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Szepty/Whispers: Dialogue

Szepty/Whispers: Dialogue began when artist Veronique West invited seven collaborators to respond to the question: how does your lineage shape the way you communicate about mental health? The collaborators were: mia susan amir, Kagan Goh, Maya Jones, Constantin Lozitsky, Jivesh Parasram, Kendra Place, and Manuel Axel Strain. Additional collaborators in the interactive digital platform were Inclusive Designer JD Derbyshire, Sound Designer David Mesiha, Dramaturg Kathleen Flaherty, Deaf Interpreter Ladan Sahraei, Production Coordinator Brian Postalian and PTC Public Engagement manager Davey Samuel Calderon. Traditional Musqueam Welcome and Conversation was provided by Mary Point and Manuel Axel Strain.

Szepty/Whispers: Dialogue is an interactive transmedia experience that includes both a live performance and a digital component. The Cultch Digital Storytelling team collaborated with Artist Veronique West and PlayWright’s Theatre Centre to enable the development of 2 iterations of the digital component, first as a branching narrative web app experience with multiple accessibilty components including ASL interpretation and accessible audio and text players. This iteration was presented by the rEvolver Festival and at the Rendezvous with Madness festival. The second iteration expanded the project into a geolocation triggered mobile audio app experience as well as a QR code triggered text experience designed for the deaf and hard of hearing community. This was presented through Playwright’s Theatre Centre’s Unscripted program.

In the first iteration (no longer available), participants had agency to choose their own path through a branching narrative structure, exploring the ways and words used to describe mental health within diverse families. The unique order and combination of narrative nodes was then combined again for them at the end of the journey, and they were invited to add their own stories via recorded audio or text. All audio playback had captioning, and there was a matching experience using ASL videos. Tools used included, and Ableplayer.

The second iteration of Szepty/Whispers: Dialogue invited audience members to participate in a geo-located experience through an audio and text web app at Using a smartphone, audiences wandered the unceded Coast Salish territories in downtown Vancouver to explore artist contributions about mental health, language, and lineage. Audiences were invited to complete the exchange between artists and audiences by adding their own audio contributions. Tools used include Roundware, Github, Logic Pro.

Process Design and Key Outcomes

  • Artists were enabled to:

    • explore the use of accessibility oriented media player Ableplayer

    • gain experience with digital dramaturgy choices

    • learn about digital product workflows and timelines and how they differ from live performance productions

    • explore branching narrative structure in a way not possible in linear live performance

    • use geolocation triggering as a narrative tool

    • contributing artists were included in experience design by collaboration on geolocation trigger placement and its effect on audience immersion

  • The technical team gained experience with:

    • setup and implementation of roundware open source software

    • challenges and opportunities associated with Open Source Software and Version Control Systems (Github and GitLab)

    • digital solutions and limitations for accessibility( asl videos, text version, QR codes

    • requirements for testing on multiple devices and operating systems

  • Presenters/Producers gained experience with:

    • differing audience services required for a web or mobile experience

    • creating of a feedback process for digital experiences allowing artists to iterate from clear results

    • understanding of technology access (purchasing smartphones with appropriate specs for lending to audience without their own phones)

  • All collaborators including Cultch Digital team explored artistic and workload implications of digital accessibility components

  • Audiences had the opportunity to:

    • experience geolocated audio for the first time

    • contribute text and audio to the experience


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