First off, many many thanks to Jerome for allowing himself to be cajoled into facilitating this after having played it only once! You did a great job at being Shakespeare, too. I particularly loved the for-reals flounce at the end (though you left your Shock book behind again).
I’ve tried looking for actual play reports for this game but they seem to be few and far between, so excuse me while I make this up as I go along.
Players: Jerome, Erik, Jess, Chris, Stuart
Shakespeare (Jerome): thinks his daughter is flighty and flaky, and disapproves of the fiancé she ran away with.
Ariel Shakespeare (played by nobody): the daughter.
Carl Burns (Erik): the now ex-fiancé, and (as it turns out) a pirate.
Viola (Jess): Ariel’s lady’s maid.
Louis (Chris): an advice-bearing neighbour.
Moby (Stuart): a pirate who had once kidnapped Ariel for ransom.
Scenes, in reverse chronological order:
“Who is this Carl?”
This was the estrangement scene, in which Ariel informs Shakespeare that she will not be attending his patron’s dinner, but will instead be running away with her pirate fiancé, Carl. We opened and closed with this same scene, with the same actors playing the same roles, which was a nice bookend. It was Carl-as-Ariel’s soliloquy about her father driving her away and turning her into what he hates that caused Shakespeare to throw up his hands and storm out of the rehearsal.
The Duchess of York
At a dinner given by Shakespeare in honour of his patron, the Duchess of York, Louis tries to get the playwright to read his script, Moby gatecrashes, Viola gets drunk, and Shakespeare (everyone who played him agreed) is pompous and self-aggrandising. This was the scene where the mechanic of repeating the same scene multiple times shone the most, because it was only the third time around (when we could show emotion) that we discovered that Moby had gatecrashed the party in order to deliver a letter from Carl to Ariel, arranging their elopement.
“Father, this is Carl”
Moby and Carl deliver their hostage back to her father. In this scene, we had both interesting re-use of, and difficulty with, the certainties. Shakespeare’s line, “What is a Carl?” was originally just a throwaway, but Stuart made it into Shakespeare’s assumption that a ‘carl’ was a piratical term and his attempt to get the definition of this strange new word. Another line, Carl’s, “Not unfortunate to me, my love,” required some set-up from the other actors, and during two versions of the scene we had difficulty setting it up and incorporating it. Actors really need to be on the look-out for opportunities to feed each other cue lines, and for when those cues are being fed to them.
“Ariel, this is Carl”
To me, by far the most interesting scene. It took place during Ariel’s captivity and was her introduction to Carl, the dashing pirate who was smitten with her at first sight. People had very different takes on Ariel; Carl thought she was genuinely in love, but Viola thought she actually looked down on him but was using him all along, at first as an “ally among thieves,” and later as a way to escape her overbearing father.
I was sort of terrified to play this game--it's sort of like other storytelling games I've played, but on steroids. Acting out voices inside voices was a challenge that I managed to keep properly in mind maybe half the time, and it took enough attention that I feel like I let a lot of details I could have strewn through my scenes just fall aside.
It was especially challenging because there's so little set up of any scenario the first times around and--Action!--you're in it.
In many games if I'm feeling stuck I feel like it's before a scene starts. And most have been very amenable to my saying, "Hmm. I'm blank. I'm thinking of X, but I'm not sure how that would work..." and people will leap in, "Ooh, that's great, you could do ABC with it..." or "maybe if you did Y instead of X it would work..." and it kick starts me again, often triggering in me something that was neither ABC nor Y, nor X. Just the moment of conversation and I'm off. This game didn't seem to have any room for that sort of conversation. Though, I bet if I'd felt totally frozen I could have just yelled, "Line!" and it could have done the same thing. Hmm, I'm using that "Line!" thing next time...
That said, it did feel pretty great. It felt like it was stretching improv-y muscles I hadn't been using enough up to then, and I left feeling exhilarated and pleasantly exhausted. And I'm currently writing a story that includes characters telling stories about other characters, and I'm finding this game's really opened my ideas up about how to approach the storyline. Good, good stuff. I'm really happy I played this one
I wonder if in a scene, saddled with a line that you need set up, or you need to NOT be shut down (like being introduced as Carl, when you've got the line "I'm Carl" but that could be done anyway) if at a point when the scene lags, you could hold up the line in front of everyone to remind them the set-up is needed.
I loved how you plan out your motivation, not as a guide for how your character will progress in the scenes, but as a guide for how you will portray OTHER characters in those scenes, because someone else will have the reins on your character's part and so what sort of person they are is in their hands.