The Lightship Frying Pan (Photo: Playing with Reality)

Cocktails on a zombie-infested sunken ship, in the year 2023? Welcome to Rocking Dead, an interactive theater performance and dance party aboard the Lightship Frying Pan.

In a post-apocalyptic and quarantined Manhattan where the zombie virus runs rampant, uninfected Normals and infected Virals co-habitate. Advanced in its DNA, the Z-virus remains dormant in an individual until he or she triggers it through extreme anger. Despite general daily issues amongst Normals and Virals, the Center for Viral Control (CVC) has decided to throw a party on the Frying Pan to celebrate the humanity that “still resides within us all.”

“The project idea came from company members Trevor Buteau and Alyssa Kim,” says Jeff Wirth, artistic director of Playing with Reality. “It could be compared to Sleep No More or Then She Fell but the thing that differentiates our show is that [audience members] actually become primary character themselves.”

Of course, not everyone is forced to participate. The immersive play is also very much a dance party featuring the Zedd-like mixes of “DJ Deadmeet.”


(Photo: Instagram @playingwithreality)

Inspired by a halloween project he and Kim worked on in 2013, another immersive zombie project called Survive Survive where actors and audience members alike ran around defending themselves with nerf guns. After last year’s Playing with Reality Boat Party aboard the Frying Pan, an 86-year-old lightship that spent three years at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay before it was hauled to Chelsea, Buteau and Kim agreed that it was imperative to do a show on the boat. “We were really inspired by the space and the idea of a zombie world,” says Buteau, “and even though there will only be 12 of us [actors], there are more than 25 major characters so the audience will take up more than half of those roles.”

A social dialogue of sorts, Rocking Dead is all about flexibility. Whatever happens, happens. Apart from the main story, which will run anywhere from 90 to 105 minutes, there will be an extra story arc for lucky individuals invited to participate.

“Think Jazz music,” says Wirth of the program and how it is co-created through audience interaction. “There is sheet music for a piece of jazz music but it’s not written in the same way that a symphonic piece is done. So there is structure, there is a narrative arc, but how [Rocking Dead] plays is based on how it happens that night.”

(Artwork: Madeline Maser)

(Artwork: Madeline Maser)

For now, those interested in participating should invest in comfortable shoes and post-apocalyptic clothing. While the dancing will take place on the dance floor, most of the story moves about the boat.

“Rocking Dead” aboard the Lightship Frying Pan, Pier 66 at W. 26th St., 7pm on April 24 and May 2, 9, 16, 29, and 30; tickets $20 (cash bar).