Thursday, May 30, 2013

Announcing "Be The Death Of Me" at the Irondale Center June 28th and 29th

If you've been following our blog, you already know that our awesome team of interviewers and researchers have been exploring every pocket of NY to uncover some of the most unusual, beautiful, and powerful stories about death, dying, and the afterlife. Over the past 5 months we've conducted over a hundred interviews! For excerpts from some of those interviews, click HERE!

Make sure to catch "Be The Death of Me" June 28th and 29th at 8pm at the Irondale! Details HERE 

We're super excited to officially announce the launch of Be the Death of Me, an installation performance piece that offers the audience intimate encounters with matters of life and death in New York City. The audience will navigate their experience inside the atmospheric Irondale Center, housed in a historic church in Fort Greene Brooklyn.

Through a dynamic variety of settings and formats, the audience encounters real stories gathered from a wide cross-section of New Yorkers - everyone from ER nurses to priests, funeral directors to vampires, shamans to crime-scene cleaners. Through this myriad of perspectives, Be the Death of Me uncovers hidden worlds inside New York - places inhabited by those that witness the demise of our bodies as well as those that imagine what may or may not happen to our souls on the other side of life

Here are a few more excerpts from some of our interviews:

"And one thing with arterial embalming, you have an artery right here and they cut open and make an incision and then they get these tongs and they pry out your artery, which is like a big, thick red licorice rope."
-Brandon, Former Embalmer

"The reason people deep down, I think would spend a million dollars on a mausoleum is a real need to be remembered, and to be remembered for, like, as powerful a person as you were."
-Allison, Cemetery Tour Guide/Historian
"Some people just lose their minds and they’re not there anymore, y’know. How do you stab two little kids? It’s almost like writing the prequel to Hannibal Lecter. Who was this guy before he was this animal? That’s what makes it interesting too, you gotta be a little bit morbid. Morbid and compassionate". 
-Crime Scene reporter

We get to the intersection. Cops were already there. There were a lot of empty cop cars there, with their headlights on, their light bars, the blue and the white lights lit up. And I see one officer and he has his flashlight on his shoulder and he’s like waving me this way and he’s like, “You wanna run.” And I started to explain to him, “EMTs never run, that’s just something on TV. What if I get hurt, what if I trip, then you got no EMT.”
-Part-time EMT

Here's our creative team. A special shout-out to our AMAZING team of interviewers and researchers!
Directed by:
Steven Cosson
Cast Includes: Aysan Celik, Donnetta Grays, Daoud Heidami, Nina Hellman, Daniel Jenkins, Trey Lyford, Caitlin Miller, Garrett Neergaard, Stephen Plunkett, Brian Sgambati, and Colleen Werthmann.
Project Director:
Ian Daniel
Project Manager:
Meridith Friedman
Micharne Cloughley
Artistic Assistant:
Leonie Ettinger
Set Design:
Mimi Lien
Lighting Design:
Lucrecia Briceño
Sound Design:
Ken Travis
Costume Design:
Chloe Chapin
Projection Designer:
Jeanette Yew
Associate Director:
Mia Rovegno
Associate Dramaturg:
Deepali Gupta
Interviews and research by: Leila Buck, Elsa Carette, Isabel Carey, EllaRose Chary, Chris Cragin Day, Matt Dellapina, Dan Domingues, Jesse Goldman, Donnetta Grays, Ben Gullard, Nina Hellman, Kevin Hourigan, Rachel Karpf, Alex Kveton, David Trevor Lawson, Rachel Lerner-Ley, Carly Mensch, Stephen Plunkett, Victoria Pollack, Alex Rosenthal, Joey Sims, Jay Stull, and Piper Werle.

"Be The Death of Me" June 28th and 29th at the Irondale!  Details HERE 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

TIMES SQUARE: Upcoming concert performance at Joe's Pub

We're gearing up for TIMES SQUARE a concert performance at Joe's Pub on June 1st and 4th, a new musical based on the cult classic 1980 film of the same name.
Get your tickets now HERE

Singer-songwriter Jill Sobule along with her longtime collaborator Robin Eaton, Tony-nominated writer Jim Lewis and director Steve Cosson are deep in rehearsals right now. 

Check out Jill in rehearsal at Joe's Pub performing "Pretty Monster" below:

TIMES SQUARE tells the story of Nicky Marotta, a volatile street kid with dreams of becoming a musician, and Pamela Pearl, the withdrawn daughter of a wealthy City Commissioner. The two forge an unlikely bond, and through the alchemy of rock and roll, turn their lives inside out and recreate themselves as a proto-Riot Grrl punk duo called The Sleeze Sisters.  Together, they find friendship, love, and music on the rough-and-tumble streets of pre-Disney Times Square.


Concert Performance
Joe's Pub
June 1 and 4, 9:30 pm
Tickets: $20

Get your tickets now HERE

Music and Lyrics by Robin Eaton and Jill Sobule
Book by Jim Lewis
Directed by Steven Cosson

Alyse Alan Louis – Pamela Pearl
Jo Lampert – Nicky Marotta
Matt Saldivar - Johnny LaGuardia
Christina Sajous – Margot, Bridget, Others
Joseph Melendez – Roberto and Others
Darren Ritchie – Richard Pearl and Others.

Chris Fenwick – Music Director


Allison Miller – Drums
Alex Nolan – Guitar
Octavia Romano – Bass 

Check out these videos of  Aylse Alan Louis and Mike Brun  performing two songs from TIMES SQUARE as a sneak peak of the show performed at our "Let Me Ascertain You: LGBTQ All Out!" last month.

"Last Kiss" performed by Alyse Alan Louis and Mike Brun

"Barricade" performed by Alyse Alan Louis and Mike Brun

Thursday, May 23, 2013

INSIDE LOOK: "Be The Death of Me" Investigation: Near Death Experience

One of our artistic collaborators, Rachel Lerner-Ley, recently interviewed David Bennett, a public speaker, teacher, and author, who survived two near death experiences and stage IV lung cancer. He recently published a book about his experiences, Voyage of Purpose, which you can learn more about HERE. Also be sure to check out David's personal website HERE!  This interview is part of our broad investigation into death, dying, and the afterlife in NY for an installation performance "Be The Death of Me" on June 28th and 29th at the Irondale in Ft. Greene Brooklyn.  Details HERE 

Check out a few excerpts from what David shared: 

In 1983, I was the chief engineer of the research vessel Aloha. And, uh, we were early-March off the California coast. We were two miles off the coast. We tried to beat a storm in so that we could get into the harbor. The captain decided to put a small rubber boat called a Zodiac that we used to retrieve our submarines in the water. So, I, you know, I got in the boat.  We just started heading for shore. Well, we fell off a twenty-five foot wave that a surfer would be envious of. We just fell off of this thing like within a few seconds: Boom! And it folded that Zodiac in half like a peanut butter sandwich. I was in the bow. It catapulted me into the water, and like I said, I was trained as a diver so I'm used to being in the water. But this is nighttime so there was no way of telling what was up or down. I was being tossed and tumbled like a rag doll.

And I never made it to the surface. I drowned. I found myself in this absolute darkness at first. But it was calm, and it was peaceful. And I just had come from this very violent, loud, you know, horrendous environment to this sudden calm, peace, but absolute darkness. Nothing existed. But it didn't feel like I was alone. And I was comfortable. And I was warm. The California coast: the water comes off the North. It's really cold. I wasn't cold anymore.

And then I saw this light. We've all heard about the light, you know, Hollywood's pretty good. They've overdramatized that quite a bit. I saw this light and it was millions upon millions of fragments. And they were all moving and coalescing and working together. And as I got closer, it was like this, there were waves of love that were just wrapping me, enveloping me, and transforming me, this light with love. Just pure love. They were welcoming me home. I grew up in a pretty dysfunctional kind of situation. I was thrown from one family to the next to the next. So, I never had a sense of family, but these beings that were with me they were more of a family than anything I had ever experienced here in life. 

Well, as I was reviewing my life and you're experiencing your life from all these different experiences.  I saw that a lot of times with things in life that were done with loving intention were the cause of some of the greatest ripples because every time we interact with someone we create kind of like these ripples that cascade outward through the people and beyond. And I saw that whenever we did something with loving intention, it created the greatest ripples. So the things that I thought were important like becoming chief engineer had hardly any significance. But when I would do something with loving intention, it created this huge ripple. 

Thanks so much to David and Rachel for sharing. Make sure to catch "Be The Death of Me" June 28th and 29th at the Irondale!  Details HERE 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

R&D Group Reading Series and Public Presentation

Our R&D Coordinator EllaRose Chary shares her experiences working with our R&D Group and gives details about their current Reading Series and public presentation that will take place next Wednesday May 29th at 7:30pm in The Great Room at 138 S. Oxford St. in Ft. Greene Brooklyn. 

Last week we kicked off our R and D Group Reading Series with presentations of work by Emily Ackerman (Working Title: “Forgiveness & Revenge” directed by David Mendizábal) and Carly Mensch (“The Untitled Raymond Project directed by Mei Ann Teo). We’ll continue with the series through the summer, with presentations of work by Mia Rovegno (AFFLICTED directed by Gina Rattan), Matt Dellapina (directed by Snehal Desai), and César Alvarez (THE UNIVERSE IS A SMALL HAT directed by guest director Sarah Benson). The pieces presented in the reading series are in various states of development. The series is an opportunity for the writers to see their work – wherever it’s at at this point – up on its feet with actors. Most of the actors come from The Civilians’ core of Associate Artists, who are familiar with the process of developing work created with the investigative method. These presentations are, in the words of Artistic Director Steve Cosson, a “culminating something,” and a chance for the writers to assess their project with the help of directors and other artists.

If you need a refresher, read all about our R&D artists here or check out my blogpost about them from November.

One of the most fascinating parts of being R and D Group Coordinator is watching these our artists’ projects grow from a blurb on an application into a piece of theater up on its feet. There are so many things you learn about a piece from working on it with a director and actors. In Emily Ackerman’s reading on Wednesday, the physical presence of having two characters talking about separate ideas and occupying two clearly delineated spaces showed how the different perspectives in the piece are beginning to layer with each other. Likewise, when Carly Mensch started out with her research, she wasn’t sure whether or not to include a certain character. For this presentation, she did include that character, and that choice illuminated elements of the storytelling that had not been there in previous drafts. I can’t wait to see what comes out of the other writers’ pieces as they get to work with their directors and actors in the coming weeks.

Because of the nature of the projects and because many of the writers have come to the R and D Group to learn about the Civilians’ unique method for approaching theater, the reading series presentations are often closed to the public. However, over the course of this year, a number of people have asked me if there would be an opportunity to see work from the group and to learn about the process. In response to this interest, we have decided to add a public event to the reading series schedule – An Evening with The Civilians R and D Group

This public presentation will take place next Wednesday May 29th at 7:30 pm in The Great Room at 138 S. Oxford St.  in Brooklyn. It’s open to the public and we hope that if you’re interested in learning more about the R and D Group, you’ll join us (and if you’re not already interested, check out these amazing blog posts from the members, and you will become interested!). It’s going to be a fun and informal evening for the group members to share their work and their process. Space is limited so please RSVP to

To learn more about the event, check it out on Facebook. To learn more about the projects visit the R&D posts on the blog here. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

INSIDE LOOK: "Be The Death of Me" Investigation: The Cemetery Explorer

Our collaborator, Alex Rosenthal, recently interviewed Allison C. Meier, a young writer with a penchant for for exploring cemeteries and researching their occupants. She leads tours of New York City cemeteries through Atlas Obscura. Learn more about Allison HERE, and check out Atlas Obscura HERE!

Allison C. Meier

Check out a few excerpts from Alex's interview with Allison below:

I try to get lost, basically, when I'm exploring a cemetery. I don't know, you could have sort of a checklist of famous people when you're going through a cemetery, which I think is totally fine, but I think like getting lost and experiencing the place is what I usually try to do. Like some, you know, you come across like, for example, a tombstone in Green-Wood just says like "Grandmother" on it, it's like half shifted in the ground, and you're like "Who was Grandmother? Why didn't she have her whole name on it?" And you do a little bit of research, you find out it was the woman who had the affair with the reverend, the Quaker church of Brooklyn preacher, but then you realize, oh, she was like totally ignored in her death.

Allison leading a tour through Woodlawn Cemetery, viewed from a mausoleum.
(photograph by Ronny Preciado
You can't really build on top of–aren't supposed to build on top of a cemetery. So sometimes they actually just move the gravestones as if that's like totally fine. Like at Green-Wood, there's a Dutch cemetery that used to be somewhere else in Brooklyn, and in theory they should have dug up all of those people and put them with their right headstones again, but as you can imagine, like digging up 200-year-old graves and trying, there's a lot of skeletons under the ground. Like during construction under the city it's not unusual to find skeletons. I know there's a potters field behind the New Museum, and when they were doing construction there they found some skeletons. And like Washington Square Park,  Madison Square Park, and Bryant Park all used to be Potter's fields.

One of Allison's tours in the catacombs of Green-Wood Cemetery.
If you want to be buried in New York city, you need a lot of money, or a family member who already has a plot, or you just get lucky with immediate internment, otherwise you're probably going to be buried in New Jersey. The reason we have the big cemeteries in the outer boroughs is because the ones in Manhattan filled up. I don't know if someone is going to like build a cemetery island or like underground burials or, yeah, everyone could go to space. It would be very expensive. I'm sure they would love it. The moon would be a perfect graveyard.

Thanks to Allison and Alex for sharing! Don't miss BE THE DEATH OF ME June 28th and 29th at the Irondale (details to follow soon)!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Meet our Literary Associate: Micharne Cloughley

This post is by our current Literary Associate Micharne Cloughley. Micharne shares some of her experiences working with The Civilians and gives insight into her own work.  Check out Micharne's website here 

Micharne at our Annual Spring Benefit
In the world of investigative theater, the ‘making of’ can often be as enlightening and entertaining as the material being uncovered. If we worked in the medium of video, I’m sure these moments would end up in a DVD extra. As we are indeed in theater, it felt right to share a little about my time as Literary Associate in blog/script form, from the beginning…

DECEMBER 2012: 50th Street Station on the Red Line, Winter, in that little alcove where a man sometimes begs with his collection of cats and hamsters.
STEVE: (on phone) So I just wanted to check in with you as the focus of the role has expanded a bit. We’re going to be doing a project about death, all about death and New York. Would that be okay with you?
ME: (on cell) Yes, for sure, absolutely.

Of course. Totally normal. Back home in Australia I had come to know The Civilians while researching for my final work in the Playwriting Program at the National Institute of Dramatic Art. I was actually looking at plays about contemporary Christianity, so another less common subject for a play was well, what I now refer to as ‘Civiliansy’.  
Also coming from a background in reality/non-fiction TV and development, I’ve researched a lot of different topics of human interest. Death was perhaps less strange than missing persons, gang crime or you know, swingers clubs. One of the most interesting differences in moving into non-fiction theater are the discussions surrounding the creation of a work. In R & D Group we talk for literally hours about questions that simply don’t exist in TV, for example, there is a grey-ness to deciding what is compelling material in a script, that is in practice much more quantifiable on a screen.
JANUARY 2013: The Civilians Office, Brooklyn.
ME: (on phone) ‘we’d just like to speak with you about your thoughts about death, generally speaking … yes that’s right, and we transcribe the interview, and then yes, someone would be playing you, if you were included in the final script… an actor, yes…  you can be anonymous if you prefer?’

This unusual request has been received with so many a cool New Yorker reply of ‘let me look at my schedule’, this city most definitely still believes in risk-taking art and taboo-breaking conversation. While I still feel new (I’ve been here almost 1 year) to be deeply commenting on the overall cerebral state of New Yorkers, I confess that from Jonathan Larson’s RENT, I (along with many of our teen selves in suburban places, I know) declared myself a New Yorker at about 14. While on the subject, if anyone reading this knew Jonathan, I would love to speak with you for the project. My interviews for the project have so far seen me from speaking with different people at Columbia University, to midtown, literally during Act 1 of a Broadway musical, to Bedford Stuyvesant Ambulance Corps that was featured in our blog two weeks ago. So many incredible stories.

FEBRUARY 2013: The Great Room, South Oxford Street Art Space, Brooklyn, the first Share Meeting for the Death Project, where interviewers share highlights of their transcriptions.
ME: (as an ‘oh-so-funny’ aside) And of course, no one needs to actually experience a death first hand for the project… (Laughter as appropriate in a meeting talking about death)

The first ‘Death Share Meeting’ brought the words of transcriptions to life in the voices of their own interviewers. As this was the first time we had had the whole team of interviewers together, we also spoke about the process at large. You quickly realize how limited our use of language is today for dealing with death. How do you say that someone has just shared a ‘good’ story about death? We immediately recoil in feeling disrespectful, but the reality is there are helpful and sometimes humorous aspects of dealing with death as well as terribly hard parts.
For example, after making the comment above, a few weeks later I found out my Nanna died, literally at my desk in the office. I fell apart then, but, now, one can see the irony if not humor in that co-incidence. That laugh/sigh balance of life. And death.

JANUARY – present: Repeated inside my head, Bart Simpson writing on a chalkboard style…
ME: ‘I will not be that literary person that does not get back to you about your play’

In addition to specific projects, I also look after the day-to-day literary side of The Civilians. I have had the pleasure of reading many courageous new voices, wrestling with social issues in a theatrical space.  I look forward to reading more from the incredible volume of new plays that lie often unseen beneath the surface of this city.

Perhaps this was slightly more in depth than your average DVD extra. But then, we are theater. Depth, with the lightness of being, is what we all do best.
Thanks for sharing Micharne!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

INSIDE LOOK: "Be The Death of Me" Investigation: Father Sebastiaan, Vampyre

Our Artistic Intern, Leonie Ettinger, recently interviewed Father Sebastiaan, a self-defined Vampyre, Fangsmith, and author of occult literature, on his thoughts about death and dying for our new project.  

Father Sebastiann is one of the co-founders of The Sanguinarium, a social network for the Vampyre subculture and created The Endless Night Festival, one of the largest Vampyre gatherings in the world. To learn more about him, click HERE 

Check out a few excerpts from Leonie's interview below. 

What exactly is a Vampyre?

Vampyres are energy beings. They are not a blood drinking physical entity because blood is useless for Vampyres. Instead, they need to leach life force of other human beings because they don't have a body to generate their own. The Vampyre is not about death - like a zombie or demon or death itself. The Vampyre is about life and a cure to death.

The human body is like an embryo to the Vampyre, a place where he lives within like a human in a spacesuit. Immortality must be earned, practiced and refined through mediation, energy work, validation and interaction with the Ancestors ('undead'). If successful, the Vampyre will survive death as an 'undead'. At this time, the 'undead' do not want to be known to the “mundane world”. They are in between life and death. However, when they reveal themselves to the mundane world they appear as magickal friends, angels, spirits, faeries, and more recently some say even aliens.

The grandson of an orthodontist & nephew of a dentist, he also hand-carves custom fangs. 
What do you think happens when we die?

My belief is that when you die, your energy is released into the universe and recycled. The church tells you that if your physical body dies, you die. That makes sense but what happens if that's not the case? What happens if your body dies and you avatar continues? The internet will eventually become something like the Matrix. Our bodies will be useless and our consciousness will be inside the computer. So does that make us energy? Yes. You become immortal and the technology becomes the God - not God. This is a fear and why Vampyres have been given such a bad rep throughout all the centuries.

Can we really achieve immortality?

The only thing that is going to keep the human race alive and give immortality to everybody is that we get off the planet as soon as possible and in the largest numbers possible. We need to colonize Mars or Venus, and then get out of our solar system, and spread out as far as we can into the universe. I want to collect a bunch of people, use the Vampyre as a metaphor, live an amazing life, and reject death. 

Father Sebastiaan's Fangshop established in 1995 is located in the East Village NY

Thanks Leonie and Sebastiaan for sharing! Check back here every Thursday for a look inside our investigation into death, dying and the afterlife in NY. Stay tuned for details about our upcoming performance on June 28 and 29th!  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Meet the R&D Group: César Alvarez

This post is by R&D Group artist, César Alvarez, about The Universe is a Small Hat, an immersive electronic musical theater experience he is developing with director Sarah Benson and game designer Ivan Safrin (check out Ivan's website HERE) as part of Berkeley Rep's 2013 Groundfloor Program.  To learn more about César and his work, check out his WEBSITE, or follow him on TWITTER.

"Games are a kind of theater in which the audience is an actor and takes on a role – and experiences the circumstances and consequences of that role.” -  Anna Anthropy (Riseof The Videogame Zinesters

During my time in The Civilians R&D Group I have been studying how to turn the experience of my musical into an immersive and interactive game. My piece is entitled The Universe is a Small Hat and tells the story of a techno-Utopian space colony which encounters a mysterious non-human atmospheric intelligence. Each audience member plays the role of a colonist and has to choose how to behave and interface within the micro-society on the ship. The decisions that each person makes influences their experience of the piece, opportunities they have, their access to the ship itself, and ultimately the ending that they experience.

“A game is an experience created by rules.” - Anna Anthropy

Games are systems and so they are well-suited to tell stories about systems. Small Hat is at its core about a society, which is a network of shared laws, customs, and/or organizations. My piece also deals with physics which is a system of laws capable of describing and predicting aspects of our Universe. The idea for turning my piece into an immersive experience first came from this video of futurist Jason Silva talking about his experience of Sleep No More. 

When I found this video I was trying to figure out how to tell a futuristic story in a theatrical context, but I feared that being conventionally presentational would come off as hokey. My sense is that science fiction has a bad reputation in theater. Perhaps science fiction works better in novels and films because both forms are so good at immersing us in a fictional future. Silva connects Sleep No More to virtual reality and frames its (albeit analog) interactive environment as an evolution of the video game and “the future of storytelling.” I think he has a point. For centuries theater has served to create a moment of physical rest and reflection after a day of labor. But now, as more jobs than ever require hours of isolation sitting in front of a screen, plugged into a network, theater might be well positioned as a place to engage our bodies, and allow us to interact with one another in physical space.

Image from Ivan Safrin's Space Cruiser, an interactive multi-playervideo game designed for Hayden Planetarium. Ivan is collaborating with César on Small Hat.
Below I've presented some game concepts alongside a description of how we are integrating the concept into The Universe is a Small Hat. The concepts that game designers use to describe their work have been helpful as I try to merge these two worlds. My hope is that more theatre artists start creating work that generates a story-driven interactivity.

Player Character -  is a character in a video game or role playing game who is controlled or controllable by a player, and is typically a protagonist of the story told in the course of the game.

In Small Hat the “player” is the audience member. And as I develop the “script” I am viewing the audience member as an actor in the play. The script should be a delineation of circumstances that allow for a mediated experience full of sensation, story and choice. The audience members will not be asked to “act” or play a character other than themselves. Since they are cast as members of the space colony we are asking them to be themselves exactly as they are, or as they'd like to be. Each colonist is given one of six “identities” based on a brief evaluation, but each individual can embrace, switch, or reject the identity as they see fit.

Non-Player Character - any character not controlled by a player.

In Small Hat the Non-player characters will be the trained actors. More than a script they will have a timeline of events, set of tasks along that timeline, an extensive set of guidelines and possible outcomes. Their interaction with the Colonists (audience) will often be improvised based on rules rather than scripted.

Reward - The reward is the positive consequence of conquering the challenge; it can be anything from an increase in score, new items, or a cutscene.

In our piece the primary driving reward is to know the space and the story. When you enter the multi-room space you'll want to explore it all, but it is quickly apparent that you don't have access to it all. Only through operating within or subverting the rules of the world can you discover the whole space and learn the whole story. At the end each colonist is faced with a personal choice. The information you gained and experience of the piece will impact that choice.

Risk - a situation involving exposure to danger, or in the case of a game, the loss of points, rewards, or status.

Risks in Small Hat have to do with losing resources (points), or failing to experience the whole space. Failure to participate in the piece could also result in feeling left behind, or cheated out of the story.

Cutscenes - A cutscene is a sequence in a video game over which the player has no or only limited control, breaking up the gameplay. Cutscenes are used to advance the plot, strengthen the main character's development, introduce enemy characters, and provide background information, atmosphere, dialogue, and clues.

The video game form of scene/gameplay/scene/gameplay reminds me of the musical theater form of scene/song/scene/song. In Small Hat we will move the narrative primarily through songs and gameplay, with very few static scenes between characters. When the actors speak they will usually be addressing the colonists directly.

Items – Objects which play role in the story. The might contain clues, unlock elements of the story, offer powers or privileges.

Items in games remind me of props in the theater world. How can we use objects interactively to transmit the narrative?

Score - In games, score refers to an abstract quantity associated with a player or team. Score is usually measured in the abstract unit of points, and events in the game can raise or lower the score of different parties. Most games with score use it as a quantitative indicator of success in the game, and in competitive games, a goal is often made of attaining a better score than one's opponents in order to win.

Every Colonist has a score in the context of the piece. How you value that score is really up to each individual. Players may choose to work hard to achieve high score and the associated rewards, and players may opt out of the system and choose other ways to spend their time.

Playtesting – This is an idea in games that you have to play the game in order to gauge its effectiveness. Is it challenging? Too repetitive? Too easy? Interesting to both expert players and novices? Factors of the game can be tweaked and adjusted according the to subjective experience of the playtesting.

Playtesting is the game design version of workshopping in theater. Playing a game and identifying its weaknesses is an incredibly important part of designing a functional and enjoyable system. As we develop Small Hat we will need to constantly be trying out ideas on audience even from the very earliest stages. We will have to figure out the specifics of playtesting a musical.

Skill  and Chance – This is a polarity that is present in many games. There is a randomizing element (dice or cards) but also a system of rules which can be employed though a player's skill.

Both skill and chance will show up in our piece. Specific strategies will allow Colonists to achieve higher and reach greater depths of the world. But the randomizing elements will add unexpected outcomes.

Level -  In a video game a level is the total space available to the player during the course of completing a discrete objective.

In Small Hat there are 4 levels of play. The first level is available to everyone. The second and third levels are available later in the piece, through high achievement or cunning. Each level allows for a greater understanding of the narrative.

Check out a track from the show below:
Thanks César for sharing. For other posts from our other R&D Group artists, please click HERE.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

INSIDE LOOK: Death Project 2013 Investigation: Crime Scene Cleanup

Our Artistic Project Manager, Meridith Friedman, recently spoke with Doug Baruchin, owner of Island Trauma Services, a New York based Crime Scene Cleanup Company. With over 25 years of experience, the staff of ITS are experts in Crime Scene and Trauma Scene Cleanup Service. You can find out more about Island Trauma Services, Inc. HERE.

"We usually know what happened. Um, we'll get a call saying, oh this was a homicide,  and sometimes I'll look on the internet to find out, ok, homicide in Queens or Brooklyn or New York City, just so I have an idea of what I'm going to see before I walk in. Because no matter how many times I do this, walking across a threshold every time is a little bit of like, you know, what am I going to see. 

I remember the first one that I did was an elderly man. He was about 78 years old, and he put a pillow in front of his face and shot himself on Easter. And I remember thinking, you know, my God this is what you hear about. Suicide rates increase around the holidays. And I remember seeing this scene, and this poor man who was alone, I don't know why he was sad, maybe he lost somebody, but it got me. That I took home with me. 

I do know that New Yorkers, especially Manhattanites, are very resilient. And very, I can handle this. I've had several people come into the scene with me in New York City. Other people, “I can't go in that room; I don't want to be reminded.” Some New Yorkers I found were very curious, even about somebody they were related to. “So this is where they died, what is this stuff?” This is a conversation I never want to have with somebody. “Oh, this is, you know, probably his blood, this is where his head was.” 

Doug with a fellow ITS technician
I look at the people in Newtown, and how they all came together and supported each other and that's just...beyond anything I've ever done. We actually did call the school to offer to go up there and help them out for free, because it's just, you know, anything you can do to help somebody like that get back together is a huge thing. One of the hardest things to do is to move past what happened while everything is still there. You'll never go into that bedroom again and look at it the same way, but until it's at the very least cleared out, you can't really move past anything."

Thanks Doug and Meridith for sharing! Check back here every Thursday for a look inside our investigation into death, dying and the afterlife in NY. Stay tuned for details on a June performance date!