Actual Play – The Artist Colony Playstorm (8/15/2013)

GM: Lizzie Stark
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, George Locke, Kira Scott, Marc Majcher, Emily Care Boss, Jason Morninstar, Terry Romero, and more.
System: The Artist Colony LARP

I had this amazing dinner that Jason and Steve invited us to on Thursday evening. At that dinner we met some really awesome people, Ajit, Lizzie and George. Lizzie and George are huge fans of Nordic LARP… and later that night they invited us to one!

Artist Colony, which Lizzie is renaming now, is a LARP about people at, you guessed an artist colony. Everyone is given a random mix of cards that contain: relationship status, trauma, a descriptor, art form practiced, how long you’ve been at the colony, and your expectations or motivations. From this your character is assembled.

At first I played “J”, a clingy writer who just wanted to socialize instead of writing. In fact he hated his writing because it was a mythical (and fake) retelling of his past. J had grown up dirt poor and he wrote short stories about a scrappy young girl named Beatrice Bee, who was a poor orphan, but her scrappy sensibilities and ingenuity got her through every challenge. Boxcar Children meets Nancy Drew. Only for J, that was a total lie. His experience being poor was that it sucked and no about of do-it-yourself-ness made that any better.

After two nights though J left and I can back as Anton, also a writer but of non-fiction, who was just there to work and flee his own demons. I only played Anton for one “night” and didn’t fully feel I was in his shoes, but I was getting there.

Format

The LARP took place over several “days”, each of which last 20 minutes. The days were broken down into private creation, cocktail hour, and late night socializing.

Daytime for doing Art – The days passed by Lizzie telling all of us to go stand somewhere alone and close our eyes. She told us to think about the work we did, how it was different from working at home, and asked us questions for us to answer to ourselves. What is your space like? How is today different than the last? Are you inspired? Frustrated? We closed our eyes, focused on our work, and then the day was done.

Cocktail hour – Lizzie asked who was first to head down for drinks and playing J I was there immediately. All I had come to the colony for was to socialize. Kristina (Kira’s character) was also an earlier arrival, and so we started talking. She was a composer with a private cabin in the garden of the colony, and seemed of a like mind to do more socializing that actual work.

After hours – Lizzie collectively gave us the choice to sit out at the veranda, go skinny dipping in the pool, or party in someone’s personal quarters. The group decided what to do, then Lizzie set the stage and we played from there.

Thoughts on the game

Lizzie was playtesting the game so we played a very truncated version. The whole thing in just over an hour. Because of that many of the scenes were very short. Her plan was for this to be a 3-4 hour LARP and I think in that time much deeper relationships would be created. She also mentioned that she wanted to see if we felt the monotony of doing the same thing every day, but personally, especially with changing character half way through, I was on my toes the whole time.

Jason played a remorselessly angry and self-loathing Alexander. He hated all of us openly, but would never have opened up in the context of the game. I think for this very reason, there was a mechanic called the *fist bump*. In the middle of a conversation one person would fist bump another, and then instead of speaking in character to each other, they gave their inner monologue the the audience, even though the audience was usually just the other person. I used fist bumping a lot in the game and it was especially meaningful with Alexander, because both of us put on fronts and both of us hated ourselves. Albeit for different reasons, and different fronts, but it was great to see behind the curtains. Just like John Stavropoulos’s “What is your character thinking/feeling right now?” question, the fist bump created a new tension that the players where aware of each other’s feelings, but the characters weren’t.

Sex, for me at least, was  big part of the game. J had sex with Kristina the first night and after that, was glued to her. She was a drug for him. The fact that she took other men back to her cabin to have sex on her piano as well didn’t matter. After that first night he felt liberated, and on the second day, he had the courage to write a story about Beatrice that he truly thought was honest, which made him elated. A lot of that excitement was drawn from my own experiences of connecting with new people. In my personal case it isn’t usually sexual, but the excitement of sharing something with someone is intense. I don’t think it’s necessarily (or even often) transformative, but it feels like it is in the moment.