The production diary is a little bit behind, but there's good reason. We had a fantastic time at PAX, then returned to have every free minute devoured by the workshop of the theater part of this multimedia adventure. But I'll get to that in a moment. I wanted to back up a little bit and talk about where this project came from. I will stick to practical matters and not any pretentious bouts of inspiration, because that stuff is boring. Everyone has ideas. A lot of people even have good ideas. The trick is execution, and that's what this blog is about.
Mommy, Where Do Ideas Come From?
Well, I'd like to tell you that when a mommy idea and daddy idea love each other very much, they make a new idea. But it's not true. Mommy and Daddy Idea despise each other and are fueled only by their bitterness and the chance to share that misery each day. So you're on our own.
This one was pretty straightforward for me. I like making video games. I like writing plays. I wanted to combine the two. How I got into each of those things, and why my brain has always seen the two as natural counterparts is a topic for another, potentially more pretentious blog post. While mulling around the idea of what I wanted to do for a game project, it came time for submissions for scripts at the theater where my musical, Open Sesame!, was produced. I love games and that's where my brain was, so I pitched a video game-themed play. I wanted it to take place entirely in the world of video games, full of larger-than-life fantasy, action, sound effects, costumes, and so on. But that's been done, and is only so interesting on its own. I also wanted it to be brought to life by kuruko, Japanese stagehands who came out of puppet theater. By dressing in black against a black curtain, the stagehands became easy to ignore and the audience focused on the puppets. Incidentally, this is where the classic image of the black-clad ninja comes from. So my stage ninja would wield props, puppets, and scenery to build the world around them and create the creatures and encounters our characters would face. However, even that has been done. In fact, you've probably seen some Youtube videos of stuff like this. So what I also wanted to do was create game-like interactions for the audience, so they could actually change the story by playing it. That, I think, was new.
Slow Down There
Naturally, the artistic director thought this idea was insane, but he also thought it was cool, so encouraged me to take some time to workshop it first - that is, produce a small scale prototype and see what works and what doesn't. Run it through the ringer, iron out the kinks, beat out its compassion in a merciless trial by fire. We could get some practice with puppets, play around with different physical special effects, and actually test how these audience interactions would work. All of this is very necessary and good. I highly recommend workshopping, prototyping, or otherwise testing your project before going full bore.
While experimenting with a sample scene was a good idea, it wasn't enough for me. If we had all this extra time doing the workshop one year and the show the next, hell, let's make an ACTUAL GAME to go alongside it. I started brainstorming ways the two could interact, got story seeds for each, knew what I wanted to do for theme of each, and we were rolling. That's when it was time to start assembling my team, which was covered in a previous post.
But again, an idea is nothing without a plan. I needed a team, a task list, a workspace, a schedule, assignments, venues, and more for both. And of course, covering all those things is what this blog is about.
So right now we are in the midst of our workshop. The props and puppets are mostly built, half of our actors are costumed, the ninja got their hands on the monster and magic effects, and we have a show date (two weeks from this posting). I still have more game production posts to catch up on, but will pepper them with posts about the workshop as well. A few fun facts:
- I asked for a twelve foot tall monster, and I got one
- Every single actor in the scene is a trained martial artist, as am I and as is the director
- Stagehand masks smell nasty. You should wash them first. This is also good advice for ninja, I think
- Plagued by setbacks and last-minute changes and unexpected life events, we are still moving along. Don't let anything get you down. Make it happen no matter what