A crinkle of paper, a whisper in your ear. Static electricity begins at your scalp, moving down the nape of your neck, resting at the base of your spine. This is ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response.
Whisperlodge: An ASMR Experience
ASMR crossed into the social zeitgeist several years ago and is the technical term for that tingling feeling upon hearing certain sounds or feeling certain touches. A quick search of “ASMR” on YouTube generates over 10 million responses, many of them serving as “trigger videos” consisting of exactly those sounds. It was only logical that the phenomenon would find its way into the world of immersive performance art.
Enter Whisperlodge, a joint creation by Melinda Lauw, an artist from Singapore, and Andrew Hoepfner, a rock musician turned immersive theater creator—best known for New York’s surreal Houseworld. Hoepfner describes Whisperlodge as “a sensory journey, intimately sized.”
Attention to Detail
“Seven guides lead seven guests through a series of live ASMR sequences–both group and one-on-one experiences–where the audience’s attention operates in a different way [than it normally might],” he says. “We focus our attention on smaller details for longer durations than we might otherwise experience.”
As a carefully curated series of live ASMR experiences, it’s those minute details that Whisperlodge deals in to heighten guests’ senses. Whether it’s crinkling a sheet of bubble wrap, plucking the strings of a tennis racket or simply the mindless repetition of scribbling on a sheet of paper, there’s an intense focus on relaxation.
A Real-Time Journey
While the guides in Whisperlodge could loosely be considered “characters,” Lauw and Hoepfner are careful to note that immersive theater fans should not expect a linear plot alongside which to track their experiences.
“[Guests] should look for things they can access, and they should look for pleasure and engage in it, but they shouldn’t be hoping for that through a story,” says Hoepfner. “Whisperlodge is different than that. There are characters, and there are scenes, but […] the narrative is just your real-time journey through the audio and visual sensations.”
This journey takes multiple forms, depending on what a prospective Whisperlodge guest is seeking. Patrons can opt for the signature Whisperlodge group setting, in which multiple people are led through various sequences in one locale, or they can choose to pursue the more personalized Whispers On Demand, a fully customized one-on-one ASMR experience.
The Future of Whisperlodge
These various experiences are constantly evolving. When asked about the prospective expansion of Whisperlodge, Hoepfner is refreshingly frank about its financial sustainability, given its intimate, one-to-one nature. “Once we pay for the venue (which is best if it’s kind of a somewhat spacious house or apartment) and once we pay the actors for their time (and we like to get people who are special performers), all of the budget is gone,” he admits. But the idea of Whisperlodge is not to make a profit; as with all ASMR, there’s so much happening under the surface. While Hopefner and Lauw offer minimalist experiences like hour-long sound baths, there’s also a much more ambitious concept on the horizon.
“In San Francisco, we’re also doing this huge event that is not immersive, it’s more interactive, and it’s a collaboration with one of the YouTube ASMRtists from London,” says Lauw, before Hoepfner elaborates. “This ASMRtist [will be] speaking into a binaural microphone on stage, and so those small sounds are going to be transmitted into 230 radio frequency wireless headsets that the audience will be wearing. So it’s an audio experience from one sound artist on-stage to an audience in a theater.
Sights and Sounds
Whether guests are experiencing an intimate, one-on-one journey or a theater-filled group experiment, the endgame of Whisperlodge is to open their eyes, as well as their ears.
“After 90 minutes of whispering and soft sounds, most people will realize how loud the world actually is upon exiting,” says Lauw. “The performance really is about that moment when you leave the house,” Hoepfner agrees. “It’s about how wind sounds at that moment, it’s about how traffic sounds, it’s about the look of the leaves moving a little bit in the wind.”
“You’re just more sensitive when you walk out, and it’s special.”
To find out more about upcoming Whisperlodge performances, visit https://whisperlodge.nyc/.