times and intervals! I got a lot of pre-holiday errands done, got some gifts wrapped and ready to be delivered, did a little baking/cooking- and still managed to unwind in my thermal PJs while watching Christmas movies. I indulged in some self-care with much-needed TLC for my hair- and started confirming my New Year’s Eve plans (which are the epitome of pampering and indulgence, really!)

The definite highlight, though- was stopping by the Williston Northampton School to see my friends at Paintbox Theatre put on the last of their holiday shows that ran all weekend!

Seeing one of my dearest, longtime friends dressed up like a dog and singing Christmas carols to kids was pretty fantastic, sure- but the whole cast and crew were so fun, so energetic, so hilarious and animated- and so wonderful in each of their interactions with the children in the audience. It was heartwarming and adorable and just so lovely to sit and watch.

I’m really excited to be partnering with Paintbox for their 2019 Summer season- not only because they are a company I believe in and support 100%- but because it will essentially be like working with friends/family and I know it’s going to be a good fit. I can’t wait to get started after the New Year.

But for today- a day off- I’m going to be spending an afternoon with my mother helping her get some of her Christmas shopping done and grabbing lunch before the late afternoon rush when traffic and the shops get busy!

I’ve got to go pick her up right now, actually! Have a great day, everyone! See you all again on Wednesday!

xx

– Ashley –

Killer Clowns and Bachelorette Bliss…

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone! We’re nearly to the weekend! Are you excited?

This coming Saturday is shaping up to be a relaxing one, spent in the countryside of Vermont (weather permitting) where I’ll be visiting some of my family, photographing the foliage/scenery- and enjoying some of Montpelier’s finest dining. I’m excited to visit some old spots I haven’t had the opportunity to stop by in years- and discover some new places, too!

The trip will undoubtedly be vastly different to the craziness of this past weekend, of course- which kicked off on Friday night when friends and I bundled up and headed out to the Rocky Woods Reservation to catch a late evening screening of ‘It’ (the 1990 one) in the middle of the woods, courtesy of the Coolidge Corner Theater’s “After Midnight” program.

Along with snacks and beer from local breweries, the screening also included a live Q&A with the film’s screenwriter, Lawrence D. Cohen and a look at Pennywise’s original costume prototype. And- of course- there were red balloons everywhere. Despite the chill in the air by the end of the 4+ hour event- it was a lot of fun.

Saturday saw me out of the woods and back in the city for my longtime friend Stef’s bachelorette party. She’s getting married in a few short weeks, and this past weekend was the only real chance that we- and a bunch of our hometown friends- could get together to celebrate and see her off properly!

Now, while there were plenty of penis-shaped party favors (and a cake) and an appearance by a blowup doll at one point during the evening- as is the tradition of many, if not all bachelorette parties- we actually did things a bit different and opted for entertainment that would keep all of us on our toes and guessing with our alcohol-fogged brains.

The first stop of the night was Boston’s “Escape The Room” experience. Most of us being avid gamers thought this would be a breeze to get through if we worked together as a team- and we opted for the “Clock Tower” escape sequence. Having done a couple of smaller, less intricate escape rooms in the past- I was *not* expecting the level of detail, complexity, and difficulty of the puzzles required for us to maneuver from room to room. It was hard!

With just under ten minutes on the clock to spare, we did eventually make it out before the buzzer- but I thought the #FAIL sign was too funny not to hold up during our group photo.

If you ever get the opportunity to participate in one of these escape rooms- make sure you’re well-rested and on top of your game! It’s really fun- but you’re going to need to stay sharp during it!

Following our victory, we headed down the street to Papagayo’s for a quick snack and a few delicious margaritas that were mixed up by the bartender, Adele- who was lovely and super accommodating to our party.

After getting a little tipsy, our group walked (see: stumbled) through Downtown Crossing to Elephant & Castle to participate in a mob-themed murder mystery dinner- something Stef has always wanted to join in on. The actors/wait staff were adorable, and while dinner was alright- the dessert ruled and the comedy in the show was worth coming back for seconds.

Oddly enough, I guessed the killer correctly for the “who dunnit?” portion of the evening- and won two tickets to any of their upcoming events- so I guess I really will be coming back for more!

Following dinner (and a few more drinks)– the lot of us hit a couple more bars before we retreated to the hotel room that some of the bridal party had got for the night for some late-night conversation and photo ops with “Standy”- the blow-up doll that was supposed to represent Stef’s fiancĂ©, Andy.

We eventually dispersed when exhaustion started to take over- but it was a night spent well. We don’t get many opportunities to spend time together as a whole group since we all have careers or families- so events like this and/or holidays are particularly special and something to really be cherished and looked forward to. I had so much fun- and it was so great seeing everyone in one place again. I’m really excited for the wedding!

Sunday was, thankfully, a day of rest- brunch and football, really- and a chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep before I returned to work on Monday morning. The weekend, overall- was one for the record books, however. It was truly a blast! A little crazy at times- but a blast nonetheless.

But before I start preparing for this coming weekend, I’ve got to get some work done at my office (and I gotta’ take off early today, since it’s my half day!)

Enjoy your “Hump Day”, everyone! I’ll be back on Friday with a true sweater weather-inspired OOTD post!

xx

– Ashley –