Last night, I walked into the empty vestibule of the Brill Building, down a flight of stairs, and into a surreal space where a theatrical work was being performed, its audience distrubuted throughout the space on a series of beds, some watching the action play out live or on monitors, others slumbering. This was Dream of the Red Chamber, where actors interacted on a series of stages, drapes dangled from great heights, and the overall effect was more than a little hypnotic.
I’d been made aware of it because of the piece’s co-author, Jeff Jackson, whose novel Mira Corpora was one of the highlights of my 2013 in reading. Directed and co-written by Jackson’s frequent collaborator Jim Findlay, Dream of the Red Chamber is an adaptation of Cao Xueqin’s massive novel; it’s also designed to be experienced whether awake or asleep. (Next week, we’ll have an interview with Jackson in which he describes the process for writing for a slumbering audience.) Work like this, that simulates and encourages the parts of the mind that you wouldn’t normally associate with experiencing culture, is a rare find, and there’s plenty here to find compelling.