Travis and I have been blathering on over the years about the downsides of prolonged sitting. We may have even made a few of you as paranoid as we’ve become about keeping sedentary time down to a minimum. We’ve told you to drink plenty of water while at work so that you are forced to get up and go to the bathroom. We’ve suggested you have walking meetings, have a standing or treadmill desk, or at least a peddler under your desk to keep your feet moving. Hopefully, none of you have lost your jobs on account of our advice. We’ve even discussed the merits of stepping in place during commercial breaks if you happen to be spending your evening glued to the television.
But in some instances, prolonged sitting is just out of our control. On long-haul flights, for example, despite my best efforts to get up as often as I can and walk the isles, I still spent plenty of hours with my behind firmly planted in my seat. Those darn “fasten seat belt” lights seem to come on at the slightest whisper of turbulence, and depending on your seating arrangement, the passengers seated beside you might grow aggravated with your frequent request to get past them to “stretch your legs”.
I also believed enduring prolonged periods of sitting would apply when attending a theatre production. That is, until I attended Sleep No More in New York City. You see, in this show, which is loosely based on Shakespeare’s MacBeth, there is no stage on which the 20 or so actors perform and there are no seats in which the audience sits. Instead, actors and audience members interact with one another throughout 5 floors of a fictional 1940s hotel named the McKittrick. Multiple scenes occur concurrently throughout the vast space, and audience members are free to move around and do whatever they please.
But sitting, the audience does very little of. In fact, most of the time you are walking around the hotel, poking in and out of various rooms, playing with anything you want (books, piano, random clothes, rotary phones, etc.) And at other times, you are sprinting trying to follow the ensuing action.
Here is an excerpt of the story I wrote for the Globe and Mail that gives a glimpse into how non-sedentary theatre can be:
“I come across an unmasked young woman with strawberry blonde hair dancing in an empty ballroom. A single spotlight illuminates her flowing movement, while a soft stringed melody provides a soundtrack.
I pause and watch the performance. Without warning, the music cuts out.
The woman abruptly ceases dancing and runs into the darkness. Instinctively, I follow, chasing her through the hall, down a set of stairs, and into what appears to be a luxurious hotel suite.
Suddenly she stops, turns and looks directly into my eyes with an unnerving intensity. Feeling somehow protected behind my mask, I stand still. Without breaking eye contact, she approaches me slowly, leans in and kisses me softly on the neck.
Then she bolts again.
I stand paralyzed trying to catch my breath.”
And this wasn’t the only time I had to catch my breath that night. I can’t begin to recall how many times I sprinted up and down stairs trying to follow one character or another over the three hours we were there. As 2am rolled around and our adventure came to an end, I remember regretting I had not brought my pedometer to quantify the number of steps I had taken during the night. One thing was certain – I was utterly spent.
To read the full details of our strange and wonderful experience at this show, please head over to my article on the Globe and Mail. (You’ll learn about the significance of the masks in the accompanying photo, plus there’s some nudity, at least described in text)
Next time you’re in NYC, I strongly encourage you to put on some comfortable shoes and head out to get cultured and fit at Sleep No More.
You’ll need running shoes to see this theatre production by PLOS Blogs Network, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.