Bits 'n' Pieces: VSAA grad to 'Sleep No More' in New York

By Stover E. Harger III, Columbian neighborhood news coordinator

Published:

 
photoMikenzie Ames is a 2005 graduate of Vancouver School of Arts and Academics

Many flock to New York City with stars in their eyes. But Mikenzie Ames' dreams of a full-time theatrical career, unlike others who quickly fall out of the rat race, became reality.

After two years of paying the bills with low-level jobs while inching her way into the New York theater scene through unpaid work, the 2005 graduate of Vancouver School of Arts and Academics finally broke through this year.

Following a whirlwind internship, Ames was asked in February to become a full-time assistant stage manager for the critically acclaimed immersive theater experience "Sleep No More."

"I was so amazed and inspired by the work that has gone into the show," she said. "I'm still amazed."

In the modern theater scene there are few productions as lauded — or elaborate — as "Sleep No More." Based on Shakespeare's "Macbeth" but performed in real time with no dialogue throughout a 100,000-square-foot, five-floor "hotel," the Punchdrunk theater company production lets viewers explore a block of converted warehouses at their own pace, surrounded by mystery and the macabre. Wearing anonymous white masks, audience members venture from room to room to watch the often-frantic but silent action as they see fit. At one moment, a room in the fictional McKittrick Hotel might hold nothing more than interactive props, but later could be the scene of a murder or merely a casual interaction between characters. The venue also has a thematic jazz bar that sometimes hosts special events and musical performances.

Though she focused on acting while studying theater arts at Boise State University, Ames said she knew she couldn't pass up the opportunity to finally take full-time work as an assistant stage manager. During a production of "Sleep No More," she roams the halls in a black mask to make sure everything is on track, resetting important props or helping with crowd control if the audience gets unruly, which can happen when there is no stage to separate the actors from viewers.

"You have to use all the skills you have," Ames said.

Back home in Vancouver, her mother, Lou, couldn't be more proud.

"I'm really tickled that she went for her passion and took all the risks that were needed to do it," Lou said.

When she first followed some friends to New York in May 2011, Ames thought she'd only last a few months. When theater opportunities didn't pop up as quickly as she hoped, she was discouraged.

"I was worried I made the worst decision I could ever make," Ames said.

Now, she said, living in Brooklyn "feels like home."

"I'm riding the wave as long as I can," Ames said. "I'm going to stick with it for a while."

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.