After The Mystic Midway's highly successful "One Terrible Magical Thing" environment performance at the San Francisco Edwardian Ball 2014, The Mystic Midway was asked by the Edwardian Ball to create another ambient game environment for their annual Hollywood event. Scott Levkoff again directed and provided the creative impetus for the new design: "Silent Screen Film Test."
There were many limitations that necessitated a thematic and mechanic redesign for the performance. The event location at the Fonda Theater on Hollywood Boulevard meant a smaller space, and due to travel logistics we would need to drastically reduce the size of the cast. We also wanted to keep some previous tried-and-true Mystic Midway characters with their props and costumes while adding new ones to adapt to the conceptual space of being in the center of Hollywood itself.
The narrative framework that we created to work within these limitations took an old-timey film screen test production situation and added strange Midway characters as the crew, extras and co-stars. The Ball attendees were cast as prospective talent being screen tested. We felt this fully satisfied the goals of the production: keep things simple, have a high turnaround through the space, delight participants and viewers, and create a large amount of video content for future use.
A very simple experience design was created, much less complex than before:
- A lit backdrop and frame was placed as the audition area
- A crew with a large old-timey camera and tripod were placed to interact with guests
- The crew had large cards with a phrase providing their 'motivation' for the audition which the Director would exhort the guest to play to
- The Mystic Midway characters would sometimes join the guest for their audition and play to the motivation along with the guest
All the while a constant repartee and banter was kept up by the crew with the guests in old timey film lingo.
We were able to create a fun space for guests to ham it up and more deeply inhabit the special character they were embodying for the Edwardian Ball. It was an effective performance given the limitations we had. We did feel that there was a depth of emotional exploration that occurred between audience and troupe in the more complex Terrible Magical Thing performance that didn't emerge in this one. We believe this was largely down to the lack of multiple locations for guests to have a quest line to move along, with nonlinear goals and so on. It will be a future challenge to see if we can use archetype and interaction to get the deep inquiry occurring with guests in a stripped-down production like this one.
As we refine our planning, logistics and performance we will continue to deliver better and better live experiences based on what we learned at Edwardian Ball LA! Expect to see a short silent film that we shot in and around the location.
Big thanks to the Edwardian Ball, the staff of the Fonda Theater and to the Mystic Midway troupe who braved the alleys and mean streets of Hollywood to create something amazing, again!
Photos by Martin Caplan & Calliope Olivia.