July 2016 – 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.
PARADISO has been designed as an expandable episodic platform. As such, it is the intention of the partnership to expand the concept in NY through the addition of subsequent chapters and then to other domestic and international cities.
The production opened to critical acclaim in July 2016 and will be expanding to the west coast in mid-2017.
Path of Beatrice
Betty and Veronica by Rachel Antonoff
September 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.
Continuing the story of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning opera Madame White Snake with the addition of Gilgamesh and Naga, the Ouroboros Trilogy, written by Cerise Jacobs, will be presented at the Majestic Theater in Boston and in Beijing, China.
The Beacon at Lake Nona
December 2015 – 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 collboration between Counts and Hamiton 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.
Watch more HERE!
The Walking Dead Experience – Chapter 1
October 2015/Touring in 2016 – 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!
Walking Dead Escape
July 2014 – Served as a creative consultant and stage director for The Walking Dead Escape, an immersive theatrical extension of the Walking Dead Comics and AMC television show, produced by Skybound EXP, at the Hartford Xfinity Theater and Petco Stadium at the San Diego International Comic Con.
July 2014 – 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
Michael Kors – Jet Set Event – Shanghai, China
May 2014 – 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.
Rossini’s Moses In Egypt – New York City Opera at the New York City Center
April 2013 – 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” and also named the production on the NY Times Top Ten List of events in the world of music for 2013.
New York Times Review
Philharmonic 360 – New York Philharmonic at the Park Avenue Armory
June 2012 – 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.”
New York Times Review
Monodramas – New York City Opera at Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater
March 2011 – 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
The launch of The Ride New York
September 2010 – 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.
Anderson Cooper Feature
New York Times Review
The Field of Mars: Chapter 1 – Developed and presented by Counts Media, Inc.
November 2006 – An immersive theatrical experience within which groups of 6 people at a time were lead through more than a dozen locations throughout midtown Manhattan where they encountered 16 performers merged with the reality of the city streets. Sites included Grand Central Terminal, a Park Avenue office building, a minivan, the basement of a manufacturing building in the Fashion District, the interior of a classic Lincoln Continental and numerous locations on the streets of midtown. Many who experienced it recounted that the blurring of the lines between reality and the fiction of the story was unlike anything they had ever experienced.
The Las Vegas and New York premieres of BILL: The World’s First Live and Interactive Video Billboard
September 2007 – Las Vegas Strip/April and May 2008 – Times Square NY
Created, directed and designed a video billboard that can interact with people on the street – an entertainment attraction with significant Out-of-Home media value – that was developed in partnership with Blue Man Group, Clear Channel Spectacolor (a division of Clear Channel Outdoor) and J&J’s Accuvue Contact Lenses, as a founding sponsor.
Transcript of NPR’s On the Media Feature
MOBKASTR and Blue Man Group’s How to be a Megastar North American Tour
2008 – varied dates – With Mobile apps in a nascent stage of development and text messaging penetration at under 50% in North America, Counts Media was engaged by Blue Man Group for use of its Mobkastr publishing platform to create a interactive element to their first ever arena tour. With paid participation over 10% and completion of the mobile experience at 96%, Counts Media had created and launched one of the first entertainment applications of mobile technology.
The founding and subsequent financing of Counts Media Inc
2007/2008 – Having developed the plans for The Ride and a group of related mobile and media applications, Counts Media Inc. was able to raise $9 million in 3 rounds of financing to fully realize the vision for Yellow Arrow, Mobkastr, the interactive Billboard concept and The Ride – in partnership with Blue Man Group, Ericsson Networks, Clear Channel Spectacolor, and Omnicom’s Radiate Group among other media and marketing agencies.
ICUH8ING: An augmented reality game (ARG) launched with “Now Playing” Magazine
April 2006 – Created as an extension of Yellow Arrow that merged the theatrical elements of Counts’ past work in immersive theater with mobile technology and online interactive media, this project was a multi-day experience that started in the magazine and lead people out into reality and the “media sphere” – online, mobile, print, out-of-home – and into an extensive live and virtual narrative over the course of a week.
Yellow Arrow sponsored by Piaget at Art Basel Miami
December 2005 – In an opening night party of Art Basel Miami Beach at the newly opened Casa Casaurina, Counts and the Yellow Arrow Mobile App/Global Public Art Project, created an immersive installation and exhibition for Piaget. The event was regarded as a “Who’s Who of the art and society worlds, which earned Piaget prime placement in WWD‘s social column” – the Rummormill online.
The founding and rapid expansion of Yellow Arrow/Mobkastr
2004-2006 – Created as an extension of the core concept of The Ride New York, Yellow Arrow was an important example of locative media, massively authored public art, the emergence of mobile technology and social networks. In a short time, the project and its related applications became an underground phenomenon and developed an international community with 7535 Yellow Arrow stickers placed in 467 cities and 35 countries. Yellow Arrow was included in the exhibition Design and the Elastic Mind at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2008.
Interview by Media Scholar Henry Jenkins
Assorted International Feature Press
The World: An Immersive Installation Performance – presented at The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Guild Hall Museum, The Hunterdon Museum of Art
Various dates throughout 2002 – The last of the GAle GAtes et al series of large scale immersive installation performances, this a production featured various performers and visual art set pieces placed throughout various locations in a variety of selected venues – including among others, The Whitney Museum of Art’s Annex at the Altria Atrium in Midtown Manhattan
So Long Ago I Can’t Remember – A Divine Comedy – Produced and Presented by GAle GAtes et al. DUMBO
May/June 2001 – 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
The Field of Mars – Produced and Presented by GAle GAtes et al. DUMBO
December 1997 – Considered by many to be the production that put Michael Counts and GAle GAtes on the international Art/Theater “map”. In response to this production, the New York Times called Counts a “Mad Genius” and Art In America’s feature on Counts and the production called it “Power Theater.” This was the first of the large scale immersive “journey” productions that were produced in DUMBO by Counts/GAle GAtes et al and one of the best regarded and well known.
New York Times Review
Founding of GAle GAtes et al and the move to DUMBO, Brooklyn
April 1995 – August 2002 – Founded by Counts with his long time collaborator, Michelle Stern, in New York City to develop and produce Counts’ concept of immersive theater. Initially using empty office space in Manhattan’s Financial District, GAle GAtes produced two major works – 90 Degrees from an Equinox? Where are We? And Where are We Going? using the 65,000 sq/ft 51 st floor of 55 Water Street, followed by Wine-Blue-Open-Water during their 9 month residency at 67 Broad Street in partnership with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Following critical acclaim that the latter production garnered, Counts and the company made a presentation to the developers of the area of Brooklyn’s waterfront now known as DUMBO, in which they explained the value to real estate development that leading edge art, theater and entertainment could provide. This presentation lead to a partnership with Two Trees Developers and a six year residency at 37 Main Street, a 40,000 sq/ft ground floor retail space. GAle GAtes is credited by many as being the creative catalyst to the birth of DUMBO as one of the cultural and creative epicenters of New York City.
New York Times Feature
Academic Dissertation by Daniella Vinitski, PhD