The Ultimate Guide to Interactive Theater

The Ultimate Guide to Interactive Theater

The power of choices and the SEPHIROT® SYSTEM

  • The DIrector of one of our SEPHIROT® PERFORMANCE, telling everyone the match is about to begin.
  • SEPHIROT: Il Soldatino di Stagno PERFORMANCE by CHRONES., a group of people wearing face masks in a theater, neoplasticism, press photo, a man weaving his hand to vote in a game
  • SEPHIROT: La Volpe e il Corvo PERFORMANCE by CHRONES., a group of people standing in front of a projection screen, filmic, anamorphic lens flare, show photo

You are lucky enough to get yourself in the front row to watch something magical and spectacular like the production of War Horse at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. You’ve dreamt of this day for years, now. Now, in front of you, there it is. Laying at the edge of the stage, a puppet horse never looked so inviting. Why would they place it so arm-reachable if they didn’t want me to touch it… to play with it? As you would treat this embedded hyperlink, which looks different from the rest of the text as to invite you to engage with it, your hand is now flying towards the ornament. You touch the horse. Nothing has happened. But you’ve just tried to make a Broadway show interactive.

Interactive Theatre, immersive performances, the challenge of crafting a cohesive yet emerging narrative, and the responsibilities that come with being both the audience and the real author of the experience: this is what this compendium is all about!

What is Interactive Theatre…

Interactive performances are a paradigm shift from the conventional roles of audience and makers to new conventions in sharing the action to unfold the narrative or simply live an experience. Because it is an experience, more than a show. Time and space are thought out differently when you have the audience variable. When interactive, you cannot get two identical performances of the same production. Although a part of the makers (the trained ones, performers, actors, or dancers) have a task to complete, it’s impossible to control the exact course of events, and therefore, to replicate it. And it comes naturally that, changing the power dynamics, the spatial division has to change, too. More often than not the concept of interactive is linked with that of immersive. Interactive theatre lets the audience and performers share the same space and the same props.

… and Why Does it Matter?

You have a group of people sharing the same space, enjoying the experience of creating something together. But how? There are plenty of ways to engage the audience. You might let them interact with scenes happening at the same time, letting them choose what to watch, when to watch it, and from where to watch it… the space is theirs! You could also enable performers to ask for suggestions or let each audience member become characters in the performance. Some interactive live events, like CHRONES.’s SEPHIROT® PERFORMANCE, let the audience directly alter the course of the narration, by letting them challenge themselves with real-time games or by taking a stance about moral and ethical choices asked by performers. Interactive theater finds its primary purpose not in entertainment, but in having a social impact as a tool for engagement, for the creation of temporary local communities and inclusion. Its primary goal is to make participants’ needs and leisure the reason for the production. 

SEPHIROT® PERFORMANCE – The best of both worlds

Bringing as its added value the union of Performing and Play conventions, our SEPHIROT® System explores the advantages and potential challenges of making interactive experiences. Follows an interview by actress and researcher at the University of Catania, Giorgia Coco, to SEPHIROT® creator and CHRONES. CEO Alessandro Anglani, on the occasion of SEPHIROT®: Marino, an original interactive Scenario staged in Catania last September.

What is SEPHIROT®? 

SEPHIROT® is an Interactive storytelling system, which is a way of telling a story interactively. Through this system, we have created a show format called SEPHIROT® Performance. In these performances, we combine moments of choice and moments of play. In our story, there are both Protagonists (actors/performers) and Non-Protagonists, who we would call audience (if we were in theater), or figurant (if we were role-playing). The Non-Protagonists can make shifts in the story, leading to different narratives, and then come to the fulfillment of the whole narrative, let’s say 360 degrees when we get to the end of the play. This is effectively both a hyperdramaturgical system, composed of dramaturgies, of texts with dramatic conventions; and a hypertextual system within which you can navigate. I chose game design elements, because they are part of my background, to activate the mechanism of choices and challenges to trigger the alteration of the story implemented by the Non-Protagonists.

The project was born, if I’m not mistaken, from an experiment done for the Biennale Teatro di Venezia, can you tell us about that? And what are the evolutionary stages of the format that you have gone through up to this point?

It all started in 2019, at the Biennale College Teatro Under 30. I had pitched a project starting with a piece that had fascinated me greatly: Heliogabalus. The Crowned Anarchist. I had been deeply impressed by the story of this 16-year-old boy from Syria, from a family of, let’s say, upstart women who plotted for him to become emperor, which he later became, turning into a symbol of corruption. A very interactive character, we could say. From there came the interest in developing interaction mechanics. It was not the easiest thing to do. I started right from the foundations, that is, from creating a set of rules. A new convention. We created a rulebook that is SEPHIROT®, the system that allows you to create these interactive performances. There are currently eleven SEPHIROT® hyperdramaturgies. After the first attempt with Heliogabalus, we started from scratch. From fairy tales, like The Fox and the Crow, characters who struggle to eat cheese. Slowly, we increased the complexity, so from fairy tales we switched to fables.  Then we approached the theater classics such as Romeo and Juliet. Until we arrived at this hyperdramaturgy, SEPHIROT®: Marino, that takes its inspiration, at least in its settings, from Testori’s La Gilda del Mac Mahon. It is a completely new work even from a formal point of view. Until now all our stories were developed through so-called decision trees, so they were texts that started from the same premise and slowly in the expansions became like a tree. The branching opened from the left to the right, so toward one direction. SEPHIROT®: Marino, on the other hand, is peculiar, it is more complex if you will, because it is reticular. We have an entry point, but the navigation can develop in all directions. Previously, we started from stories that were already told, and already planned, where there was a beginning and an end. The choice was exclusively like “Does the fox eat cheese or not?”, so by necessity, we were proceeding from a before, to an after. Choosing to approach the post-dramatic subject matter of a situation means that you have various facets, and this automatically gives you the possibility of having a reticulum and also alogical situations that link together. And the connection works because life itself is alogical.

Can we say that this performance uses forms taken from theater, but differs from it by its specific nature? Can we find other terms to define its form?

As I was told by Antonio Latella, the conventions that have emerged are not performative conventions. They are closer to sports and games than they can be to theater, but within this work, there is also the joy on my part of having found things that enhance the performative act as such, in other words, the creative artistic moment.

Ready to step into an interactive future? Don’t miss our upcoming interactive theatre events and immerse yourself in a new way of telling stories, where every choice shapes the course of events.

Read Giorgia Coco’s original article in UniCt Magazine.

Photo Credits: Julian Soardi, Sara Soldini, Laura Rondinella.

Carla Andolina

Carla Andolina CHRONES. COO About us
15 January 2024

From Lord of the Rings to Evangelion and Ace Attorney, she’s learned that the right team makes all the difference! Creating magical experiences and lasting networks is her mission: bringing together talents from unexpected fields to make 1+1 equal 3! From acting she moved to contemporary dance and social media management: there is no right way to say things, only the most useful! For more than 3 years she’s been SEPHIROT®’s trooper and now she organizes CHRONES.’s forefront expeditions! Allons-y!

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The Ultimate Guide to Interactive Theater

The power of choices and the SEPHIROT® SYSTEM

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CHRONES. SRL innovative start-up. Via Mons. Santeramo, 23, 76121 Barletta.aP.IVA/C.F. 08822590728 REA BA 652634. Share capital: € 10.000,00 | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy

CHRONES. SRL innovative start-up. Via Mons. Santeramo, 23, 76121 Barletta. P.IVA/C.F. 08822590728 REA BA 652634. Share capital: € 10.000,00 | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy