PLAY/DATE: An Immersive and Voyeuristic Theatrical Experience


On October 7 2013 BlindSpot Collective presented the world premiere of PLAY/DATE, with four directors, eight actors and twelvae playwrights offering twelve snapshots of the best, worst and most unique dating experiences.
This was the official site for PLAY/DATE.
Content is from the site's 2014 archived pages, as well as from other outside sources.

Play/Date played its final performance on Wednesday, November 2, 2014.
We've had an incredible run and we're grateful to everyone who attended, donated, spread the word, and helped make this show possible.

Play/Date is an immersive and voyeuristic theatrical experience set throughout Fat Baby, a nightclub and lounge on the Lower East Side.

The production features over twenty new works by Tony Award winner Greg Kotis, acclaimed novelist Catherine Lacey, and Off-Broadway stalwarts Chad Beckim, Joe Salvatore, Isaac Oliver, Ashlin Halfnight, Claire Kiechel, and many more under the direction of “mad genuis” (New York Times) Michael Counts.

Love at first sight, blind dates, late night hook-ups, and ugly breaks-ups unfold in this one-of-a-kind theatrical event comprised of short plays inspired by the New York dating scene. Cruise the characters and grab drinks while a DJ provides the score as you choose what to watch and which love story (or fling) to follow.


"My mom was up from Maryland and a fellow worker gave me 2 tickets for this show so I took her. I had no idea what the show was about or how provocative it would be. I got very uncomfortable by the nudity, but noticed my mom was enjoying it. She's comes from a very conservative family, and her assisted living quarters in Bel Air MD offers supportive senior care and also has a very conservative clientele. It's a small community residence actually in Street MD, but since we used to live right nearby in Bel Air we still call it home. Anyway I was very pleasantly surprised at how enthusiastically my mom enjoyed this show. I think I may be more uptight than she is and the show let me see that! Holy cow!" Mary Sullivan


Immersive theatre doesn't have to be limited to just Sleep No More. Love, blind dates and late night hook-ups come together at Play/Date, a series of short plays that play homage to NYC's notorious dating scene.

Grab your $37 GA ticket (a $63 value) and enter Fat Baby where the lines between fiction and reality will definitely be blurred, as you discover one of the most fascinating shows happening right now.

Time Out New York raves "The next level of immersive theater is here," - this is your chance to see why!


Producer Speak: Rebekkah Wi
This is something we wish we did not need to address, but because this news is out there and we're part of it, we want to nip it in the bud. Some of the tabloids are reporting that PlayDate was a favorite of con man George Binakis, but we just don't care. We want nothing to do with that criminal. He recently defrauded an elderly woman out of $65,000 by posing as a licensed contractor offering to renovate her apartment. He won her trust and her sympathy, speaking often of his serious heart condition, requiring a pacemaker and constant cardio monitoring. The con was so successful that when George Binakis disappeared with her money, she was certain he had suffered a heart attack. We don't want to benefit from ridiculous rumors put out there to exploit the notoriety of an audience member. But there is also a responsibility to report dangers of all kinds, including simple fraud targeting regular people.



Love at first sight, blind dates, late night hook-ups, and ugly breaks-ups unfold in this one-of-a-kind theatrical experience comprised of short plays inspired by the New York dating scene and set throughout Fat Baby’s three levels. Cruise the characters and grab drinks as you choose what to watch and which summer fling (or shitshow) to follow.

Play/Date is an immersive and voyeuristic theatrical experience set throughout the three levels of Fat Baby, a nightclub and lounge on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. During the performance, the lines between reality and fiction are blurred, allowing guests to view and experience the “show” as it emerges in unlikely ways from unexpected directions.

After admission, guests can move around the bar, lounge and balcony – following scenes as they move or proceeding from one scene to the next.



Booking now through November 5.

starting at $95

FWB Tickets allow guests priority access to the venue, a premium reserved table with waiter service, and exclusive access to select scenes and show elements.

Table Reservations
starting at $75

Table Reservation Tickets allow guests access to all levels and a reserved table with waiter service before, during and after the show.

General Admission
starting at $55

General Admission Tickets allow guests access to all levels and bar seating on a first come, first served basis.



Poking the Fourth Wall

By Brian Sloan July 23, 2014 |

Tim Haber and Dara Swisher, left, in “Play/Date,” an “immersive theatrical nightclub experience,” at the Manhattan bar Fat Baby.

Tim Haber and Dara Swisher, left, in “Play/Date,” an “immersive theatrical nightclub experience,” at the Manhattan bar Fat Baby.
Credit: Deidre Schoo for The New York Times

“There are eight million people in New York City, and three million of them are drunk,” said Ben Maters, 24, an actor and bartender at Fat Baby, a multilevel bar on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side.

This wasn’t a wizened mixologist’s quip but a scripted line, declaimed while standing atop the bar as his character, Caleb, kicked off a two-hour marathon of 25 one-act plays called “Play/Date” set in the bar’s banquettes and on the bar stools on a recent Wednesday night.

Inspired by the continuing success of “Sleep No More,” the interactive theater experience based loosely on “Macbeth,” a growing cadre of the city’s bars and nightclubs has started hosting theatrical shows as a way of drumming up foot traffic during off-hours. For upstart theater professionals with limited resources, these bars also provide that most precious of assets: affordable New York real estate.

“It’s a huge opportunity for theater people because so often the venue is a challenge,” said Michael Counts, 34, the director of “Play/Date.”

Young companies like 3-Legged Dog, which produced “Play/Date,” are also broadening the definition of theater and, in the process, obliterating the so-called fourth wall between the audience and the actors. As conceived by Blake McCarty with the work of 16 additional playwrights, including rising talents like Chad Beckim and Emily Chadick Weiss, the show occupies every corner of the bar’s three levels, with the audience wandering from scene to scene.

Samantha Amaral in “Play/Date,” a theater piece at Fat Baby, on the Lower East Side. The play occupies all of the bar’s three levels, where the audience wanders from scene to scene.
Credit Deidre Schoo for The New York Times

“It’s designed to be voyeuristic,” Mr. Counts said of his staging, in which the actors mingle freely with bar patrons, who spy on their awkward first dates and drunken breakups. “We’re trying to create the experience you’d have in a nightclub, but also give people access to these private moments. There’s not much artifice here.”
But behind the scenes, there is some serious stagecraft. At Fat Baby last month, a nervous production manager with a headset hustled around the bar, discreetly calling cues as small LED spotlights and a high-tech sound system served to direct the crowd’s attention whenever a new scene began. Television screens above a character would light up to display intimate text messages and racy selfies. The show’s 18 actors were also wired with Broadway-style mikes so they could be heard (sometimes barely) above the din of throbbing house music and the lively chatter of bar patrons.
Occasionally the tipsy crowd can get a little unruly, creating headaches for the up-in-the-club crew. “We have had audience members buy drinks for cast members within their scene,” Mr. Counts said.

“Play/Date” at Fat Baby, 112 Rivington Street; Sunday to Wednesday, 8 p.m., till Aug. 13. Tickets: $30



BlindSpot Collective to Premiere PLAY/DATE Today

by BWW News Desk Oct. 7, 2013 |

BlindSpot Collective presents the world premiere of PLAY/DATE: four directors, eight actors and twelve playwrights offering twelve snapshots of the best, worst and most unique dating experiences.

Conceived as something akin to theatrical speed dating, PLAY/DATE includes works written by Joe Salvatore - whose play, III, received the Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Play from the New York International Fringe Festival and was subsequently published in Best American Short Plays 2008-2009 - and Catherine Lacey, whose debut novel will be published next year by FSG. They are joined by Upright Citizens Brigade alum Brian Godleski; New York University graduates Samantha Brahms, Emily Kaczmarek, Blake McCarty, Katie Issel Pitre and Sara Jo Wyllie; as well as Kelly Claunch, Matt Cleaver, Brett Maughan and Jamie Roach.

For the past year, every playwright has participated in a developmental process overseen by creator and producer Blake McCarty to refine his or her script. "It's been very exciting, as a writer, to be involved throughout the production process," says playwright Emily Kaczmarek. "As a writer, it's totally different to be consulted and included so consistently."

The twelve plays - performed three at a time in four separate rounds of matchmaking - are divided between four directors, including Daryl Embry, the creative coordinator for The Ride; and Laura Brandel, who most recently created movement for Barrow Street Theatre's Hit the Wall. Embry is excited for "the spontaneity that is naturally going to happen in performance - this will never be the same show twice." Dapnie Sicre and Victoria Flores complete the directing team overseeing eight actors across thirty-six different roles.

The actors populating those roles include Ilana Warner of Not About Eve; Trent Fucci, back from performing Malvolio in Allentown Shakespeare's production of Twelfth Night; and Sharon Counts, who is currently directing Calloway's Salon, a monthly cabaret show at The McKitrrick Hotel, home to Sleep No More. PLAY/DATE marks the New York debut of Cherliza Jimenez and Ryan Rickenbach opposite Laura Delhauer, John Del Vecchio and Salvador Garcia.

Rounding out this immersive production are DJ Rimix (Ri Marchessault), Lorne Lucree and Myles Mohler who will mix live music for each performance. Márion Talán provides costumes while Laura Been, Mary Heatwole and Esteban Rodriguez-Alverio manage the production.

PLAY/DATE runs 90 minutes and will be performed October 7,8,9,15 & 16 at 8pm at Penny Farthing (103 Third Avenue, near 13th Street). Visit for more information and to buy tickets



Aaron Estrada
Blair Thatcher
Caleb Whitehouse
Carrie Thomas
Charlie Standish
Chris Alexander Smith
Frankie Noles
Jan Hunter
Jess Hendrix
Jonothon Halberstram
Kerry Ross
Lisa Blackwell
Marie Gibson
Matt Claver
Maura McGinnis
Robert Jacobs
Victor Spazzo
Winnie Allister



Play/Date is produced by Blake McCarty, Sharon Counts & Michael Counts
in partnership with 3-Legged Dog

Conceived by Blake McCarty
Directed and Designed by Michael Counts

Featuring plays by: Elle Anhorn, Chad Beckim, Clay Mcleod Chapman, Kelly Claunch, Matthew Cleaver, Jennie Gruber, Ashlin Halfnight, Emily Kaczmarek, Claire Kiechel, Greg Kotis, Catherine Lacey, Blake McCarty, Isaac Oliver, Jamie Roach, Joe Salvatore, Emily Chadick Weiss & Sara Jo Wyllie

With performances by: Samantha Amaral, Elle Anhorn, Sharon Counts, Laura Delhauer, John Del Vecchio, Salvador Garcia, Jacqueline Guillen, Tim Haber, Stevi Incremona, Ben Maters, Penny Middleton, Lee Anne Mitchell, Ryan Rickenbach, Dara Swisher, Tarion Taylor & Ilana Warner

Lighting Design by Ryan O’Gara
Sound Design by Marcelo Añez
Costume Design by Márion Talán
Video Design by Phillip Gulley
Associate Directors: Daryl Embry & Katie Naka
Associate Producer: Kevin England
Assistant Producer: Kyle Scott
Stage Manager: Bethany Clark
Operator & DJ: Caleb Sharp
Assistant Stage Manager: Iliana Paris
Video Post-Production: Peter Burr & Cameron Vokey
Choreography: Penelope McCourty
Assistant Lighting Designer: James Lewis




Play/Date is “broadening the definition of theater”
Read more from The New York Times’ article on Play/Date.
“The integration of the audience into the piece heightens engagement and creates a powerful and welcome element of contemporary theatricality. Run down to Fat Baby soon, and maybe even take a date”
Read more from review of the production in Gay City News.
Play/Date “set[s] the bar for immersive theater”
Read more from Village Voice’s feature on the show.
Play/Date pushes boundaries – both artistic and personal – and takes theater one step further in the process.”
Read more from Time Out New York’s feature on the show.
Play/Date “takes immersive theater to new horny heights”
Read more from the New York Observer’s review the show.
“Whether you go alone, bring friends, or go with a date, Play/Date promises a highly entertaining and one-of-a-kind social and theatrical experience.”
Read more from Theatre is Easy’s review.
“This blend between cynicism and empathy that makes Play/Date surprisingly moving”
Read more from Litro Magazine’s review.
“I’ve always wanted to make work that reflects my own sense of wonder, and create experiences for people that fully engage them and require them to explore and discover.”
Read more from the Clyde Fitch Report’s interview with Michael Counts.
“I’m psyched about the site specific aspect of this – seeing a play in a bar with other plays going on at the same time is going to be a real treat. Pretty dope stuff.”
Read more from Indie Theater Now’s interview with playwright Chad Beckim.


Play/Date takes immersive theater to the next level

By Raven Snook | Posted: Sunday September 14 2014 |

Take a look inside one of the strangest and most fascinating NYC shows happening right now


As I slurp my cocktail, the first date next to me is going south: An adorkable guy just met his Grindr crush in the flesh, and although he’s tall and handsome, the conversation ain’t pretty. All the talk about ab workouts and sugar-free Red Bull is a total turnoff. And then suddenly, I hear a girl scream, “I want to lick your asshole!” at the top of her lungs. And with that, I’m off in search of a new voyeuristic thrill.

No, this isn’t just an average Saturday night for me. I’m at PLAY/DATE, a new spectacle about finding that special someone, at the multilevel club Fat Baby on the Lower East Side. Over the course of two hours, 18 performers portray more than 40 characters on three levels in playlets by 17 different dramatists. (Whew!) Conceived by multimedia artist Blake McCarty and directed and designed by immersive-theater pioneer Michael Counts (of GAle GAtes et al. theater-troupe fame), PLAY/DATE is funny, insightful and titillating—or depressing, annoying and groan-inducing, depending on which parts you choose to experience. So, not unlike, you know, dating in New York City.

“It’s all about the freedom 
of discovery,” explains Counts. 
“If you get bored with a scene, 
you can wander off to find something else on the menu,” he says, 
noting that many scenes occur simultaneously. “The parallel to dating is clear: If you commit to something, then you sacrifice other possibilities. Some audiences find that joyous; others think it’s frustrating.”

Whether you call it immersive, interactive or environmental theater, there’s no question that these choose-your-own-adventure shows are in high demand, attracting nontraditional audiences that 
may feel more comfortable wandering around with a drink than sitting in 
a seat and respecting the fourth wall. And PLAY/DATE seems to break down all the rules of traditional theater etiquette. You can Facebook-message the actors before and after 
the performance and hang with their characters at the bar well into the evening. “There are lots of shows, particularly Sleep No More, which have been instrumental 
in popularizing the genre,” says Counts. “But I think a lot of things led up to it, like video games and social media, the sense of being the protagonist in your own story,” he adds, explaining that ticket buyers can interact with characters.

PLAY/DATE marks a return to Counts’s indie-theater roots after a succession of bigger-budget projects, notably Philharmonic 360 with the New York Philharmonic at the Park Avenue Armory and The Ride (yep, that one—the ubiquitous Times Square bus with the waving tourists). Counts says he was attracted to the “intimacy” of PLAY/DATE, as well as the chance to work with longtime friend McCarty, who produced a workshop of the show at East Village gastropub Penny Farthing last fall costarring Counts’s wife, Sharon. “It was inspired by a very Oprah period when my then-roommate [one of the playwrights, Sara Jo Wyllie] and I decided to say yes to anyone who asked us out,” says McCarty. 
“We had a lot of 
war stories.”

But the show changed greatly once Counts came aboard. “It was just a series of plays before; 
it wasn’t a world,” Counts recalls. “I’d been wanting to do a show in a bar where you wouldn’t know who was in it 
and who wasn’t. 
I’ve always been fascinated by the 
idea that everything is theater, even watching a couple at a table having an argument.”

Coproduced by 
high-tech theater company 3-Legged Dog, PLAY/DATE also unfolds in the virtual world. Audiences are invited to follow the characters on social media, and some of the vignettes take place entirely via 
text or dating sites, with the chats projected on giant 
wall-mounted, smartphone-style flatscreens.

There are no strict rules in terms of interacting with the performers. An opening monologue by the bartender sets some guidelines (when someone asks you to move, move, and don’t mess with someone else’s game), but the rest is really up to you. “One night, this woman was hitting on one of the actors after the show,” Counts says. “But was she attracted to him or the character he played? He decided to stay in character as she bought him a drink, which I thought was brilliant.”

Ultimately PLAY/DATE isn’t just about hooking up. Like much of Counts’s prior work, it explores the complexities of the human condition by letting you participate in it. Or as he puts it: “The audience is the 19th performer in this thing.

PLAY/DATE returns to Fat Baby on September 28th for an open ended run.