It’s no secret that performing arts sat on the sidelines during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that we’re mostly out of the weeds, creators are getting more ingenuitive than ever with their theatrical offerings. One trend on the rise? Immersive theatre. On The Stage explores immersive theatre, how it works, and how to utilize it within your own programs. 

What is Immersive Theatre?

Simply put, immersive theatre places the audience within the show instead of leaving them as observers – transforming them from passive recipients to active participants. 

Immersive theatre covers all genres, from drama and comedy to burlesque, tragedy, satire, farce, or any other subcategory you could imagine. A few ways you can spot immersive theatre and/or differentiate it from traditional theatre include:

  • In a more non-traditional physical environment, you’ll likely not see rows of seats with a raised stage and curtains since interaction is paramount to the showcase. Some may forgo a stage altogether. 
  • Touch, taste, and even smell can be added with greater stimulation of all five senses as opposed to just vision and hearing. 
  • After leaving an immersive theatre show, you’ll likely feel that you had a unique experience instead of being part of a crowd. 
  • A greater emphasis on social interactions during the show itself. (Yes, you can talk during these!) 
  • A higher likelihood of actors breaking the fourth wall, thus blurring the line between audience and performer. 

A History of Immersive Theatre

The art form of immersive theatre has roots dating all the way back to ancient Rome with participatory pantomime performances. Throughout the centuries, the term ‘immersive’ has been given to many types of performances in which the audience participates in the story’s action. 

But if you’re speaking about modern-day immersive theatre, the British theater company Punchdrunk is almost universally credited with founding this new wave. Modern-day immersive theatre spearheaded by Punchdrunk often utilizes the following elements: 

  • A bevy of space and sensory elements to craft intimate, communal experiences
  • Hugely detailed environments filled with props that can be utilized by both actors and audience members 
  • Freedom of movement for guests to explore the story at their paces

Where It’s Going

As mentioned, theatre in its entirety was curtailed greatly by the pandemic, but immersive experiences are back on the up and up. These experiences are growing in popularity yet again, with the emergence of new venues, new business models, and even greater bursts of creativity from creators around the globe.

The trend is ever-expanding; casinos, hotels and resorts, retail stores, and even stadiums are exploring ways to tap into the trend – making the experience more accessible to larger numbers of people and to different demographics. 

Additionally, the pandemic did create something good regarding theatre; creators are bridging the physical-digital divide with elements that can be experienced from the comfort of home. 

How to Enjoy It

If you plan to attend an immersive experience, you can best enjoy yourself by trying the following:

  • Don’t look into the show or general experience beforehand. If you know how the show goes, much of the fun and spontaneity dissipates.
  • Do not expect a traditional theatre experience. Embrace the paradigm shift!
  • Allow the experts to guide you. While there’s no wrong way to experience art, let the actors bring you along in their journey. 
  • Remain respectful. Just because the show isn’t traditional doesn’t mean you should throw theatre etiquette out the window.
  • Stay loose. It’s all about having fun – allow yourself to relax and enjoy. 

How On The Stage Can Help

Setting the stage for an immersive theatrical experience involves more than meets the eye. For your patrons, delivering a professional and branded experience is just as influential in the overall venture. 

If you’re hoping to produce an immersive theatre experience in your upcoming season, On The Stage can help. OTS’ all-in-one technology platform includes robust box office management and marketing tools to help differentiate your organization, not just in your performances but also in your patron experience. This software is designed to engage high-volume audiences, augment the breadth of your organization, and take your patron experience to the next level. 

With OTS, you can:

  • Increase revenue with advanced ticketing options
  • Streamline your box office with robust features and reporting
  • Grow your audience and increase patron engagement 
  • Gather patron data insights
  • Seamless book workflow
  • And so much more … 

Book a personalized demo with On The Stage today if you want guidance to plan your immersive theatre experience. We are proud to have worked with several immersive experiences, including Saw: The Live Experience, Alice in Wonderland, and Paddington (coming later this year!).

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