Solmukohta 2020: Is Immersive Theatre the Future of Larp?

Solmukohta 2020: Is Immersive Theatre the Future of Larp?

Thomas B. is an opinionated connoisseur of larp, dilettante larpwright, and immersive theatre debutante. While repeatedly ranting about the word “immersive”, Thomas will cover highlights of larp-ish events such as Assassin’s Creed in Napoléon’s mausoleum, costume parties in Versailles, a murder mystery in the prison cell of the Marquis de Sade, physically chasing the plot train in NYC, and larping with unprepared actors in theatre basements. Mélanie & Michael co-wrote The Lost Generation, an immersive theatre party focused on seamless narrative design. They will present a vision from the field as well as examples from their design. All attendees welcome, no prior experience necessary.

Thomas B., Mélanie Dorey, Michael Freudenthal

[CW] sexual assault

Q&A from the original viewing at Solmukohta 2020 Online event


Anonymous 1:n OK, what /is/ eläytim… Something?

Thomas B: immersion in character


Anonymous 2: What’s an example of a non-immersive party?

Michael F: Smoking outside? (Nah, that’s still peripheral participation)



Anonymous 3: Looks fascinating! i imagine it’s played in French?

Melanie Dorey: Yes it’s played in French for now but we are thinking about opening an English speaking version 🙂


Anonymous 4: plateauwriting I would call “devicing”

Melanie Dorey: Oh okay thanks !


Anonymous 5: I like this production process overview timeline but what happens after Showtime 😀 #experiencedesign

Melanie Dorey: We’re not covering in so much in the talk but can talk about it after in the live chat if you are interested 😀

Michael F: Pretty much it’s a party. People are talking about themselves, about each others views on fun things like war or artistic creation, then later yelling at each other, or supporting each other. Just a party. But Melanie will put it differently!


Melanie Dorey That allowed the cast to differentiate participants and for the actors to know what interaction to do with the participants


Melanie Dorey Note : all types of interaction are the same price


ANON5: I wonder how this would work with my aversion to larping with NPC:s? I always experence them as being “empty” because they aren’t played by a fellow player who wants things for themselves and that they should stop wasting time on me and go play with someone who appreciates them.


Thomas B: you could avoid talking to them and talk to the other guests instead


Thomas B: some other attendees were basically larping, others more shy and just an


Anon6: Would love the name of the book and the auther about queer games and degamification


Anon7: I believe it is this one:

Ruberg, Bonnie, and Adrienne Shaw, eds. Queer game studies. U of Minnesota Press, 2017.‏

Michael Gyr Yes and Video-Games Have Always Been Queer!


Anon8: A very mudane question to this amazing project: What did the tickets cost? Did you get support/sponsing from other sources?


Melanie Dorey We don’t really cover that in the talk but can talk about it after in the live chat


Melanie Dorey Very briefly : all the costs were covered by tickets


Melanie Dorey And we didn’t have any support or sponsoring


Michael Gyr The tickets were 55€ (early bird) to 65€ but the next production budget needed more to cover the cost and make a small margin, and got to 68€ – 78€.


Hanne Grasmo Michael Gyr OK, that is not much: I paid like 290 dollars for similar experience in NYC.


Michael Gyr The Paris immersive scene is just starting. Also, we would like to be as accessible as possible and it’s a bummer because the production costs a lot. Kol Ford’s talk this year was inspiring in that light.


Jenny M. Nordfalk The definition of being a professional is that you get paid, I guess? maybe there should be a third group in between the actors and the audience? We went to an immersive interactive murder mystery last year and I had a lot of guests coming up to me after and thanking me along with the actors..


Michael Gyr We had people mistook for actors AND actors mistook for audience. That was the intent of blurring the lines alright 🙂


Anon9: Who’s your photographer? This all looks gorgeous.


Melanie Dorey It’s Les Garçonnes Studio !


Anon10: How many hours did the actors use for preparations? Where they paid for all of that???


Melanie Dorey We had about 10 full days of workshops and rehearsals with the actors (which is not a lot), we didn’t have the budget unfortunately for the rehearsals but all the show nights were paid


Anon11: What were the buzz words given to the most interactive participants, and hiow did they work?


Melanie Dorey They were secret phrases about the characters personal lives (like something you would know if you were an acquaintance)


Melanie Dorey Like “How was summer in the Riviera, Zelda ?”


Anon12: Were they different for different players and towards different characters, was it like giving the players relationships with the actors characters?


Melanie Dorey Players had different characters but each character had only one secret code


Anon12: Did the actors then take extra responsibility for those players? making them part of their group?


Melanie Dorey Yes those participants were part of their “crew” for the night


Anon12: Perfect, how many players did every actor have in their crew? and as it only the most intersctive feathers or did all players take part in a crew?


Melanie Dorey Yes it was for the most interactive feathers only (as it included more intense interactions), and each character had from 5 to 7 members of the “crew”


Anon14: Was it possible for the participants to change their feather during the performance?


Michael Gyr Very good one. No it was not. But if you were to talk with the cast while wearing a “I don’t want direct interaction” feather, they would adapt their behaviour towards you, and talk with you (with a little caution). Also, all feathers all looked nice (golden, black with a golden tip, red with a golden tip).


Anon13: If possible would you implement that feature for a rerun or was it best as it was?


Melanie Dorey I think it could be a possibility to include that feature in our out of game safe zone !


Anon15: What was the number of involved people in the team overall? Light, sound, production design, actors, concierges etc. On your team and from the rented location if any


Melanie Dorey We had overall a team of 15 people for the staff (production, filming, venue, bar,…)


Melanie Dorey 2 people from the venue


Anon12: How many actors?


Melanie Dorey 7 actors, 3 musicians, 2 bartenders, 3 people from production


Anon16: What major things did you change from run 1 to run 2?


Melanie Dorey We changed : set design (moved furniture), lighting, acting direction (by prepping to better answers to participants and implementing yesterday’s successes and mistakes)


Melanie Dorey Mostly the change of the set design was a huge improvement because it allowed participants to feel more legitimate in the space


Anon16: Did you as designers had a vision for content (not only aestetics) before you started researching and designing?


Melanie Dorey We wanted something that was truly interactive and felt like a legitimate party for everyone (cast AND participants) : we didn’t want to have a frontal story with pieces of interaction but really a sandbox for everyone.


Melanie Dorey That determined the party format before anything else.


Anon17: Thank you so much, it was super-interesting!! 2 Questions: Was there a mechanism to step interaction up or down during runtime? Did you use safe-words or tap out to signal something is too much?


Michael Gyr Good question, thanks! Besides training with the actors (which was not enough, considering errors have been made), there were three levels of “human safety nets” for audience participants. All were on the production side.

The opener was the person to go to if you needed something during the show (they wandered around and checked up with people, in character), the bar was the place you go if there was any kind of problem or behaviour to report, and there was a saf(er), more quiet place where we would check up on the audience, or bring them if needed.


Anon18: What info did participants get beforehand? Did they get a 30 second rules brief at the door or a document with the ticket or website?


Michael Gyr Hi! By mail they got information on what was expected of them in terms of dressing up and more importantly, a quite short and explicit “accepted behaviour”. Thomas pointed out it looked inspired by SK/KP, which it was. There we mentioned, among other things, that racist or sexist historical (or not) talk will not be accepted by audience participants, with examples.


Michael Gyr The onboarding was quite thought of and showed the rules of interaction for the evening, to make the audience participant understand they can role play, talk to us, laugh with us and so on. The process could be another 30mn talk.


Anon18: Did you bring them in in groups you briefed or a short one-by-one thing?


Michael Gyr Haha as I said, a whole new talk. The briefing was short and simple, with a very small group (4-5 people). It was more of an in-character scene including practicalities, setting the tone and announcing the ending (like Thomas said about opening and closing the “magic circle”, the blurry boundaries of play).


Thomas Be Also, importantly the emails were sent well in advance, so you had time to prep, as opposed to most other immersive experiences that really send info last minute. I’m all for last-minute reminders, but the ground rules should be laid early on, a bit how we do in larps with design documents etc.


Anon18: What made you decide on theme? Location or story or something else?

I see both negative and positive aspects of the 20’s aesthetic as it has been done (at least in Sweden) as Great Gatsby parties that seem very directed to a non-interactive crowd.


Melanie Dorey A few things made us decide on the theme :

– We always create site-specific work, and we were inspired by this particular historical location.

– We used on purpose the 20’s aesthetic to go in the opposite direction that is generally portrayed in “Gatsby parties”, and therefore to write about : femininity, masculinity, post-war trauma, abusive relationships, closeted queerness… All these themes portrayed by the characters we chose.

– This “twist” (in the expectations) was something we wanted for participants experience, even though we did a lot of disclaimers about themes addressed in the experience.

– We didn’t notice any negative effects coming from the audience because the party format and the types of interaction were giving the choices to everyone of how they wanted to live the experience. So you could have a nice themed party with your friends or chose to dive in the heart of the story and influence it.

– Globally, we thinks that the Roaring Twenties are such an interesting period to write about because it can be layered so much in writing and is reflective in many ways of the times we live today.


Thomas Be Also stuff I had to cut down due to time: check out the binaural-audio-in-the-dark work of Darkfield , I attended “Play” in Edinburgh and “Flight” in Melbourne and both are super interesting. No agency, but amazing audio/installation work.


Thomas Be For another “glorified treasure hunt in a cool location”, check out Inside Opéra, in Paris’ Opéra Garnier:


Thomas Be And for another immersive theatre play, this time set in a fictitious Parisian brothel with various design issues (pay to play, favouring the loud, and super uncomfortable masks) check out Close:


Thomas Be For an immersive theatre version of Hamlet, clearly inspired by Sleep No More but with Shakespearean text (in French) instead of dancing, check out out Helsingor:


Thomas Be And thanks to Le Musée du Fake for the reminder, other things I cut out due to time: if you’re wondering about what an immersive poetry event could look like, check your local Poetry Brothel, or Le Bordel de la Poésie in Paris, by L’assaut des poètes:


Anon19: I like this slider. Do/did you have in France what’s sometimes called “environmental theatre”? It’s perhaps a cousin of what is now usually described as “immersive”, and started in the 1960s with a movement to consciously minimise the role between actor and audience. In the 90s “environmental theatre” also sometimes referred to theatre where you as the audience walked around the space, like shows where you go from room to room to see different scenes and put it all together.

I’m just wondering because I suspect this slider has even more words between these ones.

Oh heck I just realised this is a talk that should be done.


Michael Gyr A talk that should be done, yes! Anna & I put together a spreadsheet to gather examples (but that can be improved)


Thomas Be There’s a lot of other types of participatory thingies “proper theatre” from theatre of the oppressed to I-cant-remember, no idea how much was done in France. I know a French larper who wrote a paper about it long time ago


Thomas Be the article (unpublished so far I think) by is by Saetta Des CanonsdelaButte (not part of group), a larper and proper academic, about theatre of the oppressed , we actually have one in Paris:

This was part of the Solmukohta 2020 online program.

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