The Rough and Tumble of Tech Part 2

Sébastien Heins and Torien Cafferata continue an email conversation started in Part 1. In this edition the artists trade advice and DIY fixes.

On Thu, Sep 17, 2020 at 7:02 AM Torien Cafferata wrote:

Hi Sébastien,

I have another question: what advice would you give to smaller companies looking to make that leap into operating funding, sponsors, partners, etc.?

Our company It’s Not A Box Theatre is only five years old, helmed by me and Amberlin Hsu, no staff or board. We are still in a very something-out-of-nothing DIY micro-budget world. Overhear started with nothing but iPod shuffles, good timing, and prayers. Over the next two and a half years it evolved into an app (which Jacob developed) and took us to the Prague Quadrennial. That said, we have never found a sustainable model with Overhear as it’s locative audio paired with intimate one-on-one shared performances with the storytellers themselves. Makes it pure magic, but with minimal reach. One end-game approach has been to release the app as a geo-cued storytelling tool that anyone can use, like geocaching, but with interactive stories tethered to landmarks, hidden props, secret architecture, or Uber-esque live performance bookings w/ user-customized audience sizes.

Cueing systems in Overhear are their own unique challenge; we have played with Bluetooth, GPS, manual cues, etc. with varying degrees of success. What sort of digital cueing systems have you found helpful? What DIY solutions of your own have been potent in your immersive practice, even as your company grew?


On Thu, Sep 17, 2020 at 11:14 PM Sébastien Heins wrote:

Hi Torien,

To address some of your questions about single-audience experience producing models, I think that you would gain a lot from reaching out to Daniele Bartolini and Danya Buonastella. They run DopoLavoro Teatrale (DLT) along with some other fine folks and created The Stranger 2.0. The Stranger first blew my mind at the Thespo Festival in Mumbai, India, using the city’s pulsating street life as the sandbox for the play’s personalized auditory action. They’ve managed to do Stranger in many places with many performers and producing partners, with various cultural sponsors.

Otherwise, our work building The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries at Outside the March taught us a lot about building a performance schedule which leveraged audience demand with actor availability in a made-to-measure personalized single/double household experience.

I can say off the top, that our primary goals were to provide connection to audiences in isolation and provide paid work for actors whose work was cancelled due to COVID. Those commitments gave us guidance throughout when it came to deciding ticket prices, working with presenting partners, and pushing us to find as much fun and emotional connection with our audiences as possible for the time we spent with them.

Finally, when it came to The Itinerary: Playtest (which started as a one-audience to one-performer model), we messed with the formula and story to make it a six-player experience, which is a more plausible business model reminiscent of escape rooms and team-building activities.


Favourite DIY fixes? During Vitals (2014), which we staged in my family home, I had to Assassin’s Creed-style sneak past audiences and hop down a stairway, in order to press just a single button on an iPod, before taking my family dog on an adventure through my family’s garage for her next cue, and then jog down the back alleyway, to drive a rented ambulance into the playing space for the finale of the play.

Also, in Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play, we presented the show using the fiction that it was being staged with zero power from the grid, so instead of playing a sound cue of crickets through speakers, we had boxes of actual crickets chirping in the audience.

Some questions for you:

  1. What are some of the ways you’re excited about using AR?

  2. Tell me more about the HUD for Play Fail Win. What kind of games was it reminiscent of?

  3. What are the vests and gloves with haptic capabilities that you’re experimenting with?

  4. What was a glorious failure during Play Fail Win that resulted in team learning and exciting insight?

Looking forward to learning more about your creative endeavours!


Torien and Sébastien’s exchange continues in The Rough and Tumble of Tech - Part 3.