The fourth wall is the imaginary plane that marks the edge of the onstage action of a play, movie, or any other similar entertainment. For most of these stories, the characters don’t acknowledge the audience. Which is to say, the actors/characters don’t break the fourth wall.
When an actor breaks the fourth wall, the audience becomes detached from the story and begins to regard the production as people on a stage rather than being transported to another reality.
That is, unless the audience is part of the show.
Welcome to interactive theater, also known as immersive theater. With these types of shows, members of the audience are part of the performance. It’s the thrill of the unexpected that comes with audience participation that has fan clamoring for more.
But what makes interactive theater so fun? And what makes the shows so important for modern society?
Here are a few key reasons…
Direct Involvement and Interaction
Much of our life is done online these days, and most of our regular entertainment is found in front of a screen. But with interactive theater, we’re part of the story, which means we interact with others on a personal level that’s impossible to match in other forms of entertainment.
With immersive theater, participants are often brought on stage. In other events, such as The Dinner Detective shows, the actors walk amongst the audience and engage with them. That connection to others, whether they be actors, friends, or other audience members, is not only important to our health, but it’s engaging and fun, too.
Discovery and Exploration
When you go see a movie, you sit in a theater and watch the story projected on a screen. When you attend a play, you’re sitting in a similar theater with seats directing your attention to the story in front of you.
That’s not how interactive theater works. Instead of the same ol’ auditorium, an immersive show might take place outside at a public park, or in the basement of an abandoned building. Maybe even in a prison. So when you attend interactive theater, you get to explore the local area in ways you hadn’t considered.
And because you’re part of the story, you also get to explore the lives of others in a very personal way. For example, you might be a detective for an evening, or if you’re one of the unlucky ones, you might have to walk in the shoes of a murder suspect.
Escape from the Everyday
With our cell phones, we can connect to anyone anywhere, which makes it more and more difficult to unplug. To escape, we often we try to lose ourselves in a good movie or book.
Interactive theater goes one step above that. These shows allow us to detach from our day-to-day lives in a way other forms of entertainment don’t. Instead of passively soaking in the story, we’re a part of it! And if you’re in the story as it comes to life, you won’t want or need to check your phone.
Adventure and Imagination
Let’s face it, on a day-to-day basis, being an adult can be kind of boring. We have so many responsibilities, most of us live through the same routine every day, which makes it easy for us to fall into a rut of repetition.
With interactive theater, however, we get to rekindle our sense of adventure. Because we’re part of the show, we use our imagination to interact with others in a world of make-believe. Actors and audience members alike leave our daily lives behind, and for awhile at least, we get to imagine ourselves as another person, living in another world.
Fun and Excitement
Perhaps the most important aspect of immersive theater is how fun the shows can be. Whether the events are fully scripted or contain plenty of spontaneity, audience members don’t know what to expect, which adds to the excitement. Whether the show is scary, funny, or thrilling, audience members are pulled into a new world and become part of the story.
Our strongest memories come from those events that are new and exciting, which is why immersive entertainment sticks with audience members in ways other entertainment can’t.