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It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, but a new year is always a good time to reflect and to get back on all sorts of wagons. This year has been as turbulent as 2020 in many ways (I have Covid as I write this) but looking back on it all together, this has been one of the most challenging and productive years of my life. Writing this post is just as much for me to process and reflect as anything, but if you’re interested in what I’ve been up to this year, here it is!


WIZARDS AGAINST LIZARDS ONLINE


A huge thing that happened this year was developing and releasing online Wizards Against Lizards. This was a huge job for so many reasons; learning to build websites, hire actors and all sorts of unknowns. In my house on my own, with just my computer and some costumes to work with, I could put away all my hangups around my lack of conventional theatre training or any other ‘outsider’ anxieties, and just work with what I had; before I knew it I had a fully interactive, 90 minute, 1 woman show. Wizards received over 50 5* reviews and was reviewed really nicely by Hivemind, Room Escape Artist and No Proscenuim. It was co-opted by corporate agencies and played so many times, the largest was for an audience of over 200 Lizard hunters. I’m winding that side of things down now, keen to spend a bit of time in the ‘real’ world, but I’ll always be grateful for the confidence this experience gave me in my own creativity and resourcefulness.


ONLINE EXPERIENCES


This year I hosted many Jury Duty’s, Nonsense Olympics, Zoom Karaoke sessions, Digital taxi rides, Galactic Pub Quizzes and even some bingo in the metaverse, giving me a sense of purpose, a creative outlet and many laughs over various lockdowns. Another online event which contributed so much to this year was working on Rogue Beacon’s ARG ‘Pictures of Gwen’ which was a beautiful experience reimagining what an ARG storyline could be.


PILGRIMAGE FOR NATURE


I helped produce the amazing Jolie Booth’s Pilgrimage for Nature. A group of artists and performers walked from London to Glasgow for the COP26 - it was nice to do something towards climate activism as I don’t feel like I do as much as I could.


WIZARDS AGAINST LIZARDS IRL!


Festivals actually happened this year(!!!) and I was lucky enough to bring Wizards back to Shambino 2021, taking it immediately onto Camp Bliss Festival where I also organised a visit from the Postal Posse. The Wizards tour was a whirlwind of challenge, creativity, love and connection, I will never forget that month and what we made, it was crazy. I love my Wizard crew more than anything. Huge thanks to Morgan at Shambala and Anthony and Mark at Camp Bliss. Wizards is confirmed for Shambala 2022 and I can't wait.


SUPER NOTHING TV ONLINE AND LIVE AT BALTER


For the first part of the year, Super Nothing TV continued to be a major source of comfort, a creative outlet and a way to spend time with my friends until our last home stream in May (as everyone started to go out again). A curveball was when Balter Festival invited us to install our live TV studio at their festival. We streamed for 13 hours a day live, whatever weird thing we wanted to do happened; oil wrestling, themed DJ sets, auctions, Robot wars; genuinely whatever we wanted. There were so many unique problems to be solved and the learning curve was the steepest I’ve experienced. This was one of the most creative and outrageously fun things I have ever done, to see our lockdown idea born into something physical (and frankly, much bigger than any of us expected) was amazing and am so so grateful for that weekend! We are also confirmed for Balter 2022!


ABERGEM


This is where all of the things I learnt this year came together and starting pointing towards something really cool. I was called to work on a project called Abergem, as they saw my Lizards at Shambino and knew I had been working online too making interactive theatre. I was tasked with workshopping a lab of artists, taking all of their ideas together to create an interactive theatre game that would engage young people in Aberyswyth, rehearsing the performers and installing that game in less than a month in November. After festival season I wasn’t expecting such a big challenge again so quickly, but I had the time of my life getting this together! This was my first paid role as a director, the team was amazing, I made great friends and had so much fun! After this job I wasn't sure where to go next with things, but less than two weeks later I had another job interview lined up...


BOOMTOWN FAIR


Abergem is partnered with Boomtown and they brought my attention to the Street Venues Production Coordinator role going at the festival. I interviewed and got the job! This means that I am moving from Brighton to Bristol in just a couple of weeks. Although overwhelming to think about at times (it also means that I am retiring as Theatre lead of the Postal Posse venue which is VERY sad) it feels like everything I've done over the last few years has led up to this role and I cannot wait. I am so excited to be working to bring such a fantastical and world-renowned experience together in 2022. I have never worked on such a large scale project, mostly tinkering with my own grass roots productions, so to be part of a larger machine will be an amazing learning experience. I cannot wait to see what will happen, what I’ll learn and where it will lead me to next.


SIDE HUSTLES; SONDER MEDIA

Due to all the streaming and telly making from the start of lockdown, I got further into working as a video editor for media company, Sonder. This has been really fun and interesting, editing is super creative and weirdly calming. This year we produced tonnes of video including the London School of Economics festival and all the video coverage for Brighton Festival. We also live-streamed 2 corporate conferences, one for a week in Munich, none of which I’d have the first clue how to do if it wasn’t for lockdown and the last 2 years. I’m super grateful to Summer at Sonder for teaching me this skill which I can hopefully have a hand in for the rest of my working days.


RETIRING FROM TEACHING

The last important thing that happened this year was that I quit teaching after 10 years. All of my income is now freelance; this is huge. I enjoyed parts of teaching but my dopamine-driven brain feels so much more comfortable in project based work with tangible goals rather than the circular, repetitive rhythms of salaried teaching. I am really grateful for everything I learnt whilst teaching, leadership, structure, organisation, attention to detail and confidence. I also really miss being around teenagers, they have a life-force and creative passion I attempt to hold onto myself.


In summary it's been quite a ride! Looking forward to seeing what happens in 2022 and hopefully bringing you some strange and wonderful experiences.


Big love and Happy New Year xxx

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

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