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Welcome to another New Moon Transmissions, (usually) monthly reflections on my adventures in interactive theatre. There was no Transmission for January or February as I went into serious retreat to bring everything I've learnt this year together, to make my first online show, Wizards Against Lizards. This post gives a history of Wizards and explains how it ended up online.


Brighton Fringe

The cast of Wizards Against Lizards posing together on stage.

Wizards was first designed for Brighton Fringe in May 2019. Inspired by the development of the Boomtown storyline, Immersive shows happening at COLAB etc and online ARG's, I wanted to create something that sat on top of real life, existing in a public space, surrounding the audience - outside of a venue. The original vision was to make the audience suspect every person on the street of being 'in on it', and I'm happy to say the audience reported having this exact feeling every time it ran, to a point where it was almost uncomfortable. Perfect! Collaborating with a zine shop, a clothes shop, a wizarding shop, a pub, the local library, an adult learning centre, and a theatre, this version of Wizards was 5 hours long and dragged audiences all over Brighton hunting for clues and characters.

A group of 5 people with green face paint and black cloaks holding up a score card and smiling.

A large amount of the content was video, as QR codes and online clues played a large part in the gameplay. The group of artists who ran it with me spent hours waiting in locations and chasing audience members around. The game was not at all profitable, and a huge amount of time and effort for just 20 players at a time. We were all, and still are, extremely proud of it.


Shambala

2 actors with Lizard face prosthetics, green face paint and suits in a woodland at night
Summer Dean 2019

Wizards was subsequently invited to come to Shambala festival for August that same year. I got the invite via text in a car, and screamed so loudly that I nearly blew out my friends right ear (sorry Helen). I tweaked the story, swapping out all the Brighton locations for Shambala ones, removing online aspects and anything that would require a phone or internet. We erected a Wizards Shack in the centre of the enchanted woods, and from there, 2 wizards would send audience members Lizard-hunting.

A queue of people standing outside a wizard's shack adorned with signs such as 'wake up sheeple' and 'wizards unite'
Summer Dean 2019

This was one of the most stressful and beautiful weekends of my life. I was certainly in over my head, as the hugely enthusiastic Shambala audience flooded the game and broke it on the first day, causing constant last-minute re-designing decisions. We were expecting around 60 people to complete the whole game and make it to the final, secret ritual. We had over 200. I was hastily tying binliners round people's necks at the ritual, as we'd ran out of cloaks. It was hilarious.

A large group of people posing outside the Wizards Shack
Summer Dean 2019

I was hugely excited to be back at Shambala in 2020. With everything learnt in 2019 I had loads of ideas to make 2020 amazing. But then, of course, Covid put a hold on everything. It didn't occur to me to make an online version then, as I had no idea what was possible. So I just put a lid on the whole project.


Pivoting Online

At the start of lockdown, I didn't know how to stream and had never been anywhere near a conference call. It was hugely frustrating being cut off from any kind of audience. From then to now, I've been lucky enough to be able to link up with like-minded people all over the world to work out new possibilities, find unique opportunities, and sculpt out new visions. I've spent the last year pushing against creative limitations and learning a tonne of new stuff, especially about the digital world.

An actor playing a prisoner in a visiting room.

If it wasn't for signing up for the 'Cabin Fever' R&D and helping to develop Jury Duty, I don't think online Wizards would ever have happened. We found the unique opportunities with online shows, worked out everything possible you could do with Zoom, trialled different types of audience interaction online, and the game that was created is still being run every day. Regularly running Jury Duty taught me so much about online audiences, what works, what doesn't, how to keep people's attention, how to keep them feeling included. Again, there's a lot of pride in how this show turned out, and the sequel, The Inquest, is doing just as well.

Through working with Sofi Lee-Henson via the Co-Reality Collective we trialled different sorts of interactive theatrical ideas, with many of these mini-show/party room ideas being sucked into the corporate Christmas party vortex via Sparkle and HireSpace, which paid everyone's rent for the next couple of months. I spent December performing online as a karaoke host, a London cabbie, and lastly, impersonating Queen Elizabeth II for USA audiences (possibly one of the weirdest experiences of my life).

Along side this, running Super Nothing TV was teaching me how to edit video better, funnier, and quicker, how to live stream with broadcasting software, and was also a great testing ground for finding out what people wanted out of interactive online shows. It should have been obvious, but as audiences in lockdown are isolated, they want to feel connected, with space to interact, and they want their contributions to make a difference to what happens. I love doing that with the Super Nothing Crew, I'm very grateful to have them in my life.


Designing Online Wizards

So after the Christmas vortex, I turned back to Wizards Against Lizards. This was a lengthy and painful process which took place over 2 months. As we were in real lockdown again in the UK, I could not work with many of the artists who'd worked on it before, and I had to perform multiple characters myself. I struggled with Wordpress and OBS and making engaging narrative structures that would translate properly online with appropriate puzzles, luckily with help from some of the best people in ARG and interactive theatre, most of whom I'd met this year and only ever online. My housemates agreed to be filmed as Lizards, and the performance experience via Co Reality and Super Nothing gave me the push to perform characters, I've never performed in Wizards before myself.


I had no idea how it would be received, having been in a hole, creating mostly alone, for 8 weeks. It's a lot stranger than Jury Duty, the humour is surreal and dark, there's a lot of political stuff; it's certainly not for everyone. Performing the first few shows, I was shaking every single time and almost stopped doing them altogether as the anxiety, coupled with lockdown isolation and winter, almost got too much.


I did manage to keep doing them, and Wizards has been running for 3 weekends now. At last count, it has 100% 5* reviews on Design My Night, 25 reviews so far. Thanks to Shambala posting about it on their page, and me trying to learn about digital marketing (SLOW PROCESS!) it has actually sold tickets! This has been amazing to watch and I honestly can't believe it's been so well received. I do feel like I could have started work on this earlier, as I've managed to get it out just as we all prepare to walk back into the sun. But without the learning from the year just gone, I don't think I would have been able to make something nearly as good, so I'll take what I can get from it before we all move on.


If you want to play Wizards, I'll be running public games regularly for a little while longer, but will book private parties, for whenever anyone wants one, pretty much indefinitely. You can check it out here.


This blog post has been as much for me as for anyone reading, to make sense of what on earth has been happening, and make a record. It's been an unbelievable year of amazing things and horrific things, so much has changed and I've learnt so much, but its so separated from the rest of my life, I'm honestly scared I won't remember it. Saying this, I don't think my world, or the art world, will ever be the same. I'm expecting some next-level hybrid shows in the coming years with everything artists have had to learn.


If you got this far through the article, I hope it was as interesting for you as it's been for me. If you make similar stuff, or you have an ambition to do so, please so drop me a message, I really, really like talking about it.


See you in a field somewhere soon!


Megan x

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

Welcome to the second instalment of New Moon Transmissions; a monthly reflection on what I've been up to in the immersive/online events world.


Online experiences are evolving at an incredible speed, on creative, technological and conceptual levels. It's been hugely inspiring to see the lengths humans will go to be able to share a laugh with each other, or to feel inspired, or both! Being close to this impulse has kept me going this year, I hope it can bring similar magical moments to you too, which is why I put all of my activities on this blog...


Jury Duty Sequel


Jury Duty has now been played over 250 times, so it was about time a sequel was designed. I was thrilled to be invited to a weeks R&D to help develop The Inquest, a new storyline following the death of a student named Scott Davies. Some really cool tricks in this one, I was most interested in ways the theatrical game could 'leak' into real life. Book tickets at jurygames.com. If you haven't played the original Jury Duty I highly recommend it, not just because I'm hosting!


New BuckBuck Game

BuckBuck make beautifully silly and uplifting theatrical games and as far as transitioning online has gone, they have really nailed it. I have been too busy to actually host a game for them yet (which is very sad as they are super fun!) but I've spent the last week tinkering with tech to add extra dimensions of delight to their new game - White Rabbits Hole. Check it out here.


SuperNothing TV Buyout

The Super Nothing Amazing Channel - the interactive nonsense channel I've been running since April with pals from Boomtown's Job Centre and Postal Posse - had a Black Friday special live stream this month. This somehow culminated in the channel itself being bought out by some sort of corporate character played by the actual Alexei Sayle, which was nice. We are called Super Nothing TV. This project is the one where we do whatever we want without limits, so it's very special to me. Follow us on Twitch here. We're also on Facebook and Instagram.


An IRL Pilgrimage Performance?!

Incredible theatre maker, writer and witch Jolie Booth is walking from London to Glasgow in Autumn 2021, bringing a troupe of pilgrims with her. Whatever inspires them on the way will form a performance at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. I'm overjoyed to be coming on board to help produce the walk, and will be walking the full 500 miles (da-da da-da!) Do you want to come with us? Fill in this form!


Channel 0 at V-Com 2020


One of the funnest shows this month was Channel 0 - a monthly arty party from The Rose Hill in Brighton, UK. This party was part of V-Com, the virtual decompression party for virtual Burning Man, which saw online parties from spaces all over the world happening art the same time. We had appearances from Puppet Alan Watts, an interview with amazing photographer Eugene Ankomah, and the weirdest music video I've ever seen from Chewy She. The next party is the 19th of December and as soon as there is an event I will link it here.


Vibes for 9 to 5's

The Financial Times posted this article about the boom of online office Christmas events... and they're not wrong - my usual work has been pretty much steam-rolled by the weight of demand for these experiences. I'm amazed at Sparkle.space who since forming in the spring have not only been throwing experiences for literally thousands of revellers at a time, they've also incorporated some pretty off-the-wall ideas and taken creative risks which have really paid off; their parties are some of the most memorable out there.


Amazing People Awards

Shout out to creative director and artist Sofi Lee Henson of XNN.systems, doing amazing work to make online parties real. We've worked on a lot OF stuff together this last month including online Karaoke bars, online taxi experiences and a fun Nonsense Olympics game which we'll make available as soon as I have time to get it up online! She also has the coolest personal website in the world (go on, click this!)


Final thing is that I'm working on the website for my new theatre company - Cosmic Joke - so keep an eye out for that if you like what I do. I think that's all from me! Until next new moon !

xxx

So much happening in the world of online events right now! As I take stock of everything on the new moon, I'll share what's happening with you at the same time.


Stuff I'm working on...

Jury Games

As lockdowns continue to ripple across the globe, online experiences are still in demand and Jury Duty - the theatrical game I helped design back in April - continues to run. With a tonne of 5 star reviews and a fully interactive story controlled by the audience, I'm really proud of this one. Tickets available here. I have returned to the game to host some of the performances, so maybe see you there! Keep an eye out for Jury Duty 2 which we are currently developing.


BuckBuck

If playing judge, jury and executioner seems a bit heavy for now, check out Buck Buck, my favourite silly people in the digital field. I'm coming on board to host BantzQuest; the Dungeons and Dragons/lads night out hybrid (I'm especially excited as this was designed by the man behind Boomtown's Mr Bliss). I'm developing a new nonsense Olympics game for them now which I tested last week - watch this space for that!

Check out all their games here.


Super Nothing Amazing Channel

...or SNAC for short, is the channel I set up with other members of Boomtown's Postal Posse and Job Centre, during the darkest days of lockdown. Every month, we've been broadcasting a mix of live interactive weirdness, high-concept DJ sets and surreal video content live on Twitch. Our next stream is a Black Friday, Everything Must Go special, where everything will be up for sale, including the channel! Info on the next event here.

(This is a DIY community channel, if you want to contribute please email info@snac.tv.)


In Place Of War

Very pleased to be working as streaming wizard for the IPOW Change Maker Summit. Check out all the events here, and come to some, they are free and hugely inspiring!


HireSpace

I've been working with HireSpace to provide fun, magic and mayhem for their events, designing virtual karaoke bars, haunted waiting rooms (for Halloween, of course) and other such oddities. If you're looking for an epic experience for your staff, check them out here.


Other Cool Stuff


Co.Reality Parties

I've been having an excellent time with the Co.Reality Collective, the Sparkly online universe responsible for the first Zoom parties of Lockdown. They've come a long way from the lo-fi but well loved disco's back in March, and are now putting on huge online events with multiple rooms all over maps of fantastical imaginary landscapes. Fancy a hot tub party from the comfort of your own bath? Or maybe a go in the karaoke booth? Check them out, they do parties every month.


ARG? OMG

If you're into playing the long game when escaping reality, there's a huge durational alternate reality game kicking off in Instagram. From the team that developed the Boomtown Storyline, Pictures of Gwen is looking to something extra-magic. Taking a new tact from classic ARGs (as much as I love a murder mystery) Pictures of Gwen promises to feature zero violence. Check it out here.


If you're interested in any of these projects, want to get involved, or just chat through the how's, where's and why's of online event stuff, drop me an email


Happy New Moon everyone, keep on making the best of murky times <3


Megan xxx

#immersive #arg #theatre #immersivegames #zoomparty #zoomtheatre