ny_hearts: les kickstarter ends in 24 hours

Almost a month ago, I announced my first new project in over a year, NY_Hearts: LES, an immersive, transmedia theatrical project, opening at The Brick Theater’s Game Play Festival in July.

I also announced a Kickstarter campaign for the project. The aim was to hit $5K in 30 days, and 24 hours from now this campaign ends.

As of this writing, the project is $660 away from reaching its goal. You may not have $660 to give. But what about $40? $40 gets you a fun day in the LES that includes a yoga class, lunch and other surprises along the way. Get your limited 35% off through Kickstarter only in the next 24 hours.

Tomorrow, I want to celebrate a huge achievement, and I’d like to celebrate with you. Join in. Every bit helps. Thank you!

WATCH A VIDEO ABOUT THE PROJECT AND PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT HERE

Advertisements

where’s the dough go? to a heckofa show called ny_hearts: les.

Inspired by Amanda Palmer’s blog today about where the hell all the money she’s raising on her Kickstarter will go ($801,825 as of this writing), I thought I’d break down my own NY_Hearts: LES budget and share where my campaign for $5000 will go.

THE BUDGET

$2100 covers production expenses. I’m paying actors, a sound engineer, and an associate producer. It’s a shoestring budget, and because the theater space is the Lower East Side I don’t have the overhead of theater rental, which would typically add another $15,000 to the budget.

$2878 is goes to hiring a press agent and printing. You may ask, “Why isn’t this line a round number?” It’s because I must cover the payout to businesses of goods and services for each journalist or reviewer who takes the journey. The press ticket is free, but I still have to pay for food and classes for any person – including press.

Finally, Kickstarter takes 5% of the total raised. In reality, I must raise about $5500 to cover all my expenses. Obviously, Kickstarter is a make it or lose it situation, so if I don’t reach my $5000 goal, I don’t get anything, which means I’ll be footing the bill for most of it and I will end up doing my own press hustling. It would be great to not have to personally take on the financial burden or hustle of garnering press so I can spend time creating the best experience possible.

WHAT DO YOU GET?

Some have asked what you get for the experience, and I think it’s a great deal. Participants get a yoga class, a drink from a bar, a special from a coffee shop, an item from a retail store, and a meal at a restaurant. They also get what I think is a sexy and provocative story that kicks off an 18 month transmedia narrative. It costs less than dinner and a show, and you get so much more with NY_Hearts: LES.

THE BIG PICTURE

In comparison to what Amanda’s raised my goal is meager, but it all goes somewhere and I don’t see much back. The monies from ticket sales in July go straight back into the project, which is an 18 month endeavor, including the NY_Hearts neighborhood experiences, a web series and another live experience for the winter of 2013-14. In addition to those three tent pole productions (which really feel more like seven productions once all five of the neighborhood experiences are complete) I’m including morsels of story through visual art, music, and social media platforms to color and shade the narrative.

Right now, I’m at $800 of my $5000 goal. I have 22 days left. Please, consider pledging. You can get 30% off tickets if you’re an early bird donor at $40, and if you pledge only $25, I’ll integrate a sentence about someone you love or loved into the NY_Hearts: LES experience.

Thanks tons, and hope you can pledge your support today:

NY_Hearts: LES KICKSTARTER

NY-HEARTS.COM

gettin’ busy

The past week’s been a bit of a blur and completely fantastic.

Me, preparing for our project presentation at last week’s StoryCode hackathon. Yes, I ate all those pizzas behind me. (Big up to Amanda Lin Costa’s article on PBS’s Mediashift where the shot is featured.)

When I greet my friends and ask how it’s going, I often get the answer, “Busy.” Typically, they follow the response with a heavy sigh or a diatribe about the pressure they’re under at work. I’m conscious of giving this canned response to people when I’m asked the same question. If I do feel the need to tell people how busy I am (I live in New York – like I’m ever not busy?), I try to let people know it’s a “good busy.”

Last I wrote here, I was gearing up for the first ever transmedia StoryCode Hack: Beta offered by StoryCode, a new not-for-profit supporting transmedia/cross-platform projects. For the past couple years the group has been just that: a Meet Up group that gave speakers a forum at which to share case studies of successful projects. When Aina Abiodun and Mike Knowlton incorporated, they fashioned this mission:

StoryCode is a non-profit community hub for independent immersive and cross-platform storytellers; supporting, incubating and showcasing projects created by them.

Aina Abiodun and Mike Knowlton introducing the StoryHack presentations.

Their action shift was the incubation directive. Transmedia Meet Up groups the globe over offer panel discussions and speakers showcasing projects, but StoryCode kicked it up a notch. They’re in the business of cross-platform story formation. StoryCode realized creators are tired of talking and want to get their hands dirty, fail and learn from those failures.

I’m not going to go into the details of the Story Hack here. My super awesome US Maple hackathon teammates, Randy Astle and Carrie Cutforth-Young give great analyses here, here, here, here and here.

The hack home stretch before presentations.

What I want to acknowledge is the community created. Real community can’t sustain unless its members feel fed, and this past weekend, 27 storytellers, developers, game designers, filmmakers, and theater-makers devoured the challenge, nourished themselves, and grew into a team of transmedia creators.

It was the most fulfilling artistic experience I’ve had this year.

On top of all this, last week I announced my new project, NY_Hearts: LES, which is part of the Game Play Festival at The Brick Theater. StoryCode provided the platform for me to share this exciting project and ask for immediate essentials I need. I sought an associate producer, a geo-tagged location based storytelling platform, and small business partners in the Lower East Side. With this assistance, I’ve fulfilled several of these needs. You can read more about one of the new developments on the NY_Hearts blog.

It’s challenging to make new work, and thanks to StoryCode and The Brick Theater, I’ve been busy. Very good busy. And I hope to continue being good busy for the next several months.

ze frank returns

Ze never actually went anywhere. He was doing things. Important things. Life things.

At the end of February, I discovered Ze Frank was bringing back his show, The Show. He created it back in 2006, and it was awesome. My girlfriend at the time, who later became my wife, and I shared these videos back and forth when we were courting. They were special to us. They were special to a lot of people. We bonded. We learned. We played. We grew.

To bring back The Show, Ze ran a Kickstarter campaign, but unlike other Kickstarter campaigns, Ze’s only lasted 11 days as opposed to the typical 45. Just to make a point, his goal was $50,000 in 11 days. He made it. In fact, he almost tripled it. In 11 days, Ze Frank raised $146,752. I am proud to be one of the 3900 sponsors of Ze’s new show, A Show.

How much money he raised isn’t really the point, but if you’re interested in knowing more about the details of this stupendous feat, Ze wrote a really detailed post mortem recapping the fundraiser here.

The point is, Ze posted a “preview” of A Show online this past Monday.

Yesterday, the first episode of A Show launched.

Thanks, Ze, for doing what you do. I’m excited, and many others are, too. Can’t wait to find out what hijinks you have in store.

As for me, I have to start writing down my dreams…

the transmedia and transgressions of mike daisey

Everyone’s always asking the question about Alternate Reality Games:

“Do you let your audience know it isn’t real?”

Alternate Reality Games or ARGs are common lingo amongst any of you transmedia folk who read this; however, to most of my theater colleagues and the general public, ARGs are something new. ARGs are interactive stories using real world scenarios with other media platforms to deliver a story that may be altered by participants’ ideas or actions. Often, in the beginning of an ARG, one cannot tell what part of the game is real and what isn’t.

Mike Daisey Photograph: Kevin Berne

Mike Daisey’s The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs has been a news sensation sensation since last year. It brought attention to the poor working conditions for Chinese laborers in FoxConn factories that make most of Apple’s devices. Yesterday, the story surged again. This time, the news was about Mike, himself. In an episode titled “Retraction,” Mike admitted to “This American Life” host Ira Glass certain portions of his monologue are fiction. Now, the issue of truth – not only in journalism but also in theater – is being called into question.

The monologue – whether by design or accident – became transmedia with Mike’s appearances on multiple television shows, news programs, and his blog. Mike also did something he had never done before: He wrote down his script. Famous for only performing with an outline, Mike transcribed the monologue and made it available for download so anyone in the world may perform the text royalty free. This act for a playwright is rare. It’s benevolent, and it helped spread the story.

Mike spurred countless to act. But as puppet master, the beast got to big for him to wrangle. I’m not suggesting Mike started out with a plan to fool the world, but once people became mobilized, everything changed. Sometimes, people tell the stories they want to be true because it will change reality.

Going to the theater, whether for a live performance or film, we suspend our disbelief. We do this with books, games, and even campfire stories. We know there’s not really a boogieman coming to slash us in our tent in the night, but we still might lose sleep as our imaginations run wild. Even with true stories, we all know there’s a little embellishment tossed in for flavor.

When I saw The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, I never thought it was 100% true. I’ve worked with too many playwrights and solo performers to know personal stories are massaged, characters combined, and scenes interwoven to manipulate an audience’s emotions. I assumed Cathy, Mike’s translator who appears as a main character in the monologue, must be a composite of several translators Mike employed as he traveled China.

Still, I was converted. I became an evangelist for the cause. I did exactly what Mike wanted me to do. I posted Mike’s final plea to the audience on my blog. I emailed Apple CEO Tim Cook. I allowed the meme Mike dropped into my brain to grow into a belief and change me. That’s what good theater should do. It changes people.

But now, all the world’s truly a stage. Pundits and reporters are merely players spouting half-truths to advance causes. That’s what Mike did. He discovered a way to spill the story out from the theater and into the mainstream media to activate real change.

However, during the initial fact-checking of Mike’s monologue for “This American Life,” Mike continued the ruse, which was his horrible misstep. People are happy to be entertained by fiction. They’ll even be inspired by fiction to change the world, as I was. They just want to know whether they should suspend their disbelief or not. Mike didn’t offer that option.

In 2011, I saw another solo show based on a true story. When John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown played on Broadway, John included an author’s note in the Playbill about the authenticity of his stories:

“While based on truth, events within the play have been re-created for clarity. Some moments in the piece fall out of their original timeline to create a more streamlined narrative. One or two characters are an amalgam, but all are portrayed true to my remembrance of them. I had to change some names at the behest of my lawyer for litigious reason. Though all the dialogue is essentially true, it has been distilled and concentrated. I’m not a good liar, so it’s not dramaturgy, only lack of artifice.

I wish to transport you into my world as I saw it – rootless and undocumented. It’s my endless quest to examine my life, to create a history and legacy where there wasn’t one. I try not to judge those chemical and electric moments that have forged me as a storyteller as good or bad, but as stepping stones toward self-expression and self-fulfillment. I always felt that the more times I told my tale to as many people as I could find, I could exorcise the pain from my soul. I also felt that the admission of my culpability immediately absolves me of responsibility for the consequences. Being self-aware means one is not lying. And no one outside of politics likes a liar. Doing a live autobiography before one is dead is maybe an act of self-destruction and maybe an act of shedding an old skin. It’s an act of self-hate and self-adulation. It’s many contradictory elements combined to create an illusion of normalcy, which hopefully allows you to come with me on this journey toward a victory over those forces we don’t understand, called life.”

Mike has a two-line disclaimer in the Playbill for The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs in all caps:

THIS IS A WORK OF NONFICTION.
SOME NAMES AND IDENTITIES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE SOURCES.

Changing names to protect the innocent is not the same as fabricating meetings with fictional FoxConn workers poisoned by the chemical n-hexane, used for cleaning iPhones. The difference between the two disclaimers is the lens through which the audience absorbs the stories.

One positive takeaway is the “Retraction” episode of “This American Life” is a solid hour of radio journalism. These days, when everyone is device driven and obsessed with retinal resolution, one of the earliest forms of media offered a riveting, revealing exposé. They shined a light on Mike Daisey’s betrayal of Ira Glass’ trust.

Ira even says to Mike: “I vouched for you.”

That means something. Especially to a journalist.

Context matters. Fictional stories can spread anywhere now and, too often, news organizations fail to vet them. One must be careful not to discredit one’s own cause. Even if Mike Daisey’s sprawling narrative wasn’t intentionally an ARG, there are many now who feel played. He stirred up the media, FoxConn, and the mighty giant, Apple. “This American Life” even continues to acknowledge this issue of poor working conditions in Chinese factories is not going away.

At the end of “Retraction,” New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg offered many facts about the working conditions. Then, Duhigg shifted to an editorial tone, impressing on Ira Glass:

“You are actually one of the reasons why it [the poor working conditions] exists.  If you made different choices, if you demanded different conditions, if you demanded that other people enjoy the same work protections that you yourself enjoy, then, then those conditions would be different overseas.”

Sounds like Mike’s Agony Ecstasy meme survives, which is really the objective of his monologue. It’s also clear when telling stories based on truth, context matters. Whether it’s a stage play, film or ARG, letting the audience know a story isn’t 100% factual protects artists from a world of scrutiny and offers the audience an opportunity to go along for the ride with abandon.

No doubt, Mike will rise up to tell a new tale. He’s a storyteller. It’s what he does. I’m sure he’ll come up with a hum dinger.

::

To download the transcript of The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs GO HERE

To listen to “Retraction” on “This American Life” with Ira Glass GO HERE