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Mx was originally programmed at The Cultch as a live performance, where “..a key element of the play’s narrative is that the audience is pulled into the action as more than merely observers; their presence and participation has impact on the Storyline…” (playwright Lili Robinson). In transitioning the play to online performance, the Mx creative team sought to establish the same connections with audience members. When Cultch Digital Storytelling’s Kris Boyd made a presentation for Playwrights Theatre Centre on the subject of integrating text-based media into online performance, it was a natural fit to begin a collaboration with writer Lili Robinson and the Mx team. Ultimately, the live-streamed performance was designed to integrate a chat window and polls that required audience interaction to complete the narrative. Off the shelf tools did not exist to embed both video and chat elements in an appropriate way, so we worked with a web programmer to create custom HTML, CSS and JavaScript code to implement this design, this code is now available as open source code on GitHub. Set designer Ariel Slack collaborated with our team to translate elements of the set design and additional source materials into the Cultch Gather space, as a transmedia post-show gathering space for community interaction and visibility.

Process and Key Outcomes

  • Text chat/polls as integral part of performance

    • Consultation and experience design with writer/performer Lili Robinson, Directors Jiv Parasram and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Producer/chat moderator Shanae Sodhi

    • Audience participation critical to the narrative, personal stories become part of the performance

    • Audience to audience and artist to audience connections

    • Artistic team able to review chat logs after each performance to analyse, learn and iterate the script/performance in response to audience interactions

  • Custom coding for video plus chat fullscreen viewing window

    • Using chat new experience for large part of audience

    • Designed to prevent closing chat and not miss key story elements

    • Reusable and open sourced code

  • Gather post show transmedia event created by Mx set designer Ariel Slack

    • Set designer learned to translate and extend set design elements to 2d online digital interactive design on GatherTown

    • They explored audience as active participant not just viewer, how this influences design considerations, adapting knowledge from game design

    • Their first design of a transmedia experience, additional source materials from show discoverable as visual art and written documents

    • Created a space for audience members to make themselves be seen and heard, especially members of the Black, POC and mixed race communities

    • Ariel Slack reports already taking new skills (transmedia, pixel art, GatherTown) to their work with other arts organizations

    • Mx creative team used this opportunity to connect with community members to receive feedback and open dialogue on the themes of the show

  • Collaborated with Producer Shanae Sohdi to implement ASL interpreted performance

    • Facilitated process and design to balance inclusive interpretation process with narrative in chat


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