Notes on the black box scenario Inside myself, outside myself

This is a short talk on a black box larp that I gave at Larpwriter Summer School in Lithuania. The text is more precise than the video…

I will present a scenario played at the festival Black Box Copenhagen in 2014. The project was initiated by Nina Runa Essendrop and Marie Holm-Andersen under the poetic but generic title Inside myself, outside myself.  This larp is not presented because it had a fancy location or visual appeal, quite the opposite. It was just people in a black box. So I have no pictures from the larp.

Nina and Marie gathered a dozen of larp writers and performance artists to create a new and playable scenario for the black box festival audience among who most were larpers, but some were not. There were many challenges in this venture, like how to come up with ideas, share them and weed out stuff? The biggest problem might have been this: how to conceive a scenario to a random number of participants, making them ready to play it and letting them play it, within a 2 hour time frame.

mario

A general rule of participation design is that the audience, the participants, must know the rules and the premiss of the scenario in order to engage with it. Otherwise you run the risk that they default to passive observers. I’ve seen it happen a lot of times. Now, there are obviously other approaches. Some of them apparent in computer game design. When you start playing Super Mario there is no explanation for where to go and how survive. You learn the rules of the game by playing it and exploring the boundaries and the possibilities of interacting with the game is a part of the enjoyment and possibly also a key part of the aesthetic experience.

One participant in Inside myself, outside myself, Simon James Pettitt, later wrote in a game report that he had expected an introduction or a workshop starting things off, but there were none. So how did it start? Well when the participants entered the black box the designers, now performers, were spread out in the room frozen in different sculptural positions. The participants roamed around in the room and looked at the ”sculptures”.

I think there are two things to learn from the design of the scenario. The first thing being the game design concept ”call for action” the second thing would be the idea of emergence – how patterns, movements, situations can emerge from some simple rules.

To simplify we set up 3 acts for the scenario. In the first act the sculptures functioned as ”calls for action”. Every sculpture worked as a kind of puzzle. The participants soon realized that the sculptures could come alive, become animated, if you approached it in the right way. So for example my position was kneeling, holding an invisible object in front of me. I could only be activated if someone put their shoe between my hands. Then I would untie the shoe and take it off. This was the only thing I could do in act 1. So eventually all the sculptures were unlocked by the participants and some of the simple tasks they carried out created chain reactions, so all the shoes ended up in a proper line and so on. The mixing desk communication style fader was definitely physical rather than verbal.

I don’t know if a less game oriented audience would have unlocked the sculptures. They might have. I think only play testing can answer such uncertainties.

The second and third act of the scenario worked through emergence. Emergence is something that happens when a collective of actors or objects follow a small set of rules from which a complicated or unforeseen situation or pattern appears. In the second act the sculptures turned into something closer to machines or robots and they could learn from the participants by copying their actions, what they said, how they behaved. That created some bizarre feedback loops where everything that happened echoed around the room. In the third act the intelligence of the machines were updated a second time and they could start to teach the participants what they knew. These small guidelines generated a lot of interaction and produced some kind of aesthetic consistency although the scenario turned out generally chaotic. Simon describes it as a ”strange living machine” in his game report.

Hopefully this case study of Inside myself, outside myself can give some hints on what is possible to do with small means on a short notice. To sum it up the scenario used calls for action as a means to teach an unknowing, uninformed audience about how to engage with the scenario. It continued to create interaction by simple rules – such as ”you can repeat what you see or hear”. Different situations emerged from these rules.

JOIN – The Rhythm of a Joint Venture

I föreställningen JOIN får du chans att göra ett besök på Corpus, ett företag i den globala ekonomins absoluta framkant. Corpus är ett nätverk av medarbetare som reser över världen i olika ärenden – det finns inga fasta yrkesroller, bara tillfälliga uppdrag. Nya arbetsgrupper sätts samman och bryts upp i ett högt tempo: switch, ny projektledare, switch, ny uppgift, switch, ett nytt liv.

JOIN är en interaktiv upplevelse där publiken deltar. Som medverkande tar du plats som “nyanställd” på Corpus. Du genomgår introduktionen till hur företaget fungerar, i bl.a. möten med anställda och i olika spel.

JOIN är ett samarbete mellan Teater InSite, som gör teater utifrån ett platsutforskande perspektiv där gränsen mellan scenrum och publik bryts ner, och Nyxxx, som bjuder in publiken till olika sociala och lekfulla situationer. Med avstamp i klassiska dystopier som Du sköna nya värld, 1984 och Kallocain har de skapat en helt ny berättelse, som utifrån stämningar i vår samtid kastar sig in i framtiden.

Föreställningen spelas på svenska, engelska och danska. The performance is in Swedish, English and Danish.

The challenge chose you, JOIN

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Speldatum Bastionen, Malmö

  • Premiär fredag den 21 augusti 2015.
  • Söndag 23 augusti kl 19.00
  • Onsdag 26 augusti kl 19.00
  • Torsdag 27 augusti kl 19.00
  • Fredag 28 augusti kl 19.00
  • Lördag 29 augusti kl 19.00
  • Onsdag 2 september kl 19.00
  • Torsdag 3 september kl 19.00
  • Fredag 4 september kl 19.00
  • Söndag 6 september kl 19.00

På Turné

  • Lördag 12 september kl 19.00 Lund, Stenkrossen
  • Fredag 18 september kl 19.30 Simrishamn, Valfisken
  • Tisdag 22 september kl 19.30 Kristianstad, Kulturkvarterets Lilla salen
  • Lördag 26 september kl 18.00 Ängelholm, Biblioteket hörsalen

Speltid: 90 minuter

KÖP BILJETTER

AV: Ebba Petrén, Gabriel Widing, Matthias Hahne Thorbjörnsson
REGI: Ebba Petrén
SPELDESIGN: Gabriel Widing
LJUDDESIGN: Jonas Åkesson
LJUSDESIGN, RUM: Ilkka Häikiö
MEDVERKANDE: Matthias Hahne Thorbjörnsson, Liv Vesterskov, Märta Lundin, Thom Kiraly

Avatar vs Human – a short avatar scenario to play at home or elsewhere

avatar-vs-humanI’m happy to share this short scenario with you. It was written by me and Ebba Petrén at PAF last summer. You can play it with two people or in front of a smaller audience. The participants should not listen to the track on beforehand.

You need

• 2 voluntary participants.
• A pair of headphones with the Mp3-file.
• A table
• 2 chairs
• 2 windows that can be opened, it’s nice but not necessary if there is a view.

Take it off

To begin, one of the two players starts the mp3-track and put the headphones on. The other player start by observing the avatar. Both players starts standing up. When you put on the headphones you are the avatar, follow the instructions and take no other initiatives. When you don’t wear headphones you try to communicate with the avatar by responding to it as if you are having a chat with that person for the first time.

Description

The avatar asks something demanding, something the human finds hard and personal to answer. The avatar says “You will have the opporutnity to be an avatar. And I will become human. When I raise my hand you can take my headphones and become the avatar”. It raises the hand. The new avatar comes out, “the avatar of a human spirit”, and opens a window saluting the fresh air. Next avatar is “the avatar of the real” trying to jump out of the window. Human has to stop it. More avatars follow, with other agendas.

Some feedback

“It’s like having a child or a pet in your room when you’re trying to work. You have to take notice and care for it. And it will for sure use its voice to communicate!”

Background

We’ve presented this scenario at PAF Performing arts forum in St Erme, 2012, at the 14th Symposium of the International Brecht Society in Porto Alegre, 2013 and at Scenkonstbiennalen in Jönköping, 2013. We are looking forward to hear where it will be played next and how you experience it!

Documentation

Video from a session at a room in Master Express Grande Hotel, Porto Alegre, May 2013. On screen: Ester Claesson and John Hanse. Spoiler warning!

Drömdykarna på Elverket

Har du känt att drömmar kan vara lika verkliga som den vanliga världen? Det är inte så konstigt – det är nämligen sant! Fråga bara forskaren Eva Dockhaus, vars nya fantastiska uppfinning gör det möjligt att gå in i en sovande människas drömmar. Det är spännande och annorlunda, men inte alls farligt.

Unga Dramaten/Elverket har byggts om till ett drömforskningscentrum. Där kan du träffa doktor Dockhaus och själv dyka in i testpersonen Milos drömvärldar. Men vem är det som dyker upp i Milos drömmar gång på gång? Följ med på en resa fylld med roliga uppdrag och möten.

Drömdykarna handlar om drömmar, nyfikenhet och vänskap. Besökarna rör sig mellan olika rum, bjuds in att delta i spel och får individuella instruktioner via hörlurar under stora delar av föreställningen. Drömdykarna riktar sig till deltagare i åldrarna 10 till 12 år.

NYXXX: TOVA GERGE, EBBA PETRÉN*, ALBIN WERLE, GABRIEL WIDING

Med David Book, Eva Melander, Eric Stern och publiken
Text, regi, scenografi, ljud, kostym och speldesign NYXXX
Ljus Kerstin Weimers**
Peruk och mask Veronica Liljeblad

Urpremiär 15 mars Unga Dramaten / Elverket

Köp biljetter

*Gör projektet inom ramen för masterprogrammet vid Teaterhögskolan i Malmö.
** Praktikant från StDH

2 filmklipp från Avatarvaro

Petter Karlsson gjorde ett litet Youtube-reportage från genrepet av föreställningen som ni kan se här. Jag och Ebba försöker kommunicera något om vad det handlar om.

Även Crowdculture, som vi fick stöd från, har gjort en liten filmpresentation där jag pratar lite om projektet. De flesta av klippen är från speltest då scenografin inte var klar tyvärr.

Avatarvaro – game test video documentation

The avatar figure derives from hindu gods taking human or animal shape to run errands on earth. In the digital communities of the 90:s the concept was reversed – the participants were represented by digital characters on screen, putting people in the former positions of the gods. This project is about the avatar condition, being possesed by an outer force, voice or possibly a system. The avatar is already inherent in the hierarchical mind-body distinction. The mind is already an alien presence in the body, telling it what to do. The Avatar Condition aims to externalise that process of loosing and taking control of the body-turning-machine.

The Avatar Condition is so far an artistic research project and it has not found a proper, presentable and public form yet. What we do at this point is to try out different modes, atmospheres, instructions and stories. There is no passive-spectating audience in this process. Everyone becomes involved in an unfolding story on control, desire and choice.

The Avatar Condition is a proposal developed by Ebba Petrén based in Malmö, who recently organized a festival on participation and theatre and Gabriel Widing, game desiger, based in Stockholm. Together we have produced black-box role-playing scenarios in different contexts and our interest remains in the potentials of combining games, play, theatre and performance practices. Avatar workshops and game tests has previously been organized in Stockholm, Västerås, Malmö and Copenhagen.

Stans Dans

I participated in a series of street performances doing contact improvisation in Stockholm, organised by Avart Dans & Rörelse.

Stans Dans kan dyka upp i samband med tema dagar, utställningar, events, invigningar, mässor och happenings i olika slags miljöer. Som en del av ett större sammanhang, eller bara som ett överraskande moment t ex under rusningstid. Väder spelar ingen roll, vi dyker upp under alla årstider.

4-6 dansare samt ev musiker bygger upp strukturer för dansinstallationer och performances utifrån rådande platser bland människor i stads- och förortsmiljö.