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“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”
–Jack Kerouac, On the Road, 1957

It’s 1963 in New York City, and the bohemian underground is thriving. Artists congregate in The Village and gather to share their art and create a new way of being: a rejection of 1950’s Cold War nuclear values. There are poetry readings, jazz joints, and groups of roaming artists searching for the vibe of their generation, hopping trains, hitchhiking, and digging the underbelly of the city. You’re one of these inspired and aspiring writers, artists, poets, painters, patrons, muses, musicians, or critics. Welcome to Beat Generation, a rollicking 24-hour roleplay experience where you are the “angelheaded hipsters dragging (your)selves through the angry streets at dawn, looking for a fix.”

Tonight a group is hosting a Happening, and everyone is gathering in this penthouse to dig each other and create together. People from all over have gathered to celebrate the too-short lives of poet Elise Cowan and painter James Johnson. The only rule of a Happening is that you have to participate; there are no spectators, everyone is part of the performance art that you’ll create together.

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The Experience

BE A BEAT

This immersive roleplay experience is about being part of the underground bohemian artist community in New York City in a time of unrest and transition. The Vietnam War is going on, though large-scale protests haven’t yet begun. The Civil Rights Movement has just reached critical mass, as the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech has just occurred. President Kennedy is still generally beloved (he will be assassinated two months later) and the space race is in full-swing.  You are concerned with finding authenticity in this Cold War world, and with creating a new society that breaks down laws and traditions that restrict freedom of expression and equality. The experience centers around four themes: counter-culture community, recklessness, nonconformity, and creativity.

WHAT IS AN IMMERSIVE PARTICIPATORY EXPERIENCE

You are not a spectator. You are an important and crucial part of the experience, along with the other 35 participants. Each of you will take on the role of a character using costuming, props, and other theatrical techniques. You join your co-participants in the scenario, immersing yourselves in the time period, premise, and characters you will play.  You become the main characters in a story you will write together.

Our company creates a scenario, establishes conflicts and relationships, and provides a framework for the experience. But the story that evolves happens as a result of the choices that participants make as they interact with others and the scenario framework. You build the experience together: discovering information, solving intrigue, forming relationships, and taking meaningful action. While we set up goals for each scenario, the participants’ choices along the way make each resolution unique. Your character will have a narrative arc of their own, and you’ll participate in making an overall narrative experience together.

Since we can simulate entirely new identities, concepts, and realities, we can learn amazing things about ourselves and each other. The power of experience comes not just from the imagination, but from embodying the role and interacting with other actual people gathered together to share and create with you. Because you act out the events with your body (rather than watch), the experience feels uniquely real. This feeling of realness is powerful, enjoyable, profound, and can change our lives. Come join us.

HOW TO PLAY

You will receive a pre-written character full of interwoven storylines, dilemmas, and interpersonal play. Your character will have reason to know many of the people at the party, and you will have a history with them or know about them and their pasts. Others will be new to the scene or to you. There are subgroups within the bohemian scene and not everyone has the same vision for themselves, for art, for the nation, for this bohemian community. You’ll arrive at the Happening and get involved in discussion and spontaneous co-creation with the voices, instruments, materials and ideas you’ll find in abundance. 

This roleplay experience is played in the “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” (WYSIWYG) style, with all interactions roleplayed, just like in real life, or as if you’re in a movie. There are no simulations, such as an item card that represents a typewriter. If you see a typewriter, it is a typewriter. Decisions about what happens between characters are decided among the characters (and their players); there is no gamemaster (GM) or storyteller who arbitrates decisions or declares outcomes. Inter-actors are playing along with you, guiding the story that you create together, but you are in charge of what happens to your character. Roleplay is done with the body and the voice in the current physical location, with you, as the character, using “I” as you play. Roleplay is not narrated, e.g. “my character is looking out the window and thinking of his father.” Instead, you go look out the window and use dialog to tell others what you are thinking. Narrated roleplay is also not used to cause things that cannot physically happen to happen, e.g. “my character is jumping off the fire-escape to the ground below” while you are still standing in the penthouse. If you want to jump off the fire escape, then you physically do it; however, we don’t advise that you take extreme risks with your physical safety. This is not a parkours experience.

There is no main plot to discover; plots are personal among the characters and co-created dynamically using available information and roleplay. Game organizers will not use pre-planned decisions or attempt to drive you to a specific ending. There are no NPCs in this game, only players. Interactions will be intense and the experience is about living the life of an artist in the NY bohemian underground, not in trying to solve a specific overall plot. We use the “play-for-what-is-interesting” style and do not mind putting our characters in jeopardy to see what happens.

This experience is a “one-shot” scenario. If it is repeated, you will play a different character. The experience uses some measure of “turbo realism”: some of the situations, conflicts, and characters were all present historically in 1963, but the intensity and historical details have been compressed into the 24-hour window of the experience.

We will be in-character at all times for the 24-hour period of the live play experience. Players may briefly go off-character for personal reasons, or to negotiate a scene, but those interactions should be discreet, quiet, and unobtrusive, taking care not to interrupt other players and their immersion.

The experience organizers will be playing fictional party organizers or hosts, so they can be approached in character and out. There will be other staff interacting with you, helping to create the experience. 

Practical Details

What

Beat Generation Bohemian Underground Immersive Roleplay Weekend 

When

April 20-22, 2018

Times

Friday, April 20, 7:00 pm-Midnight: Workshops and participant relationship building and socializing.

Saturday, April 21, 10:00 am – Sunday, April 22, 10:00 am: immersive roleplay experience, beginning at the penthouse, moving to several NYC locations, and ending in a private diner in Harlem.

Sunday, April 22, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm: Debriefing and discussion

Where

New York City, NY

Specific Locations:

Private SoHo Penthouse, Washington Square Park, Nuyorica Cafe, Private Harlem Diner

Number of tickets available

36

32 standard and 4 “sleep in the Penthouse”

Cost

$420/weekend, without sleeping accommodations

$575 including sleeping in a bedroom in the Penthouse 2 nights 

What you will do

You’ll be part of the experience, co-creating it with other participants as you portray an artist, writer, poet, musician, painter, patron, muse, or junkie in the bohemian underground. Most characters will be historical figures; some will be fictional characters in the scene. Your character will arrive 30 days prior to the event, so that you can prepare how you will portray them during the event.

You will roleplay relationships and interpersonal conflicts and have impassioned philosophical or political debates. You’ll also be creating: improvising poetry and music, filming each other in scenes for your new new thing, posing as a subject for a painter, daring each other to push the envelope further, to get to the heart of the true and authentic human experience, the elusive “it” that is only glimpsed or felt fleetingly, before it ebbs away. There is no active, external threat that will appear. As Ginsberg noted in his poem, “Howl,” Moloch is ever-present, pervasive and ubiquitous, inescapable.

Sleep Accommodations

Not included on Friday night unless you have purchased one of the two rooms available in the penthouse, each with a queen bed. Saturday night the experience is not designed to end, but continues 24-hours straight from 10 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday.

If you get tired, there is “crash space” in the penthouse on the divan and several couches, but keep in mind that other people may continue roleplaying around you. If you would like to leave the experience for a few hours of sleep Saturday night (e.g. between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.) you may, but you will need your own accommodations elsewhere, unless you are staying in one of the penthouse’s two rooms.

Food

The experience includes shared hors-d’oeuvres, snacks, and drinks Friday night (we may also order delivery of other food, which everyone may chip in for); continual snacks and drinks at the penthouse, Saturday brunch at the penthouse, and Sunday breakfast at the diner. Drinks included are unlimited coffee, teas, and water, and wine (up to one bottle per person). You may BYOB.

What your ticket includes

Site rentals in NYC; food on Friday, Saturday & Sunday; ticket to poetry performance at Nuyorica;  experience design and staff; props, lighting, scene design; supplies; insurance; cleaning & fees. 

Costuming

You’ll be expected to dress in clothes appropriate to 1963, but none of the costuming is very elaborate. We will provide more inspiration closer to the event. We ask that all players bring no more than a “rucksack” for space purposes in the Penthouse. Since the experience is 24-hours straight, there is not a particular need to change clothes, but some characters may have reason to. You will need an outdoor jacket for April weather in NYC. A wool coat or long rainjacket will serve well.

Accessibility

The experience does not involve a lot of physical roleplay or walking, except to and from the subway stations. The experience will take place in these areas: the private penthouse, Washington Square Park, a poetry cafe, possibly Battery Park (opt-in) and a private diner in Harlem. Participants will take the subway to the various destinations. A subway station is in the basement of the penthouse building, with access to several lines, but train changes may be necessary. Several of the sites are accessible to those with mobility difficulties: the penthouse building has an elevator, and the diner is on the first floor. Some New York subway stations are wheelchair-accessible; some are not. A player who is not able to ride the subway may choose to take a taxi or Lyft to the location. At this time, the Nuyorica cafe has not been evaluated for accessibility.

There will be Wi-Fi and phone service available at all times, though we ask our participants to keep their modern electronics out of the immersive game spaces.

Potential themes and content

We provide this list of potential themes and content so that our participants are aware of what may come up during the experience. Since this is an experience where you are an inter-actor within the experience, not merely watching it, the themes can feel more intense, as if they are really happening to you and not as part of your character’s experience.  Participants are asked to monitor their own sensitivity to these topics and to decide when and how they will engage with them.

Topics and themes may include: poverty, homelessness, intransigence, anti-authority, jazz music, poetry, homosexuality, bisexuality, heterosexuality, flirting, power imbalance, unfaithfulness, feminism, implied or explicit misogyny, simulated heavy drinking, simulated drug use, cross-dressing and drag, partner violence, implied or explicit homophobia, classism, wealth privilege, cissexism, gender binary and conformity, open outdoor spaces, small crowds in small spaces, angry shouting, verbal and/or emotional abuse, irresponsibility, abandonment of family/duty, self-destructive behavior, ableism.