Skip to content

{ diamond necklace“” } Search Results

Pecha Kucha Diamond Necklace

Monday night at Downstage Theatre in Welly: my dear friend Eric is part of the Pecha Kucha lineup, talking about the show wot I wrote, Affair of the Diamond Necklace.

A Pecha Kucha night is an event format in which presenters show a slideshow of 20 images, each of which is shown for 20 seconds. Pecha Kucha Wgtn details here. Door sales only, $9 cash – Downstage Theatre, doors open: 6.30pm, start 7.30pm.

Be great to see people there. I won’t be online again until Tuesday I think, so don’t bother emailing to co-ordinate – just show up if you’re keen.

(Move went well. House chaos steadily improving to livable. Yay.)
(Hope the 48 hr film fest was fun for all my friends who took part this year!)

Tagged , ,

Diamond Necklace: Back Again


The Affair of the Diamond Necklace is coming back to Wellington in December.
There was an August show, which I’ve written about before. We’re back for another go Saturday December 12. A full evening of interactive entertainment including Vector Orchestra performance and a very nice meal. Will be an excellent night I’m sure!
We’ve been tightening things up, learning the lessons of last time out – a few script changes, etc. Rehearsals for the return version kick off tonight – this time I’m leading rehearsals, another new experience for me! But looking forward to seeing the team again. It’s an excellent bunch of people.
More information at the Eklektus website. Including a few photos, including me in a white wig.

Smashed plates and diamonds


Thoroughly caught up in the world of Marie Antoinette for The Affair of the Diamond Necklace, which is on Saturday evening.
Today, I smashed a plate by letting it fall from my head. That’s a new one. But the dances are going rather well I think.
There are still tickets to be had, if anyone is feeling keen. It will be a spectacular evening in every way.
But while the spectacle is being prepared, blogging will be light.

Apollo 13: Mission Control

Went to interactive theatre piece Apollo 13: Mission Control last week. It’s on a third season in Wellington and has toured around the country and to Oz; tours further abroad are being planned. It’s been hugely successful, and deservedly so.

The basic setup: the show takes place in Mission Control for the Apollo 13 mission. The audience are the staff of MC. Seated behind consoles with buttons and lights and networked telephones, the audience have a job to do. (Some audience just sit in the “press gallery” – slightly cheaper tickets, no console.) Mission Control’s command staff lead the audience through the situation as the astronauts (video-feed projected on the front wall) experience a series of problems. One of the astronauts is also an audience member, selected from the crowd before the show.

It worked well. The large, diverse crowd was engaged and enthusiastically got to work solving logic puzzles, suggesting problem fixes and reporting on developments as they happened. The performed characters roamed around the room, issuing instructions, grabbing news, and identifying problems needing resolution. From time to time this action was broken with a broadcast from Walter Cronkite (played, charmingly, for laughs) or other such extra incident. Cronkite interviewed the astronauts; later, Cronkite interviewed members of the Mission Control staff (i.e. audience members). There was lots going on, and good humour reigned.

The characters are all drawn pretty broadly so they could play strong against the general hubbub and with very little time to make their mark. I was particularly interested in how they drove inter-character drama, with the general mayhem regularly breaking into scripted/semi-scripted conflicts between the performed characters, whose different values set up regular disagreements.

The physical interactive elements were highly appealing. Switches and lights on the consoles worked; you could use the phones to call other consoles, and (in the comms team) to those outside Mission Control. (The highlight of my companion’s experience was a conversation he had by phone with someone in Australia – or, to be more accurate, a performer backstage putting on an Australian accent. He was the only one who enjoyed that phone call first-hand.) Pencil and paper were essential tools, and several times audience members used the chalkboard at the front of the room or searched through the filing cabinets for relevant information. All of these elements contributed to a powerful sense of place.

It was, to be sure, a resounding success. I was highly impressed with what is obviously a well-oiled machine, staffed with gifted performer/improvisors. The show’s high-concept is splendid and unassailable – the kind of idea you might spend your whole life waiting for, the perfect marriage of concept and execution. This show deserves to run and run, and I expect it will tour a lot of places in times to come. Look out for it. Go see it – go be it.

That said, I want to say a bit more about it. Because, personally, I want more. Not because Apollo 13 isn’t a success, it clearly is; but because it’s so obviously just scratching the surface of what is possible with this kind of show. As some of you will know, I’ve been developing an interest in interactive theatre for a long time; back at least as far as the “game theatre” event Aliens Apocalypse in 1999, and more recently for last year’s Affair of the Diamond Necklace show. There’s lots of really interesting stuff happening in performance interactivity at present, particularly over in the UK where it crosses over with the creative games/urban games movement. All of these approaches are opening doors that have previously passed over, and entering territory that is largely unexplored. It’s an exciting time for those interested in the different ways you can relate a performance to an audience.

And in Apollo 13 I saw some really smart, really innovative stuff – some genuine risks being taken, which in interactive theatre is a huge and appealing plus all by itself. But I also saw some of the same challenges that face other attempts to navigate this territory.

The first challenge: smooth transition from audience activity to performer activity. Here, as with Diamond Necklace, there were pre-scripted sequences where performed characters interacted and the attention of the audience was expected. These were seamlessly integrated into a context where the audience did not have any attention expectation and could look where they liked and talk to whomever they wished. In short, these were moments where the audience was reminded it had to be an audience. In Diamond Necklace, we cheated, because our fiction placed us in the court of a King and Queen who could explicitly demand attention with but a word. That excuse doesn’t hold in Mission Control, so the transitions have to stand on their own. Many of them worked smoothly, but some really jarred. Once, the lighting changed to throw spotlights on two characters entering opposition; it threw me out of the moment.

The second challenge: content distribution. When you’re offering an experience like Apollo 13, different audience members will necessarily have different experiences. As soon as you have differences, you have inequalities. It is extremely difficult to ensure anything like an equal distribution of content through an audience, without maintaining extremely high staff-to-audience ratios. This is properly seen as, at least in part, a feature and not a bug: some people don’t want much interactive content, they want to do a few things but mostly to watch others do more. However, it’s not enough to decide that’s the end of it. Achieving equality of access to content is also hard; there are major bottlenecks and no method of oversight. In a show like this, where the content available is strictly limited, audience members are in a zero-sum game; every Australian phone call had by my companion was a phone call everyone else misses out on. Just by the way the evening worked out, I had less content thrown at me than those of my console-buddies; I had a great time regardless (and it gave me more time to just observe), but I wonder if some audience members would feel hard-done-by if this happened? I felt this show didn’t do a great job of managing this issue, but it did ameliorate it by having lots of shared content that was the same for everyone so there was a good baseline participation level even if many other events passed you by.

(Another possible solution for interactive theatre in general is, instead of trying to handle distribution better, you just try and have so much content that everyone has more than they need; best way to get that is to turn your audience into content-generators, like in a live-action role-play. But that’s far from straightforward, and I haven’t yet seen a general-audience interactive theatre event that has even tried to do so.)

In any case, it’s got the creative brain-bees all a-buzzing. Lots to think about. These two challenges are, as I say, not problems with this show, but rather challenges for anyone trying to step into this space – I’m leaving out all the things Apollo 13 does so brilliantly and solves so effectively (obvious example: audience buy-in). This sets a high standard right off the bat. I’m really excited to see it come out of my home town.Many congratulations are due to Hackman for this incredible show. It’s really quite fantastic. Go see it -go do it! – if you can. And I’m going to keep thinking about it, and will look forward to what Hackman do next.

(See also Steve Hickey’s writeup. He went along just the other day, and had a very positive experience.)

Tagged , , ,

Marie Antoinette on Nightline

Edit: we’re on tonight!

Yesterday the afternoon was spent in the Hippopotamus restaurant, filming a segment for TV3’s Nightline late edition news show. Nightline does like its quirky culture bits to round off the evening, and we’re lined up for Monday’s show tonight’s show!
We had five costumed performers enjoying High Tea, improvising like mad and gesticulating for the cameras. Eric (of the “how to behave” video) was interviewed, then a couple of the performers (one in-character, one out). The whole experience was good fun, and low-stress once it got rolling. Reporter Tova and cameraman Dan made smart decisions fast and pulled good signal out of a lot of noise; it was obvious they were both building the piece up from nothing in their heads as they went. Nice to watch.
And the Hippopotamus was amazing – very accommodating and helpful. Their high tea is wonderful! I mean to go back and check out the evening menu some time, executive chef Laurent Loudeauc spent a while watching what was happening and he seemed to be a nice gent, and the food definitely sounds amazing.
So, nice work everyone! There’ll be more photos up on the Flickr photostream soon, I hope. And we should be on Nightline on Monday!
Homepage: Affair of the Diamond Necklace

Directing as editing


So I’ve been directing the rehearsals for the Affair of the Diamond Necklace remount (December 12! One Show Only!) and have found it an interesting and challenging experience.
I don’t have much experience with directing of any sort. Back in high school for the odd short bit, but since then – nothing. Steep learning curve! What it reminds me of most, actually, is editing. Editing is the part of writing that you don’t hear much about – the bit where you kick your opus hard to find the weak points, then tear out all the stuff that comes loose. In a theatrical experience, though, the text isn’t really up for grabs in the same way, because everyone’s been committing their energy to learning it and big changes are unfeasible. We’ve messed around with some dialogue, but mostly it’s the way we use it that has changed.
I’ve been blessed with very skilled performers who can bring a lot of smarts to the script and can talk about what works, what doesn’t and what might be worth a try. The atmosphere is collegial and supportive and that makes it easier for me to push some angles hard, send some performances in a different direction, and so on.
The December remount is a straight-up better show than the August performance. We’ve tightened and sharpened and honed this beast and it plays like a dream. Love it.
I’m not a Real Director. Naw, I know some Real Directors, and they have chops embracing the whole field of endeavour. But, in my small way, I feel like I’m doing something good at the head of this team. I know for sure we’ve made something good into something great – and isn’t that the trick of it?

Have you seen the second YouTube video Steve Leon did for the show? It’s Eric Dorfman, main man for the show, telling you the three things you need to know to thrive in the Court of Versailles. More cool footage of costumes and action from August! Check it out:

And don’t forget the first beautiful trailer.
Right. Off to the French Embassy…

Auditions are hard


Over the weekend we held auditions for Affair of the Diamond Necklace. One of our lovely performers is unfortunately unavailable for the remount, so we needed to recast promptly.
It’s the first time I’ve been involved in auditions and it was really quite tricky.
Everyone who auditioned was great and would own the part. I had, in my innocence, thought that auditioning would be about picking someone who was “best”. BZZZZT! No, they were all very good, so the decision was made on much more complex grounds – who had the right look, whose version of the character seemed closer to our goals, who seemed like they’d mesh well with the rest of the cast. Much of it came down to things that I don’t have a vocabulary for, so I was just flailing my hands around talking about how someone had “compatible energy”. (It’s interesting to me how much of the information we use isn’t located in language.)
Anyway, it fell to me to make the decision, and really it was a no-lose situation – all the people we saw would kill in the part – but I tried to find a good process. So I went with my gut, tried to talk myself out of it with my brain, and when I failed to do so, found that the decision was made.
Then came the hardest part, which was phoning the unsuccessful people to tell them they didn’t get it. Thankfully everyone’s professional and they made it very easy on me!
So now we’ve got a full cast again. Rehearsal tonight – looking forward to it!
The Affair of the Diamond Necklace

Writing Update: October

Regarding tne short-stories target for the year, I’m on track. I have eleven complete stories drafted and one more in progress, with two months to go. Note that there’s still a ways before I hit target, as the original plan was to only count stories as done when I am comfortable submitting them places. I’m only at that point with a couple of these. So there’s editing binge coming.
Here are the titles, just because:
– “The Tape”
– “Buckets”
– “Babel”
– “The Twelve Times I Drank Too Much”
– “Lift Story”
– “The Apotheosis of Melvin Rameka”
– “Inappropriate Boss”
– “The Intervention Upstairs”
– “The Confession”
– “Box Takes A Honeymoon”
– “Perfectly Right”
In progress:
– “Walking story”
Note that “walking story” is one of the really early ones that I wrote and then decided was unsalvageable. Well, I think I’ve figured it out. This revision keeps the characters, the critical incident, and about 20% of the opening sequence. Still working on it.
“The Beast” comic ticks along. Met with artist yesterday. She’s done with exams shortly and can then start working for me like a galley slave. *plots and plans*
Sinking energy into revised script for “Affair of the Diamond Necklace”. More on that soon. Spent half an hour today chewing over one line of dialogue – it really needs to drop heavy, and it was defeating me. Think I solved it though. Might change mind tomorrow.
“Ron the Body” er. Yes, well. Everyone knows it will never be published I think I will burn it yes I will burn it
Still noodling on “Lament” role-playing game idea.
C’est tout. [Last writing update]

Writing Update: September

Regarding tne twelve-short-stories target for the year, I’m finally hitting par with this set of written pieces:
– “The Tape”
– “Buckets”
– “Babel”
– “The Twelve Times I Drank Too Much”
– “Lift Story”
– “The Apotheosis of Melvin Rameka”
– “Inappropriate Boss”
– “The Intervention Upstairs”
– “The Confessions”
Not a single one of them is really ready for prime-time though, they all need at least an edit if not more. Only five of them have been out to other human beings for comment, four of them exist solely as pen-in-notebook scribbles, so got to get those typed up. Still work to do! I’m seeing some themes/types coming through in my stories, also; maybe I’ll try and break out of that for the last three pieces. Maybe not.
Notable scratchings ‘n’ failed drafts include:
– “Walking story”
– “The Big Drive”
– “Corrina’s Walk”
“The Beast” comic ticks along.
Having meetings about the follow-up to “Affair of the Diamond Necklace”.
Recorded my pieces for Dan’s podcast version of “Urban Driftwood”, the anthology of our work as young writers. This was a really challenging little gig, trying to get to the meat of stuff I wrote a long time ago and respect it for what it was. I ended up liking some of it more than I did before, and some of it less, and in the case of one piece I ended up really liking the first half and really disliking the second half. Anyway, when it goes live you’ll read about it here…
“Ron the Body” is still inert. Must get that submission train rolling again, so easy to slack off on it.
And working away also on “Lament”, a role-playing game I’ve had in my to-do list for years, Mr 2Trees did some wonderful art for it a few years back. Enjoying that process.
Ummm I think that’s it. [Last writing update]

Writing Update: July/August

Still working on tne twelve short stories target for the year.
Either finished or in a late-stage draft:
– “The Tape”
– “Buckets”
– “Babel”
– “The Twelve Times I Drank Too Much”
– “Lift Story”
– “The Apotheosis of Melvin Rameka”
Notes ‘n’ scratchings ‘n’ failed drafts:
– “Walking story”
– “Confession”
– “The Big Drive”
In other words, got a long ways to go yet. But I’m learning a lot about short stories, so that’s good.
“The Beast” comic keeps on keeping on, looking handsome. Re-writing dialogue to best fit a drawn page is a whole new writing skill. Awesome though.
“Affair of the Diamond Necklace” was performed and went well. Sweet.
I’m going to be recording some decade-old short fiction soon, for Dan’s podcast version of “Urban Driftwood“. Some of it will be tricky…
A couple other small Sekret Projects too but nothing particularly dramatic. No movement on Ron the Body.
[Last writing update]