Hi, I’m Devin again. I’m going to talk a bit about what I’m up to here
I’m making my own space to explore theatre and games. I’m a theatre maker who’s interested in building games and bringing ideas from gaming into my performance. This blog is a place to explore some of the big questions and ideas that arise when combining these two forms. There is an excellent community of thoughtful makers in the gaming community, especially around tabletop roleplaying games, and I want to bring my own perspective of theatricality and playful performance to the conversation.
Beyond that, I’m making a public record of my work. I have found myself walking the life of an artist, and I am still trying to figure out what that looks like. Most of my recent work has been engaged in combining these two languages; melding theatre and live performance with games and game design. I began creating a few projects and calling them “experiments” but here’s a little secret:
I hate calling art experiments!
Look, I went to college; I have a science degree. I know what experiments are, okay, they have hypotheses. Right? They have methods. They have evidence. They have results. They have reports. If you’re going to call your project an “experiment” than you’d better have the records to prove it. So far, for my work, the records aren’t great, and I’d like to change that here by writing a bit about what I’m curious about and what I’m pursuing. Hopefully there will be some results to share, but all in good time.
An excellent teacher of mine once gave me the very simple-seeming advice of “notice what you notice”. In doing that I’ll mostly look at tabletop games and live theatre, but there might be interesting things to notice from video games or video theatre too.
When I look at the way people design and engage with role-playing games, I’m excited by the way they create shared narratives, authorship, and consequence. I think these things are rad, and they belong in the theater. People are incredibly passionate about the stories they create in games, partly because games allow people to test their ideas about story and discover what moves them. What can the theater’s magic add to games? What happens when we playtest our performances, when we ask what makes them fun?
I come to these forms as a player first. The lights of the stage and the seat at the table are completely different animals but I want to work with both of them. They create different states, have different rules and I’m curious about that. Is being in front of an audience when the curtain comes up actually different than when it’s your turn in initiative order? Should it be? I’m not sure, but those are the type of questions I’ll be investigating.
Oh! I should definitely clarify something about the type of theatre that I make. I’m a clown. I mean I’m also an actor, but clown and physical theatre are my loves. I make work that is devised, which for my money mostly means that it’s adaptable. So I make work that is adaptable, that uses the body, and usually tries to make you laugh at something. As an artist, I’m interested in joy, hope and reason. More on that later, we’ll have plenty of time to meet each other. I just didn’t want you walking away from here thinking I was one of those actors whose not a clown. Because I’m definitely not.
Hi, I’m Devin, and I play a game of Dungeons & Dragons with a gang of new-found friends over the internet every week. At some point, a couple years ago now, a college buddy put a brief post on Facebook asking if anyone would be interested in trying out D&D. I said I would be, and a few weeks later I was whisked away to a fantasy world featuring an all-star cast of people that I had never met before. At the time that this game started, I was midway upon the journey of grad school, deeply entrenched in a full-time performance training program focusing on physical comedy and clown. Every Friday of my grad program I had a required performance, some piece of original theatre that most often had been assigned the Friday before. It was a gauntlet. You might not be able to imagine how valuable a silly little game of Dungeons and Dragons was at this point in my life. Some might see it as a waste of my very limited time, but having a weekly obligation to something other than making an audience laugh was a critical strategy of success for me during my training. So with all of that laid out, let me summarize it this way. I am a performer who had been in the practice of presenting live theatre every week while at the same time, on a different channel as it were, playing a game of D&D with some strangers-turned-squadron online.
A funny thing happened a during one session several months ago. It was around Halloween time, and I had just performed in a Halloween cabaret, but on this night I was just playing some D&D with my friends. We were doing our version of the weekly announcements*, and I told them that I had done a cabaret performance a few days earlier. I said.
“it went pretty well, I performed Invisible Touch by Genesis except with [proprietary blend of herbs, spices, and my shenanigans].”
Tom Hiddleston, who plays the rogue in our party laughed and said,
“that sounds amazing, I can totally see it, I’m going to hear the song that way every time from now on”
and I laughed and thought to myself, “That’s weird, these people haven’t actually seen me onstage before...they don’t have any idea what I’m like as a performer.”
It was such a bizarre moment in hindsight. Seeing the joy from my party as they heard me tell a brief tale of an onstage victory made me feel an intense amount of support. They were all acting like they had been there! It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that of course realize I’ve been performing for them as much as any other audience in the past two and half years. It should have been obvious, but it wasn’t, and I think that is part of what made it such a gift.
These folks mean the world to me. I feel so fortunate to have this game as an open stage. It’s a place where I can show up every week and try to discover a character and a story with them. It’s a place where we don’t always have to know what our characters are doing or thinking, and we can pursue what is fun and exciting. In my creative work, I have begun exploring the relationship between role-playing games and theatrical performance, because I want to bring that sense of curiosity and open play from my gaming life on to the stage.
As long as I’ve been playing this game, I’ve been on a journey, trying to discover and reinvent myself as a performer. Trying to take ownership of the kind of work I want to make and the impact that I want to have on the world. It wouldn’t have turned out the way it did if I didn’t have these friends playing this game alongside me. I am so very grateful for these heroes, showing up every week to cultivate a space where we can be bold, take risks, make mistakes, and discover what matters together.
*(I haven’t told any of them this, but the weekly announcements are one of my favorite parts of the whole adventure, pretending we too are that jetsetting troupe of roleplayers bringing our particular brand of courage and carousing to the rest of the world)