“If you could change your body as easily as you change your clothes, would you? That’s the question A. Human, an experiential immersive theater concept and exhibition conceived by Simon Huck, is asking.” With an impressive list of celebrity collaborators that included Kim Kardashian, Nicola Formichetti, and Tan France, Michael Counts was brought on board as director to assist with the creation and roll out of this thrilling new one-of-a-kind exhibit that accompanied NY Fall Fashion Week 2018.
Imagine the perfect summer night at a classic American drive-in movie in 1965. That beloved aspect of mid-century American popular culture is the reality that patrons of the August Moon Drive-In will be transported to – re-imagined as an indoor experience within a 40,000 square-foot air-supported dome. The environment, created by some of the top theatrical, film and theme park designers, features stunning attention to detail, including 50 authentic classic cars, dozens of full-sized trees, grass, gravel pathways, hammocks, a panoramic starry sky overhead, fireflies, and, of course, a stunning August “sailor’s moon” glowing orange and red, just above the tree line.
Conceived and designed by Michael Counts, called a “master of immersive entertainment” and a “mad genius” by the New York Times, and backed by lead investors Ken Levitan (Vector Management), James Diener (Freesolo Entertainment, Alignment Artist Capital & former CEO of A&M Octone Records), Michael Solomon (10X Management, Brick Wall Management); and Daniel Frishwasser, (The Ride; Connor Paolo), the August Moon Drive-In will be the first of its kind and an attraction that dramatically enhances the way people experience movies.
The August Moon Drive-In is targeted to arrive in Nashville, at the intersection of James Robertson Parkway and Interstate 24, in the shadow of Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans, in Q2 2018 and is conceived to operate daily with an initial schedule of 18 showings a week.
Building on the success of movie experiences that offer more than the status quo, the August Moon Drive-In is conceived as a mini indoor theme park that transports people in space and time to a quintessentially American experience – where that perfect summer night at sunset, where crickets chirp in the distance and the audience breathes in the scent of fresh meadow air, can be repeated with absolute consistency within what is effectively a giant movie set. In addition to being a re-invention of the movie-going experience, August Moon will allow audiences time to explore, play, and dine, and of course, watch their movie.
Featuring a variety of seating options – from reserved seating in the vintage cars to picnic blankets spread out under the stars—the experience also will include innovative live entertainment and ground breaking interactive elements, including live actors that seem to step out of a movie preview to interact with audience members; the largest non-IMAX movie screen in North America; several full bars; artisanal American comfort food; multiple dining areas; private “tree house” event and party spaces; and a separate lounge that features live music programming before and after the movie. The film programming is slated to feature both first run movies as well as favorites from all genres that are no longer widely screened.
The August Moon Drive-In will offer a membership model that allows people to see any movie without paying admission and will offer other perks such as food and drink specials, seating upgrades and special access. Additionally, members and the August Moon community will be able vote on certain titles through social media, thereby enabling the community to choose the programming at selected times.
For the legendary company’s 30th anniversary, Bang on a Can founders Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe and David Lang engaged Michael Counts to help conceive and direct the most technologically advanced and highly produced staged concert that they’ve ever undertaken. The result was Road Trip – a cross between a rock or EDM spectacle and a traditional contemporary music concert that featured an extensive and cinematic multi-screen video projection, a complex environmental lighting design, smoke, lasers, and more. The show was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and premiered within the prestigious Next Wave Festival in 2017 after a preview presentation at LA’s newly renovated Ford Amphitheater. The production will tour in 2019 and beyond.
In the spring of 2016 Counts partnered with former Jerry Bruckheimer producer and Las Vegas nightclub impresario Jennifer Worthington on the creation and production of a new immersive theatrical production which intends to take the emerging escape room genre to the next level.
Titled PARADISO: Chapter 1, this unique and technologically leading edge production, follows the traditional escape room format of a one-hour experience within which an audience of up to 10 people has to escape from a room or a series of rooms by solving puzzles of varying types and styles. However, unlike most existing escape rooms, PARADISO draws on Counts’ extensive experience as one of the early pioneers of immersive theater and takes the escape room format to the next level. As the first installment of an expanding narrative structure, the production is loosely based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, which rendered Hell, Purgatory and Paradise (a Counts favorite as fans familiar with his 2001 GAle GAtes production, So Long Ago I Can’t Remember, will be aware), The experience adds multiple performers and a coherent, multilayered and complex story structure to a highly produced scenic design featuring high production value and state-of-the-art special effects.
Michael Counts’ critically acclaimed production of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning opera Madame Whitesnake will be remounted in Hong Kong, China as part of the 2019 Hong Kong Arts Festival.
Directed and designed the first-of-its-kind immersive concert experience with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra – a production the New York Times heralded as “one of the 20 most notable cultural events of 2012.”
Served as Creative Director for the Michael Kors brand launch event in Shanghai, China – a one-of-a-kind immersive theatrical event designed to offer the “jet set” experience and transport people to the “world of Michael Kors.” The design featured one of the largest high-resolution video projections ever done and the largest eyeliner projection screen ever made among countless theatrical special effects. As a result of its success for the Kors brand, the production is being re-purposed for upcoming brand launches in Tokyo, Rio, and other market throughout 2015 and 2016.
Michael Counts was engaged to conceive, design and direct a unique fashion show concept and presentation for the Betty & Veronica by Rachel Antonoff brand for the 2016 New York Fall Fashion Week. What transpired was a theatrical fashion event that combined the world of comics and pop art with the world of high fashion. The brand represents an extension of Archie Comics on its 75th anniversary debuting around the launch of the highly anticipated show “Riverdale” on the CW. The concept show’s creative, developed by Michael Counts in collaboration with Lena Dunham and “Fun” front man Jack Antonoff, was widely regarded as a high point of NYFFW and was considered a powerful introduction of a new fashion brand.
In 2016 Michael Counts lent his talents to the Tavistock Development Corp and their development of Lake Nona, one of the fastest growing communities in the U.S., where he designed The Beacon, a massive piece of permanent public art that stands as an anchor of the development’s Town Center. A 7000 square-acre development owned by British billionaire entrepreneur Joe Lewis, Lake Nona is already home to one of the most prominent medical cities in America and is the most technologically connected community in the country and is expected to “transform the Orlando region as Disney World did in the 1970’s.”
Anchoring The Beacon is a 264-foot-long “code wall” along the outer facade of the town center parking structure. This massive design feature, a static steel veneer into which binary code has been cut, has been animated by a dynamic lighting design – a collaboration between Counts and Hamilton associated lighting designer, Ryan O’Gara – which integrates the Code Wall and the Beacon into one massive and highly visible piece of permanent public media art. Since developing the initial design for Lake Nona, Counts and team have been engaged on several different aspects of the overall development and marketing of the community, including other location designs, brand videos and the overall consumer-facing, marketing communication for Lake Nona.
Wrote, designed, directed and produced a new immersive touring theatrical experience that was produced in partnership with the Walker Stalker Con, now the second largest fan convention in the US, and Skybound Entertainment, the LA based production company founded by the Walking Dead’s creator, Robert Kirkman.
The production is a 30 minute full-throttle immersive attraction that drops audiences into the chaotic and terrifying world of the Walking Dead. Experienced in small (7 person) audience groups, Chapter 1 sends participants on an adventure through the edge of a small town on the night the outbreak hit – the night zombies began their rampage and the social order began to unravel.
Set in over 10,000 square feet of sets and employing state-of-the-art technology and never-before-seen special effects, this attraction represents a major development in the rapidly growing genre of “immersive” extensions of popular entertainment brands.
Watch the trailer HERE!
Watch the Behind the Scenes footage HERE!
Conceived, designed and executive produced a first-of-its-kind immersive theatrical experience that was launched in New York’s Times Square with the participation of some of Broadway’s top producers and creative talent – a production that has received immense international media coverage including national television coverage on Regis and Kelly, The Today Show, Kelly Rippa and countless press features. The Ride was recently nominated for a Drama Desk Award for the “Special Theatrical Experience” category alongside shows like Cirque Du Soleil, among others.
Directed, designed, and co-produced Play/Date, an immersive theatrical experience at Fat Baby (a 4 level nightclub on Manhattan’s Lower East Side). The show has been described as “unique, funny and a great night out” by Eric Sassen of the Wall Street Journal and as a production that “set a new bar for immersive theater in New York” by the Village Voice. The show features 17 playwrights, a cast of 18, and offers scenes set throughout 3 levels of Fat Baby, as well as a first-of-its-kind use of social media, extending the show into multiple media platforms and beyond the temporal and spatial confines of traditional theater.
More about Play/Date
New York City Opera at Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater - Conceived, directed and designed a new production featuring the works of John Zorn, Arnold Schoenberg and Morton Feldman – a production that has been widely regarded as a seminal moment for NYCO and opera at Lincoln Center and was called “an engrossing, surreal and visually beautiful production,” by the New York Times.
New York Times Review
In 2000, Counts was invited to direct Gertrude Stein’s Listen to Me at the CalArts Center for New Performance in Valencia, California. The production featured three iterations of the same three characters: a man dressed alternately in a snowsuit and a schoolboy’s uniform; a woman also appearing in multiple incarnations including an opulent 18th century white wig topped by a silver model of a three-masted sailing ship; and an art museum guard. The stage design featured a series of sunken trenches created by rows of white cuboids that extended the width of the stage and rose to chest height, and a suspended walkway above.
The largest and longest running of Gale Gates’ immersive theater experiences was called a “total theater triumph” by Time Out New York. Set in 13 installations throughout 40,000 square feet, this production cast the audience in the roll of Dante and lead them on a journey through a multifaceted experience that depicted Counts’ vision of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise as it would exist 500 years after Dante’s original telling of The Divine Comedy. This work and all of GAle GAtes other immersive productions pioneered the now popular trend of immersive theater – recently made famous by productions like Punch Drunk’s Sleep No More and The Drowned Man.
New York Times Review
Conceived, directed and designed the first-of-its-kind opera production using CG animation coupled with traditional stage technology to create an immersive experience – a production about which the New York Times said, “The opera world has been talking about the potential of video to make possible a new kind of old-fashioned spectacle. This production pointed a way.” They also named the production on the NY Times Top Ten List of events in the world of music for 2013.
The Field of Mars, designed and directed by GAle GAtes et al Artistic Director Michael Counts, is an enormous image-oriented piece inhabited by performers, which partially based on Tacitus’ book Rome Burns. Guests to Field will experience various shifting landscapes that takes them from Ancient Rome to a New York City apartment, from a lavishly set formal dining table to an 8,000 square foot forest to one of the world’s skankiest toilets.