(apologies for the relatively late post this week…just some rambling thoughts without clear structure or end)
My response to the Dessa essay, as read during the COVID-19 pandemic:
My husband Karl had already been to Sleep No More a handful of times before I met him. Among other items on his list of things to which he felt it urgent to expose me was immersion in the experience of Sleep No More, an interactive theater performance in a large hotel on the edge of Chelsea.
I want to say that it was sometime after we had become parents, in the year after the birth of our son, that Karl and I finally made a visit to a Sleep No More performance together, but I’m not sure that’s right. In any case, I have a retroactive memory of especially appreciating the night out together, like it had become a rare thing to do since we brought a child into our lives. But now I don’t think that is right, either, because after the show we treated ourselves to some food at the restaurant upstairs, and that place wasn’t cheap, and I can’t imagine we could splurge in that way if we were also paying for baby things.
It was a more innocent time. Or a different time, at least. That restaurant where we had our post-show meal was so crowded, we had to squeeze our chairs tight against our little table to avoid being jostled by a waiter or another customer every two minutes.
Remember crowded restaurants? Remember being seated in a restaurant? Remember doing something without the children?
A lot of people save their Sleep No More masks after attending a performance. I know we have a few lying around our house, still. They are white and designed after plague masks, with long white bird beaks.
During the plague, doctors and those removing the bodies of the dead would wear bird-shaped masks for two reasons: 1) birds were not catching the plague, so there was a superstition that wearing a bird mask could be protective, and 2) you could stuff the hollow bird beak full of herbs to mask the smell of decaying bodies.
The plague. We have become anonymous with each other in everyday life, wearing coverings on our noses and mouths when we go outside, not limiting this experience to a theatrical performance. This is real life.