Thursday, December 29, 2011

Off-Topic: The Year of No Sleep

Last night I went back to Manderley, for drinks and music and friends, as I now do pretty often. I didn't see Sleep No More last night, but as I stood there in the crowded bar, it occurred to me that with sixteen shows under my belt and a seventeenth coming on Saturday, I've already spent at least 48 hours inside the McKittrick Hotel, just accounting for the performances. Add on the parties and afterparties and birthday parties and everything, and it's something on the order of four whole days of my life this year spent in that place, and I don't even work there (though sometimes I am mistaken for someone who does).

So, why?

I'm not going to do the horrible math on how much I spent at Sleep No More in 2011 because a. I still wouldn't be out of debt even if I hadn't and b. it was worth every last penny.

Sleep No More resonated with me for more than just aesthetic or literary-theoretical reasons, though by themselves those are powerful forces; it's also mostly just my good fortune that the show spoke to my personal tastes in such a serendipitous way. But what got me hooked was how transformative an experience it is.

When I pass through the maze into Manderley, I begin to dream. And like so many of us, in my dreams I am many things more than I believe I am when awake. I am calmer, cooler, more confident, more assertive, yes, sexier. And there is a very clear role to play; you are there to share in the feelings of these characters, to empathize with them, and make silent, ephemeral connection with them. That is the particularly addictive part: the moments of profound intimacy, however artificial, however a product of the actions of an alternate self within the bounds of a scripted theatrical experience, are so haunting and beautiful all at once.

What I liked best though was the sense that every time I went back, more and more of that dreamstate stayed with me in my waking; that dreaming this way over and over made it possible to fill in the blanks, and that better sense of me I knew from dreams, over time, simply became what I am by day.

So here's to Sleep, "great nourisher of life's feast," and here's to Sleep No More, and the wish to ever again be so fortunate as to find such an engrossing work of art to accompany the arcs of my life in the way this show has been a companion this year.

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