My first interactive show, ‘Frequency’, was a sci-fi adventure that took small groups through the streets of Wellington. My goal for audience experience for that show was to bond them as a group and encourage them to be bold – to the point that, towards the end of the show, they’d tie a performer to a chair. When I explained this to people before the season began, they’d look sceptical/confused: "And then you expect the audience will tie the performer to the chair?” But they totally did! Every night! You rock, Frequency audiences!
I really enjoyed coming up with ideas that would encourage my audiences to be bolder (in fact the tagline for the show was: “Are you bold enough?”). And I felt all protective of them, like a mother hen encouraging her chicks to venture out into the world.
I think I assumed that that was going to be my default approach for interactive shows. But while writing this new one, I’ve started to realise that this time I want a different effect. I’m starting to think each show is going to have its own specific goal in terms of audience experience/behaviour. Which is kind of nice. And will keep me exploring and discovering new things.
This show – working title “Jane Eyre’s House” – is in a contained (i.e. indoor) environment. There isn’t the thrill of walking through the streets, knowing the next beat of the adventure could come from anyone or anything around you. So I’ve been really feeling the pressure to come up with something as exciting. But, of course, in a different way. I’m going to make the most of the controlled environment by carefully curating their experience and using some magical technological effects I wouldn’t be able to use in the street.
The purpose of this show has been revealing itself to me as I’ve worked on it. This time, I’m going for a more interior, meditative experience. I want to lull people into an open, imaginative (right brain) dream state. Putting the left brain to sleep while the right brain (the intuitive side) comes out to play.
Which means, partly, being very careful to restrict or remove any logic puzzles that would wake the left brain. Also, restricting group activity, so people can sink deeper into the meditative thing. These are both choices I’m making intuitively. At some point I’ll need to talk to a psychologist about this for more tips on accessing the right brain.
The base mood/feeling I’m going for throughout the show is eerie/uncanny. I’m planning to use specific sound effects to help with that (sound waves that can induce unease/fear in some people). And, of course, traditional sound effects/music. And I’ll be exploring other ways to use technology to affect experience/emotion.
There must, for example, be some kind of theory about lighting effects – the effect of lighting effects (sorry) – on human perception/experience. I’m not sure even what kind of psychologist to talk to about this. (Okay, betraying that I haven’t actually talked to any psychologists yet).
It’s actually a lot of fun realising I have a whole lot more tools at my disposal than I had when I was writing screenplays. A whole lot of tools that, hopefully, nobody else has thought to use in the particular ways I’m going to use them. I don’t believe in ‘originality’ as being as important as it’s cracked up to be in works of art (it’s better to be good), but still, it’d be a buzz to be first!