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Edinburgh 2022: David Carpenter Guest Blog

Session Zero and Something For The Weekend bring exciting new D&D inspired comedy choose-your-own-adventure to the Fringe

Edinburgh 2022: David Carpenter Guest Blog

Guest Blog: Session Zero and Something For The Weekend bring exciting new D&D inspired comedy choose-your-own-adventure to the Fringe

Co-creator David Carpenter discusses how the team's personal experiences perfectly blended to create an incredible interactive show

Broadway producer David Carpenter blogs for BroadwayWorld about bringing The Twenty-Sided Tavern to the UK, the joys of combining technology and theatre and why the dynamic between the three creative partners works so well for the show

We were driving back from the first live, in-person test run of The Twenty-Sided Tavern when David Andrew Greener Laws (aka DAGL) turned to me and said, "Oh, I was fully prepared to ditch the technology after this weekend." He managed to stun me into silence for a few moments before I responded with, "Wait, seriously? It's literally one of the pillars we built this on." 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 finished a mere two performances of The Twenty-Sided Tavern at Philly Fringe. This happened, like a lot of things now, as a result of the pandemic. Pre-Covid, DAGL had been conceptualising a live-action stage show based on the Dungeons and Dragons-style gameplay. I had been a producer on and off-Broadway (Puffs, Slava's Snowshow) and working on a technology company called Gamiotics. Sarah was working in theatrical management, unknowingly searching to create what we would eventually create.

When live entertainment shut down, we found ourselves working together at my online production company, Seize the Show, creating interactive Zoom shows as we waited for the world to re-open. All of us are big gamers, but Sarah and DAGL are experienced D&D players. At some point in early 2021, we decided to do a version of DAGL's concept using Sarah's game design and my technology just to see how audiences responded. I had the technology platform and some strong ideas about dynamic storytelling and audience agency in experiences; DAGL had a whole story world and comedic vision to be explored onstage; and Sarah was the glue that bound us together with her experience in the technology and her brilliant game design.

Which is why I was shocked when my partner in this venture said he didn't know if my contribution was going to work. We had taken the online idea and moved it to the stage to test out what a live audience would think. That very early iteration of the idea had five people on stage, two folding tables and a box of props. We'd play the game live onstage with some homebrew additions, but the twist was the audience would use the technology on their phones to "play the story" and make decisions that affect what's happening on stage. The three of us really had no idea what would happen. The one thing we did know is that there wasn't, still isn't, anything else like it in the world.

Audiences 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 were getting to experience it in-person with a community, with those who collectively shared in the stakes of the story's outcome. For a show already so full of magic, this was truly magical to witness.

As we continued talking on the drive home, going over our notes and starting to plot the future of this thing we built, I realised that I was the luckiest guy in the world. I had two creative partners in this adventure who were bold and willing to try anything to put on a show about something they loved and cared about as deeply as I did. To the point that nothing was precious, even my ideas. Everything was up for discussion and only the best bits were going to stick. This creative, ego-free environment was something I had been searching for a long time, and I had just stumbled into it. I knew right then that this was going to work.

The Twenty-Sided Tavern, Pleasance Dome (King Dome), 4.30pm, 3-28 August (not 15)

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