Gaming and Theatre

Interactive Storytelling
Interactive Storytelling

Interactive Storytelling: Video Games and the Theatre, hosted by Playwrights Theatre Centre Kathleen Flaherty, tonight is an event that we're looking forward to. The concept of game play within theatre performance is something Conspiracy has delved into with Kathleen in a big way over the past year as we've been developing Foreign Radical.

It didn't make sense to have the audience passively watch Foreign Radical.  The play largely happens in the realm of cyberspace — looking at privacy, security and censorship. From the beginning we were committed to the idea that the audience would be active in the performance in a way similar to how they engage online — making choices and offering opinions and in doing so, shaping their own experience.

The game aspect of Foreign Radical is based on a fascinating moment in internet history. Way back in the '80s and '90s, cyber pioneers predicted that government surveillance and corporate tracking would eventually lead to serious privacy violations. Many of the best minds in the industry were intensely radical individuals who placed a high value on privacy.

In her research for Foreign Radical, Kathleen read the book This Machine Kills Secrets and came across a party game that cryptographers played while inventing encryption techniques that would soon become industry standard (onion routing, torrents). These radicals were inventing the building blocks of secure communication, file sharing, e-commerce and, of course, whistle-blowing.

In the game, players wrote a secret on a piece of paper, put it in a sealed envelope and then routed the envelopes between individuals who either sought to maintain or expose the secret.

For Foreign Radical, we are adapting the game because it has great potential for theatrical application and audience interactivity:

  • secrets on paper are tactile, passed between hands, the physical embodiment of our secrets on the hard-drive or in the cloud
  • the audience member is invested in the play because his/her secret is in play
  • the audience member who might ordinarily resist participating will be more likely to do so because it plays out within a group scenario

In late May, writer Tim Carlson, director Jeremy Waller, actor Milton Lim and designer David Mesiha will be working on game design with Bruce Barton, who heads up the UofT Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. Following a residency at The Cultch in July, Conspiracy will reveal the next version of Foreign Radical on July 19, 23, 24 & 25, presented by the Your Kontinent Film and Media Arts Festival in Richmond.

Audience participation is an essential part of the development of Foreign Radical in July. If you would like to get involved in rehearsals, shoot us a note with the subject line FOREIGN RADICAL AUDIENCE to