Live Action Experiences

Usually I make games that you play using computers or other electronic hardware, but over the years I've also created experiences in physical spaces. Here are the three I think are most noteworthy.

Queen for a Day (2012)
a piece of participatory theater with a cast of about two dozen, custom-crafted for a single, unsuspecting person to experience on her fiftieth birthday

The subject was intercepted, on her way out of a morning salon appointment, by a stranger wearing a peculiar sash and carrying a briefcase. He identified himself as a representative of the tranquil island of Santa Falala, and informed her that a mass sleepwalking incident had claimed the lives of 243 members of the royal family. Exhaustive research had revealed the subject to be 244th in line to the throne, so, congratulations, she was now queen! He handed her a pamphlet titled "So Now You're the Queen" and packed her into a limousine to prepare for her coronation, scheduled for later in the day.

Over the course of twelve scenes staged in various parts of the city, the subject was dressed in regalia and discovered a number of official duties. She negotiated a peace treaty with the island's indigenous population of giants (these were actually some very gracious members of the San Francisco Giants, and the points of the treaty were decided by a game of quarters). She rewrote the lyrics to the island's national anthem, which would be performed later at the coronation. She fended off the predations of a rival queen who wanted to seize control. And after it gradually became apparent that the island was sinking into the sea, she entertained crackpot proposals for how to save it from a number of advisors, and chose one to enact.

The coronation scene took place at the end of the afternoon, at her own home, kicking off a surprise party with about a hundred of her closest friends. Many of these were wearing sashes and carrying luggage, and it was revealed that the island had in fact sunk all the way, so all of her subjects were moving in to stay with her.

It was good fun!

The FountainQuest (2008)
an elaborate, slightly puzzle-based, participatory theater scenic walk and marriage proposal

The subject was given, during an ordinary meeting with a business client who was in on the scheme, a FedEx package which had allegedly just arrived for her. Inside was a book about the fountains of San Francisco, a playing card, and some mysterious instructions to meet with a contact at a prominent fountain in a nearby plaza. The business meeting was adjourned and she was sent on her way.

This kicked off a journey which would take the subject to many of the fountains of downtown San Francisco, also including a lunch, a streetcar ride, and a chauffeured trip in her own vehicle. At each step she met people acting in character, be they friends, acquaintances, or complete strangers, who entertained her, told her cryptic things, and directed her to new places. There was a Clown to be found, and a mysterious Steward (that was me). She acquired four keys, and thirteen more playing cards.

Eventually, she received a specially constructed puzzle box which required all four of her keys. Inside was a hotel card key. The box also had a false bottom, which was revealed by the marriage proposer upon their meeting at the hotel, and which contained a guide for using the playing cards to reveal a secret message - that was the proposal.

This event was planned over the course of about half a year, staffed entirely by good-natured volunteers, and surreptitiously, extensively photographed with a powerful telephoto lens usually located a block away, allowing for the creation of a commemorative book after the fact.

She said yes, by the way.

The Solar System Perspective Project (2004-2007, 2009, 2012)
a three-mile long exhibit of humbling scale

The SSPP is a scale model of the solar system, with both the distances and the sizes of the planets at the same scale so that you can walk around in it and see for yourself exactly how empty space is. The planets are recognizable household objects - a cue ball, a marble, a peppercorn - which are each accompanied by a humorous informational sign, and these are spread out across the three miles of Stinson Beach in California. We've mounted it six times, typically over a long weekend, and it currently resides in my garage awaiting the next convenient opportunity. I'd go on about this, but it has its own dedicated web page already, HERE.

* Special acknowledgement to my old college pal and frequent collaborator Patrick Mundy. I did all three of these projects with him.