Philadelphia theatre company uses the internet to create shows

This is kind of old news, but still fascinating. New Paradise Laboratories is using social media to create plots and character back-stories for new work.

This innovative experience takes audiences through a rabbit hole on a visually stimulating online adventure. Stories evolve on social networks with multimedia components from YouTube and Sound Cloud. It can be hard to decipher what’s real and what’s fiction.

Before shows open on stage, the audience gets to interact with characters on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts. The theater company works with actors to develop the fictional characters on social media accounts.

“I feel like it’s like a medium where stories can be told in a whole bunch of ways,” NPL’s artistic director Whit MacLaughlin told Mashable. “I wanted to find out how you use translate theater into an online space. You have to figure out the narration of social media — how to convey something about a person.”

Actress Annie Enneking played Fess Elliot in the production. Enneking created Elliot’s online persona for close to a year, taking pictures, writing songs and updating her Facebook 24/7 as her fictional character.

“I felt very vulnerable to do it,” Enneking said. “I was creating the character online for nine months. Suddenly the day the play went up, we had to go through back in time and publish posts given the timeline of the life of production.”

Separating herself from “being Fess” was difficult when the play was over.

“What I loved the most was that I had a constant outlet for my creativity. I would follow my impulses. I was creating little pieces for my character,” she said. “After the show closed, it felt like a little death.”

I’ve known web comic authors – like Questionable Content – to create twitter accounts for their characters, to entertain the audience between comics. There’s also a few plays done in a Facebook newsfeed style – most infamously, Hamlet. And definitely theatre companies use Facebook and Twitter, among some other social media, to spread the word about shows. But this is the first instance that I have heard of of a theatre company using social interaction online to develop characters and plot, and I think it’s brilliant.

Tempting to steal the idea for my own purposes, it’s that good. Nice work, NPL.

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