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Edinburgh 2022: Guest blog by David Carpenter

Guest Blog: Session Zero and Something For The Weekend Bring Thrilling New D&D-Inspired Comedy to Choose Your Own Fringe Adventure

Co-creator David Carpenter explains how the team’s personal experiences blended seamlessly to create an incredible interactive show

Broadway producer David Carpenter blogs for BroadwayWorld on the contribution The twenty-sided tavern in the UK, the joys of combining technology and theater and why the dynamic between the three creative partners works so well for the show

We were coming back from the first live, in-person test of The twenty-sided tavern when David Andrew Greener Laws (aka DAGL) turned to me and said, “Oh, I was totally ready to give up on tech after that weekend.” He managed to silence me for a few moments before I replied, “Wait, seriously? It’s literally one of the pillars on which we built this.” He said “Yeah, but I didn’t know it would work. Glad it did!”

It was late September 2021. DAGL, Sarah Davis-Reynolds and I had just barely finished two performances of The twenty-sided tavern at Philly Fringe. It happened, like many things now, as a result of the pandemic. Prior to Covid, DAGL had conceptualized a live stage show based on Dungeons and Dragons style gameplay. I had been a producer on Broadway and elsewhere (Puffs, Slava’s Snow Show) and working on a tech company called Gamiotics. Sarah worked in theater management, unknowingly looking to create what we would end up creating.

When the live entertainment stopped, we found ourselves working together at my online production company, Seize the Show, creating interactive Zoom shows while waiting for the world to reopen. We’re all great gamers, but Sarah and DAGL are experienced D&D players. Sometime in early 2021 we decided to do a concept version of DAGL using Sarah’s game design and my tech just to see how the audience reacted. I had the technology platform and some strong ideas about dynamic storytelling and audience agency in experiences; DAGL had a whole world of story and comedic vision to explore on stage; and Sarah was the glue that held us together with her background in technology and brilliant game design.

That’s why I was shocked when my partner in this business said he didn’t know if my contribution was going to work. We had taken the idea online and moved it to the stage to test what a live audience would think. This very first iteration of the idea had five people on stage, two folding tables, and a box of props. We were playing the game live on stage with a few homebrew additions, but the problem was that the audience was using their phone technology to “play the story” and make decisions that affected what happened on stage. The three of us really had no idea what was going to happen. The only thing we knew was that there wasn’t, still isn’t, anything like it in the world.

The audience loved it. People showed up with their friends and D&D groups to spend an evening with us, to celebrate this thing they had always loved at home and online. Now they could experience it in person with a community, with those who collectively shared the stakes in the outcome of the story. For a show already so full of magic, it was truly magical to see.

As we continued to talk on the way home, going through our notes and starting to chart the future of this thing we had built, I realized I was the luckiest guy alive. I had two creative partners in this venture who were daring and willing to try anything to put on a show on something they loved and cared about as deeply as I do. To the point that nothing was precious, even my ideas. Everything was up for discussion and only the best elements would remain. This creative, egoless environment was something I had been looking for for a long time, and I had just stumbled upon it. I knew right away it was going to work.

The Twenty-Sided Tavern, Pleasance Dome (King Dome), 4:30 p.m., August 3-28 (not August 15)

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