Surprise Surveillance Theater was an interactive theater experience, performed live for hundreds, unbeknownst to the unwitting stars of the show. It was part of the Lost Horizon Night Market, an extraordinary, modular, participatory art party that takes place in unmarked box trucks on low-traffic back streets in New York City.
The goal was to take unwitting revelers and throw them into a narrative about a black market, requiring the target to pass secret notes, have rendezvous, wear a wire, and make a mystery delivery. All of this was watched by a live audience on more than a dozen TVs showing footage captured by strategically placed video cameras, but the scope of the experience was only revealed to the target at the very end when he or she delivered a secret package to the waiting audience.
The project required two box trucks. One served purely as a set: the meeting room for the black market’s kingpin and her bodyguards; the other truck housed the audience, as well as all the TVs, technical equipment, and operators.
In sum, the project took a month to plan, with two days of set preparation. But because the location and truck placement was announced less than a day before the night market opened, the cast and crew of nearly two dozen had a mere three hours to rehearse, install cameras, and finalize tech.