Archive for July, 2013

Other Ten Percent 7/17/13

Jul 17 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

Woooo TV club…that’s my excuse for not doing a lot more commentary on this stuff. Continue Reading »

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Other Ten Percent 7/16/13

Jul 16 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

So, once again, I have no correspondence to share with you. I kinda got totally off-track on that one last week. So instead I’m going to kinda ramble and hope I come across something worth talking about which always goes oh so well for us here. I’m sticking off the generally awfulness of the news from this weekend because it’s just sort of too miserable to discuss in OTP and because people have already done a much better job explaining why I’m so disgusted than I would likely ever do.

I weirdly don’t have a lot to say though for a couple different reasons. The first is that a lot of my headspace lately is taken up writing the fiction I wander off to write on M/W/F these days and that ends up being where what few good ideas I have during the week end up going instead. You can rest assured the 1500 insufferable words I was going to write about Hannibal made for a really great joke for Annie in my Community script. I’m not sure this is a problem that’s really solvable and I think actually the letters back and forth with people is a good way to get decent insight into OTP without me pulling double duty, I just need to figure out a format for those insights that doesn’t force you guys to slog through so much writing each time.

The second is that Feedly, the Google Reader alternative I choose since it could be automated in much the same way to ensure there wouldn’t be a gap in OTP content, is kinda annoying to use and so I don’t really keep up with news via RSS nearly as much anymore. I basically open Feedly to write OTP and that’s it. So instead of being ambiently aware of the state of the internet I just kinda go “oh hey that’s cool” and send it out to all of you. This is a problem I’d like to figure out how to solve but most of my current solutions involve adding 10 or so hours to my weekly schedule I just don’t have so it’s kinda been back-burnered.

The last one is that the weather kinda sucks so I find myself staring off into space for long periods of time. Wait, sorry, what was I saying? Was I even talking about Pacific Rim yet?

No? Jesus. So I saw the giant robot vs. giant monsters movie and I liked it a great deal. The AV Club review was kinda dismissive of it for not really doing anything but competently producing a giant robots vs. giant monsters movie in a way that kinda ticked me off for downplaying the degree of difficulty there (if that’s so easy why can I literally not think of a single example of it in my lifetime). There’s no denying though that we’re playing with the stock characters and story-lines from the genre fiction toolbox here. There’s a broken pilot who used to be the best of the best. A recruit who’s untested but has amazing potential. And a tough as nails commander that, secretly, cares TOO MUCH. Sorry for that last spoiler. You might have made it three scenes before figuring that one out.

None of that stopped me from liking the film but I’ve kinda struggled to articulate exactly why. The obvious argument of course is that the movie is there for the enjoyment of the audience and it’s just kind of a fun action film there to delight you with its ridiculousness and certainly I do think there’s something largely undervalued in just connecting with your audience.

I can also argue that the film is structurally more clever than it appears on first glance. The whole thing gets its exposition out of the way in, effectively, flashback in the first three minutes and the result is a film that has the structure of a sequel that lets you occasionally read the contents of a first movie that never actually existed. I still don’t think that quite gets to why I want to defend it despite the characterization though.

I’ve read about an earlier draft of the film that added a lot of complexity to the human relationships in the film and also made the monsters a lot more alien and popular consensus seems to be that the movie should have gone with that instead. But I actually think there’s something about trying to make a world that’s this much of an artificial genre construct feel inhabited that I find more admirable than marrying the ridiculousness of a giant robot with the conventions of an “intelligent blockbuster” which, as near as I can tell, means you do psychological character work as much as possible between fight scenes.

Don’t get me wrong, I like human connection in a film and I obviously think without any sort of way to relate to character drama loses a lot of its intensity, but I do think that alternating between the psychological and the physical is actually a crutch that gets you out of a basic truth of genre storytelling: externalizing the psychological is actually really really hard.

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Other Ten Percent 7/15/13

Jul 15 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

Guys, I’m kinda depressed. As Jane mentioned to me earlier today: why does depressing shit keep happening on the weekends lately? Continue Reading »

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Other Ten Percent 7/12/13

Jul 12 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

Man, I gotta figure out a way to get my tuesdays and thursdays as productive as my M/W/F schedule because I did like NOTHING after 11am today. I did find these links for you guys though.

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Other Ten Percent 7/11/13

Jul 11 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

So this would be a correspondence day but I don’t have any correspondence to post really. Luckily I gave myself an out earlier by saying this was for correspondence OR OTHER EXPERIMENTS. So today let’s talk about just one link that I read over the long weekend vacation I took with Nikki. Let’s talk about just the one link both because I think it’s super interesting and because it’s like 20,000 words long at it just seems mean-spirited to give you anything else to read. It’s Filk Critic Hulk’s Man of Steel review. Continue Reading »

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Other Ten Percent 7/10/13

Jul 10 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

I was going to toss this stuff for an in depth look at one link in particular but I think that’s going to have to wait for tomorrow which is probably for the best since I’m running low on correspondance at the moment. On a related note if anybody has a topic they would like to start discussing with me then BOY would that save me some time.

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Other Ten Percent 7/9/13

Jul 09 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

Welp, this one got long so I’m shutting up and getting to it.


-From Suzan

on to Immersive Art Piece 2!

There’s this piece called Then She Fell that is immersive / interactive Alice in Wonderland/Looking Glass that’s been getting rave reviews and a huge amount of attention. I first heard of it through Russ and then they were in talks to do it at MFb before they found another more suitable option, and I’ve meant to go for awhile, but the price point is pretty high ($125.00 for the prime time shows) because, get this, they only have 15 spots per night. This solves a lot of my issues that I had with the 3rd time I went to Sleep No More (and the last time, which was Sunday), and it also brought up for me some other issues I had with SNM having 2,000+ people per night that I hadn’t thought about.

First of all, when you only have 15 people, the audience doesn’t ever overwhelm the piece. When I went to SNM on Sunday, I realized that it wasn’t just that I could never be alone with a room or with a scene, it was that, even with the masks, the sheer number of audience members became what I was looking at instead of what was happening around me. This may only be a problem for those of us who have been a bunch of times, but it definitely was a problem for me.

Anyway, TSF is a major accomplishment in terms of structure, and while I wasn’t crazy about it, content-wise (if I never see “We’re walking up the walls and draping our arms over the furniture” movement theater OR the integration of the Alice stories with the real life falling out between the Liddell family and Charles Dodgson over something most probably smacking of inappropriateness with Alice Liddell it will be too soon), I couldn’t help but admire how tightly the whole experience was crafted. For instance, we were directed out of the waiting room of the old psychiatric hospital space in 1s and 2s, and as I had gone alone, I was directed to a room to go with one of the 2 Alices.

Wait, let me back up… The whole thing starts with the head doctor giving you the 2 rules:

1. Do not speak unless spoken to.
2. You are free to look around all of the rooms and pick up and touch anything, but do not open any closed doors.

Then he talks about, of all things, liminality (there’s that whole place thing again!), as pairs and singles are taken one at a time out of the room and directed toward various nurses, characters, and caretakers.

When Alice 1 took me into a room that was set up like a girl’s sort of walk-in closet with dolls and clothes and a mirror, she brushed her hair and talked to me and asked me questions about things, and then she took a letter, ripped it into six pieces, and shoved a piece of it in my hand. Smartly, I kept the piece on me for the rest of the show. Over an HOUR LATER, after I’d been through probably six different scenarios, some by myself with actors, some with 1-4 other audience members, I was taken by the other Alice into a room that was filled with student desks bolted together at odd angles to form a sculpture from floor to ceiling, and Alice 2 asked if she could show me something, after she sat me in a tiny chair at one of the desks. Crawling along and through the desks, she pulled out 5 pieces of paper from the various desks… And lo and behold, they were the pieces of my letter.

While it’s not the most impossible feat of all time, I still think it’s amazing that there was a specific path that I was put on and that, even when I was in a room with many other people, I was then taken out to be set on the next step to ending up in that room with that letter. I really cannot speak highly enough of how they coordinated the experience to be really specific and for there to be a specific narrative for me within the larger narrative of the piece.

There weren’t enough “things” in the various places of the room to make it really worthwhile when I was stuck in a room by myself to explore– the hospital admission forms and various pieces of literature or information were nice touches, I guess, but there was no great secret to unlock. It was definitely much more about the performances as the main means to tell the story and the different places were good sets, but they were just that… Settings, not “real” places. Which, honestly, had I felt more compelled by the content of the piece, wouldn’t have mattered at all. There weren’t gaps in the settings– it just wasn’t so “stuff-y” as to give me something else to interact with when I didn’t feel like watching the entirely too close to Lolita stuff in the movement pieces.

I absolutely, despite all of that, would be interested in going back, but only if I could somehow insure that my path would be different… This is one of my major issues with SNM, too, though I think this works for 75% of the people who go… You take the ride hoping for something new, a one on one or being picked for the 6th floor, but without that guarantee, without being able to say, “Look, I’ve had Situation A and I don’t care if I get Situation B or D or G or whatever, I just want something NEW” I just don’t have the patience, attention, or, indeed, the cash, to keep going back and hoping.

But what this has to do with Dance Party at the End of the World… You were always so good about setting up the characters and the situations and the relationships, but perhaps now there is something you can do as far as the places are concerned… It doesn’t even have to be all that difficult or specific, but something like, “Lady X is something of a nervous drinker” so when shit goes crazy she ends up at the bar or “Mr. Y is a dance floor fanatic” so that’s where he “naturally” ends up. There are probably ways that you can incorporate character traits into the space that you’re creating to make those characters actually bring those places to life and imbue them with the specific spirit you’d like them to have, in addition to using decorations… Because in this case, the rooms were really defined by the characters who inhabited them MORE than the simple decorations.


-From David

So I continue to be fonder of the full of people Sleep No More than you are. We’ve talked a lot about how I actually find watching how they handle issues of scaling interesting because I don’t actually think I’ve lost anything by not getting to go to the idyllic version of the show where every object costs $500 because Gossip Girl hasn’t started filming here yet and so people didn’t drop shit constantly.

In fact, and maybe this is just the “jesus I don’t have $125 to spend on immersive theater” talking but I am not sure you’ve won me over on Then She Fell. I mean it sounds cool but what I thought ever since I first heard about it was “boy, they sure are putting a lot of their time and energy into the feeling of exclusivity which I could honestly give a fuck about.” Like, I sort of feel like I have a good enough map of how this goes down in my head from your description that I’d rather just do my bank account a favor and go “oh yeah yeah, I saw that.” When some asshole starts talking up how plugged in to New York theater they are at a party.

See, I actually think your second problem with Sleep No More is solved by your first problem. There is no lack of content preciesly BECAUSE you’re watching the audience. I kinda don’t give a shit about the one on ones, I’ve heard about most of the interesting ones by now and I’m never going to top the people that like get engagement rings for Neil Patrick Harris who’s hiding behind a secret door and shit so who cares? I go to meta-game at this point. I go BECAUSE I watch the crowd, or more accurately because I subtly mess with things I’ve subtly messed with in the past and watch other people react.

The first time I ever went to Sleep No More I planted myself down behind the candy counter and just started giving people candy for about 20 minutes and after a while people started asking me (in defiance of the no speaking rule!) if I worked there at which point I just shook my head no and walked off. Now I sit around testing out the typewriter and leaving books open to random creepy pages and just generally screw with the place to make it subtly different than it usually is and then I watch people for a few minutes and move on to something else.

I don’t want immersive theater I want emergent theater that creates the conditions for me to have an interesting experience and then lets me do what I want. And to me the key ingredient of that at Sleep No More isn’t the stuff I’m interacting with really or the actors, those are just tools, necessary conditions, and I don’t care if the fidelity on them is a little lower than it once was (I’m contractually obligated to start talking about Sleep No More in game design terms whenever I discuss it now). its the rest of the audience that makes it for me. I want to try what they’re trying, to show people secret passages or hand people a letter from two floors down and point to the staircase.

Which is why I don’t care about a bespoke experience show for just 15 people that’s “about the secrets.” Sure the first few times I go it’ll be cool but eventually I’ll run out of content. All that show did is make it take longer to notice the trick by making it harder to get in and then literally gating you out of seeing most of the show each time. There are no secrets really, there’s just another 15 people that got charged a hundred bucks to get a guaranteed Sleep No More one-on-one. Secrets are for suckers and M Night Shyamalan.

That’s why I wish the high-tech stuff Sleep No More was working on with MIT had less to do with cool looking AR experiences that add a new layer of secrets and more with letting people outside the show interact with people inside of it. I’d pay a lot of money to have acces to basically just a chat room that physically shows up in the space somehow. A haunted typewriter or a series of hand delivered notes and responses with a random audience member that are then relayed to somebody back stage. I’d pay to be the spooky action at a distance in a Sleep No More performance.

Anyway, what I’m actually realizing from this conversation in terms of DPatEotW is that place is a mostly mental concept that can be created in any number of ways and I’ve kinda got it on lock in terms of this party. In fact if my parties suffer from anything it’s with an all consuming obsession with place that kinda ignores issues with space to the point that the actual physical party as it exists in the real world sorta sucks. So really what I need is ways to address space with a very limited toolset because as cool as “you gravitate to the bar, you gravitate toward the dance floor” sounds in theory the bar and the dance floor are 4 feet from each other. What I need are more ways to create the atmosphere that gets people doing that stuff emergently. Look at me, bringing it back.

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Other Ten Percent 7/8/13

Jul 08 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

Nikki and I are on a fun anniversary vacation weekend to Hearst Castle so today’s entry is going to be even lazier than your usual M/W/F entry. Prepare for links! Continue Reading »

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Other Ten Percent 7/5/13

Jul 05 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

Alright then. Here’s a number of links but the interesting things are two sketches that Nikki and I recorded that you can find here and here. Also. Here are the links. Continue Reading »

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Other Ten Percent 7/4/13

Jul 04 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

Happy July 4th everybody! Let’s celebrate America’s independence the way it was meant to be celebrated: by discussing at length an immersive theater piece that has some really icky sexual stuff going on on it apparently! That was Benjamin Franklin’s thing right? What was up with that guy? He was weird. Continue Reading »

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