Team Size: 5
Timeframe: 4 months
Platform: Board game + companion audio app
Role: Sound Designer, Narrative Designer
Prompt: Expand Theater of War‘s live performance + discussion model into a more accessible and easily distributed medium.
Theater of War Productions (Theater of War) performs staged readings of classic Greek texts, such as Ajax, Philoctetes, and Women of Trachis. These readings are followed by panel discussion with community leaders, who talk about how the public health or social issue portrayed in the text resonated with them. This panel discussion is then opened to the audience, where anyone can discuss how the text made them feel, how it connects to them, and how it relates to the community. For example, a staged reading of Ajax, the story of a Greek general suffering from PTSD who commits suicide, will then be followed by a discussion led by military veterans, and opened to an audience of veterans and their families. The model is meant to encourage discussion, compassion, empathy, and the feeling that “you are not alone across time.”
Kairos is a board game, with a companion audio app, that expands Theater of War’s model into the tabletop experience. In the experience, players listen to audio recordings of a Theater of War performance on the app, and then are given a series of pointed questions about the characters and themes portrayed in the text. From these questions, players are then encouraged have cathartic conversations about what they just listened to. Kairos is meant to played by small, familiar groups with shared experiences. No training, in board games or the text, is needed to take part in the conversations.
In our design, we used the text Women of Trachis, the story the Greek hero Hercules being accidentally poisoned and the events that follow, such as his son Hyllus caring for him in his dying moments. The text explores themes of end-of-life care, chronic pain, family, loyalty, and betrayal. Theater of War’s live model uses the text to facilitate conversations among families and palliative care professionals. Our framework uses Women of Trachis, but can be expanded to any one of Theater of War’s 22 different performances.
Sharing is optional, and those who choose to share are given one minute to do so, and then play passes on to the next player in turn. Players can respond directly using their one-minute timers, or players can have a freeform conversation without the timers; this is usually dependent on the players’ mindsets. As part of the experience, there are support mechanisms in place for those who choose to share. Each player is has a collection of small crystals. When another player is sharing something, if what the player is saying resonates with you, you can place a crystal onto the board to let the other player know that you’re with them.
Players can also “tag” questions with larger stones, and then at the end of the experience, players can return to those questions to discuss them even more. Hopefully, players will leave the tabletop feeling catharsis, feeling more connected, and feeling less alone.
The website for our team, Home Front, that created Kairos, can be viewed here.
My role on the team consisted of developing the adapted narrative from Theater of War’s performance text of Women of Trachis that we used for our prototype, which can be viewed here. The text designations in red correspond to the soundclips (see below) associated with the scene.
I also developed soundclips taken from a Theater of War performance of Women of Trachis, that we used in the companion audio app for the game (Credit to our artist Qiqi Feng for developing the constellation animations). Two examples can be viewed here: