Re:Current Theatre brings interactive game to Kingston’s Kick & Push Festival

Via Zoom, players’ choices shape outcomes in “New Societies”

In 2019, “New Societies” was performed in-person, but this year it was held online.  
Sebastien Galina for Re:Current Theatre

At a time when the world is gripped by a pandemic, Re:Current Theatre’s interactive game “New Societies” asks players to imagine an ideal global community.

Re:Current Theatre, based in Vancouver and Toronto, aims to reimagine social gatherings by involving the audience in its performances. They’ve teamed up with Kingston’s sixth annual Kick & Push Festival, which brings innovative theatre and interactive shows to the downtown area, making Kick & Push the perfect venue for Re:Current’s inventive style.

The show “New Societies” was created last year by Re:Current Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, Brian Postalian. In September 2019, the group debuted the game live at Simon Fraser University’s Goldcorp Center for the Arts in Vancouver.

During gameplay, the audience is separated into several groups of up to six players. Each group sits at its own table representing a division on the globe, such as North, South, East, and West. The division hosts then guide teams through each round as the players harvest crops and encounter problems like global food shortages and even deadly viruses—a subject which has become all too relevant during 2020’s festival.

 This year, to bring “New Societies” to Kingston amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Re:Current Theatre needed to transform the show from its live format—complete with cards, tiles, and other props—to one that could be played over Zoom, an online video chat platform.

The Journal spoke to Hannah Mayers, a theatre student at Simon Fraser University and one of the hosts of “New Societies” about how COVID-19 has changed the show.  

“[The game] was in-person before with a custom deck of cards on these custom-shaped tables with markings on them and the tables acted as the game board,” Meyers said.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, all the physical pieces of the game had to be transitioned online. 

“When the lockdowns started in British Columbia, Brian sent us a message seeing if we wanted to work on an online version,” she said. “All the tactile [components] are now on a Google sheet. I think all of us were a little skeptical at first, but it worked out.”

Instead of each team sitting at their own table, the groups were separated into their own Zoom calls, making for a more isolated experience since no one could see or hear what the other divisions were up to.

“One thing with the in-person shows is you can hear the other groups talking around you, or laughing, you can hear them arguing, you can hear all of that,” Meyers said.

She explained that during last year’s live shows, the tone at other tables influenced team’s decisions when it came time to vote on resolutions to the various global conflicts popping up in the game.

“I think there’s an integration of all the separate divisions that’s a little bit lost,” Meyers said.

Transitioning “New Societies” to Zoom changed the dynamic of the game in some ways, but the organizers at Re:Current found creative workarounds. For example, one of the staples of the game, according to Meyers, is hearing the voices of the players in the room build as their excitement grows.

“Our sound designer was able to create that [feeling] for us in their scores,” Meyers said, referring to the intense music which played in the background throughout the show.

Meyers, who has been one of the hosts of “New Societies” in both its live and digital incarnations, believes the game’s unpredictability is what makes it special: it can end in global peace or chaos depending on what the players choose.

“A lot of the game is dependent on what [the participants] can come up with or how they react, and yes, we have a script, but we’re always reacting to what they’re giving us so from night to night it can be wildly different,” Meyers said. “Their reactions and their surprises are always the best part.”

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