Part 3: Creating the Theatrics

Here we explore another important part of creating this construct at HackFu, namely on creating the immersive and unique experience for the attendees that makes the experience feel more “real”. 

There are several ways you can achieve this, some of the others will be the subject of other articles on this site, but one highly successful method is to create some characters within our construct and then use roleplay to bring them to life.

There are several ways that you can do this, some of them are more adventurous than others. We’ll provide you with an understanding of what your options are and the advantages and disadvantages of each by telling you about our evolving approach over the years.

In fact, the first time we attempted this was in year two of HackFu and it consisted of no more than a friend bursting into the room where the initial briefing was taking place and informing the assembled participants that there was an emergency that we needed to help with. 

This is great for introducing a twist into your scenario but it requires some planning and a supply of people you trust who the other attendees don’t know. It also only creates a temporary impact at the event and is quickly forgotten about and it doesn’t achieve the overall objective.

So the next step to take is for those involved in organising the event to assume identities themselves and play them out over the course of the event. This is the approach we used for many years, usually with one person taking the lead and fulfilling the main role in the scenario. 

At first glance this seems like the perfect answer to the problem as there is no briefing of external people and there is no cost as you are playing the roles yourselves. The main challenge would therefore appear to be purely about whether the other participants can abstract your day-to-day role that they know from the one you are portraying and thereby buy into it enough to create the desired effect. There is also the fact that some people are performers and some aren’t. If you aren’t you will find this is really difficult to do well.

At HackFu we found that over the years this approach allowed these roles to evolve and become more intricately constructed with more back story and more depth. Practice and experience are the key factors in being able to develop your own performance to fulfil a role like this. In many ways your ability to embrace the challenge and dive into it wholeheartedly are your limiting factors in its ultimate success. But there is a cost to this approach that you should be aware of.

The more involved the role the more preparation time and more importantly the longer you’ll need to remain “in character” for during the event. From personal experience we know that this can take a toll on your enjoyment of the event and the time you need afterwards to recover from the experience. So if you hit this ceiling in your event there is only really one option left open to you, hire some professionals. The downsides to this are that it will incur a cost and you’ll need to create a thorough brief for those involved but the upside is that you’ll be able to push the experience of the attendees to a new level whilst at the same time freeing yourselves up to do other cool stuff at the event.

So if you are looking to run an event for yourselves and want to take advantage of what performance artists can bring to the event then we’d advise you to take note of the thoughts you’ve just read. 

As we’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site you’ll need to create a realistic and authentic construct if you are going to realise the full benefits that this approach brings. This means that you’ll need performers who are able to improvise, adapt their approach and will react to the behaviours and attitudes of the people who are attending the event.

If you are organising an event of this type you’ll need people around you who can take responsibility for various aspects of it. Knowing that the storyline can be moved on and that all the participants can be kept informed and engaged in the concept can let you focus on some of the other aspects of the World you are creating. 

If your performers are anything like our friends from the Cat and Mouse Theatre group - the cast of performers who played the guards at HackFu 2015 - then this aspect of the event will be a huge success.

Read Part 4: Building a Challenge

For further insight into event theatrics, check out this Q&A with Cat & Mouse Theatre Group.

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