Engaging in the Art: ‘Sonder Immersive Theatre’ (review)

By Lauren Gutierrez

The “Sonder” immersive theatre experience blurs the lines between audience and actor in a dance party-themed alternate reality. Only about 50 guests are allowed into the venue each night. Each guest upon entering is prompted to explore the many rooms and props within and because it’s so autonomous, the experience ends up being intimate and unique for each person that attends.

Two years ago, choreographer Graham Brown was doing a dress rehearsal for the show “You” at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center when the idea clicked for him. Brown said in a phone interview, “We removed the seating from the theatre and we made it this immersive, but one large space, experience and now we’ve taken it to the next level where it’s multiple stories, multiple rooms.”

The production was influenced by interactive theatre performances Brown saw in New York City, which is where he realized, “Instead of watching people at a club let’s put them all together at a club.”

Three stories of the historic Eagles Hall building, that coincidentally used to be a nightclub, is being used as the venue for the production. Cell phones and bags are not allowed but there is a complimentary coat check upon entering. Attendees are encouraged to walk, climb stairs and dance so it’s best to have your hands free.

The set is meant to display public and private scenarios. Brown explained, “the public experience is really focusing on things like being out at a club, being out partying with your friends — those kind of like big social experiences. And then contrast with intimate private experiences at home and the different ways we represent ourselves in different environments.”

Dancers express their emotions in the scenes not only through dialogue but through postmodern, contemporary dance as well. Brown said, “Dance theatre is a common label for the work. It’s steeped in physical movements that present abstract representations of real life.”

Sonder is showing at Eagles Hall, 404 S. West Temple. Most of the shows for March 17-27 are sold out but new dates have been added for March 31-April 8. Ticket information can be found at sonderslc.com

[email protected]