Last week, we had the pleasure of running immersive theatre workshops with writers interested in presenting their work at the Alchemical Door, our immersive new writing night. They’re currently working on their 5 minute mini-immersives, and we can’t wait to see what they’ve come up with.
One thing we discussed was how to structure these immersive shorts. For ImmerCity, immersive theatre isn’t just about placing the audience in a new environment; the audience needs to play a key role in the action. Therefore, it’s important to think about how audience experience is integrated into the narrative.
Here’s how we break it down:
- Entrance: This is the audience’s arrival to the performance space, and should introduce the setting and the actors. This section can also include pre-show material, such as the box office experience or how audience members are greeted. During our workshops, we devised non-verbal entrance scenarios to show that there’s a lot that goes into our understanding of a space besides words and set design. Actor attitudes towards the space and audience could communicate a lot.
- Induction: Once the audience has settled into their environment, its time to introduce them to the role that they will play in the story. It can expand upon the relationships between the audience and the actors established during the entrance, but its main job is to teach the audience members skills they will need to participate in the rest of the play. Since an audience comes into an immersive knowing nothing about the rules of the play world, its important to show them the kind of interactions that they are invited to try out: can they participate in a group task? Talk to actors or their fellow audience? Make independent choices or explore the environment alone? This is the time to let them know, while establishing the premise of the show. It sometimes helps to write this section last, based on the role the audience should play in the climax.
- Action: Here’s where the play can really pick up its pace! Now that the audience is comfortable with the stage world, the story can be set in motion, and the audience can be involved to whatever degree the writer wants. Something worth keeping in mind, though, is that it’s difficult for audience members to absorb dialogue or exposition while they are involved in a task. That information needs to be communicated around interactive sections, or delivered through direct communication with the actors.
- Climax: This is the main conflict or focus of the piece, and ideally should have the audience playing a critical role. The audience should be able to use the skills they learnt through their “induction” at the start of the show to bring about the climax, or to resolve the conflict at the play’s heart. This is the pay off for all the hard work world-building at the beginning of your play.
- Resolution and Exit: The ending of the play, in which the story is resolved. It helps to tie the resolution and the audience leaving the space together, to prevent them standing around at the end of the show with no emotional payoff.
We hope this helps prospective immersive writers start thinking about how to structure the audience journey. In immersive theatre, that’s just as important as structuring your narrative.
ImmerCity will be releasing tickets for Alchemical Door #3 on Monday, so watch this space!