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(Inter)Action Deck - A Generative Workshop


Celia Pearce


FRI, JAN 5 | 1:30 PM - 3 PM (MST)
Ideation Studio

In this generative co-design workshop, participants will contribute to the development of an ideation deck for theatremakers and devisers designed to expand and broaden the vocabulary for participant interaction. Inspired by Actions: The Actor’s Thesauraus, the verb-based game design method, and the Values @ Play Grow A Game Cards, the workshop will entail a variety of hands-on activities and brainstorming to formulate and seed collection of potential audience interactions that can form the basis of a practical tool for creators.

The goal of this generative workshop is to begin the development process on a card deck designed to help theatremakers expand their vocabulary for audience interaction. The workshop will use a variety of techniques, including storytelling, brainstorming and rapid-ideation, iterative design (including playtesting) and improvisation. The outcome will be an initial prototype of a deck that will be further developed by Playable Theatre as a tool for theatremakers. The current plan is for the deck to be developed as a free downloadable PDF as well sold as a print-on demand physical card deck, with all proceeds going to the Playable Theatre nonprofit 501(c)(3).

From the Artist

Celia Pearce

Co-Executive Director, Playable Theatre; Professor of Game Design, Northeastern University

The mission of the Playable Theatre Project is to support creators in expanding and enhancing meaningful agency in live performance. To do this, we’ve used an interdisciplinary, community-based approach that brings together theatremakers, gamemakers and live action roleplay designers to share and blend techniques from all three domains. As I’ve been exploring ways to do this through my engagement with theatre, I’ve been introduced to some specific tools and methods that I found to be highly resonant with common practices in game design. The first was devising, a process of generating a “text” (loosely construed) in collaboration with actors through improvisation. I found this method very intuitive because it very much echoes the iterative design process that I was accustomed to in game design, a variation of which was used during the Playable Theatre Game Jam that initiated the project in 2018. My first play, (F)UNFAIR, which came out of that game jam, premiered in 2022, was created using devising. As part of this process, I spent the summer in Seattle with my co-creator and the show’s director Nick O’Leary and members of the Dacha Theatre company, a group which has a long history of creating playful and interactive theatrical works, creating the work through an iterative process of devising and playtesting. Devising was particularly apt for our show, which was designed to promote emergent player behavior, because the devising process is itself emergent. One of the specific techniques that Nick used with the actors was “moment work,” which builds stories from small improvised scenes and moments between characters, and, in the case of our show, with audience members. The second useful tool, introduced to me by Nick, was Actions: An Actor’s Thesaurus, an index of verbs to which actors can refer while using the “actioning” method in theatre. The thesaurus is what initially gave me the idea of creating a tool to help creators generate interesting forms of audience interaction. It was also reminiscent of card decks commonly used by game designers, particularly the Values @ Play Grow-A-Game deck, which integrates the method of “verb-based game design,” which centers on the actions performed by players. Third, two authors in particularly have been instrumental in formulation of this idea. The first is Gary Izzo’s The Art of Play, which talks about various means for inviting participant interaction, and Gareth White’s Audience Participation in Theatre, frames this as “the aesthetics of invitation.”

My hope is to seed this project through a co-design process that brings together theatremakers, game and larp designers at Worlds in Play, to generate a vocabulary for audience interaction. This will include drawing from participants’ past experience, as well as generating new ideas around ways that audiences can be activated. The form of the project will be very much driven by workshop participants. I have a few ideas but I’d like to leave the possibility space as open as possible to allow the group the freedom to ideate. Afterward, I plan to compile the materials into a prototype deck, and to invite the workshop participants and others to playtest the deck in generative and educational contexts and send me feedback to further iterate towards a final design.


This is a project of the Playable Theatre Nonprofit.