Monday, November 22, 2010

Apollo 13: Mission Control is a must see

I am still recovering from how good a time I had at Apollo 13: Mission Control on Saturday night. This is a play at Downstage recreating the Apollo 13 disaster: audience members play members of Mission Control and have to perform vital tasks throughout the night in order to bring the astronauts back home again safely (I’ll talk a bit more about this merging between being an audience member and a performer in a few paragraphs).

Here’s who I think should go see this: Jenni, Lee, Norman, Luke, Sam, Matt, Debz, Mike Sands, Bryn, Jacqui, Karen, Malcolm, Donna, Sophie, Simon Shuker and anyone else who thinks it might be quite cool to pretend to be part of Mission Control for a couple of hours.

Without going into spoilers, I totally got to be a hero during the course of the evening: identifying a potential danger on the ship; representing Mission Control during a TV interview with Walter Cronkite, and (eventually) taking charge of Mission Control itself for about 5 minutes – which meant I was spotlighted on stage with about 200 people watching me as I averted a complete and total meltdown.
(Actually, I just re-read that paragraph and I reckon there are spoilers in there, so ... inviso-texted).

Fracking brilliant.


The Audience / Performer Split

Talking about it with Jennifer afterwards made me aware of something I hadn’t considered about attending an ‘interactive theatre experience’.(*) She said that she never forgot that she was an audience member, watching a performance. I, on the other hand, really got into it; I took my role as Guidance Comms Officer really seriously and totally brought in to the drama of the mission.

                                                                                                 (*) It’s basically a LARP.

In some ways, it’s like the observation that people play games for different reasons: some people play to hang out with their friends; some people play to win; in the case of role-playing games, some people play to stay in-character while others play to construct a challenging story.

Your reason for being there and what you want out of it will give you a completely different experience from someone sitting right beside you who’s there for different reasons.

In my case, taking it seriously and buying in to the reality of the show had the benefit of getting me “into character”, so that when I was chosen to take part in a live interview on TV with Walter Cronkite(invisotext), I was totally in the zone and able to entertain the audience with my answers. I also, seriously, wanted to win: I have no idea if you can ‘fail’ Apollo 13, but I wanted to do everything we could to help it succeed; in effect I was trying to clock the performance.


Digging in to why it was so good

I had no idea, when I arrived at Downstage, that I was going to have one of the best creative experiences of my year to date. I expected to have heaps of fun, and I fully intended to get into it as much as I could … but to have it affect me this much?

So, it’s resonating but I’m not sure why. There are a lot of different factors at play here: my life of science-fiction and space flight; taking charge in a crisis; being in the spotlight; acting; a bit of improve and script-writing.

It seems important to me to dig into this a bit deeper to try and figure out exactly why I’m so stoked by this. If anyone wants to help me figure it out, please feel free to ask questions in the comments.
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