Story Chess: Character Collaboration in Aurelia

Screen shot 2013-07-27 at 11.06.12 AMI’ve said before that Aurelia is more a co-created story than a game. The show will have no clear “winner,” and no one risks “losing” during the show, as they would in an traditional game.

Aurelia is, however, a lot like playing chess.

Given the cloak-and-dagger nature of Aurelia, individual plots tend to unfold like a carefully-plotted chess game. Characters  have competing—even hidden—motivations. Some actors plan their characters’ stories weeks in advance, while others work out the details  as they shoot. All strive to move across the board on their own terms. Yet they must work together and against each other.

In such a checkered landscape, how do Aurelians ever collaborate?

Here are a few of the most popular methods:

1) Video Tagging

The Theatrics platform allows actors to “tag” other actors in their video posts. Many actors use this feature regularly to notify another actor via email that s/he has been mentioned in a video. Often, this is the start to a more extensive series of back-and-forth videos that represent a kind of “subplot” for that actor’s story.

2) Out-Of-Character Dealing

Actors have two easy options to contact each other “back stage” as we call it around Aurelia. The first is through our closed actor Facebook group, which serves as a home for general announcements, out-of-character discussion, and a springboard where actors can find and friend each other for deeper conversations.

The other option is our Public Discussion forum on the Theatrics platform. This feature uses Disqus to power a similar type of interaction to Facebook.

3) Surprise Challenges

In this instance, a character challenges another character to take a particular action without prior notification. For example, in a recent video, noblewoman Eugenia Sphazomai begged scientists, Marius Menchevit and Nicodeamus Barzimon, to shelter her fugitive son. Will the actors behind these scientists choose to take Eugenia’s son into their storyline? Or will their characters refuse to help him? The actress playing Eugenia (and incidentally, her murderer too!) doesn’t know. She awaits her opponents’ next move, so she can plan her future story installments accordingly.

Starting to understand why I compare Aurelia to chess?

In Aurelia, I make a move. You make a move. We ponder our options and make a different move. And suddenly, somehow, we find ourselves moving across the board.

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