Playwrights Guild of Canada recently talked to Randall Dark about his love for theatre and technology, turning a play into a mobile app, and finding new ways to reach a broader audience. His “Tale of Sasquatch” is now available in the iTunes store and for Android in the Google Store.
Q: Your play “The Tale of Sasquatch” is now available on the Apple Appstore and Googlestore. What was it about this particular play that made you think it would lend itself to being transformed into an interactive ebook?
A: During the 80’s “Tale of Sasquatch” was produced many times throughout Canada both as a stage play and a touring play that was performed in city parks and schools. I found that the interaction between the audience and actors enhanced the play and I saw how the children became more animated. A few years ago, I did a major re-write and added an additional character to the the play that would further increase the interaction. When Hal Waite told me about his interactive ebook initiative I immediately saw the potential for this play to be a great fit.
Q: You are recognized for your work as a technological visionary. Your work in High Definition projects have included feature films, documentaries, music videos and corporate presentations. Additionally, you have also been the recipient of the International Electronic Cinema Festival’s Pioneer Award and are a member of the Television Arts and Sciences Academy and the Consumer Electronics Association’s Academy of Digital Pioneers. It’s safe to say that you are very tech-savvy. How did you come up with the idea to create an app from one of your plays? How involved were you in the design process?
A: A few years ago, I had a conversation with Hal Waite, who is an extremely talented filmmaker with a stellar resume in the world of children’s content. Hal told me about Ever After Tales and his plan to create this cool app for kids. He was looking for stories and invited me to share my work with him. Although I’ve written a number of children’s plays over the years, I thought “Tale of Sasquatch” had the most potential for fun images and unique interaction. Panagiotis Rappas created the illustrations and I’m so pleased with his vision. He was very generous, seeking my feedback along the way, but it was largely unnecessary since he brilliantly interpreted my characters.
Q: For other playwrights who might be interested in making their plays into apps, where should they begin? What suggestions do you have for those who might not be as tech-savvy and are making their first foray into new media?
A: Although I have a reputation of being “tech-savvy” in the world of high definition, in this instance I was able to enjoy being the writer while the Ever After Tales team forged the technology journey.
(Hal White, Executive Producer of “Tale of Sasquatch” adds): Obviously a playwright must start with a great story. A story with a message that makes children laugh, has the potential to give them an interactive experience and will stimulate a child’s imagination. A writer doesn’t need to be tech savvy, however it helps to understand who the audience is they are talking to. Look at what apps are out there, understand the app market and learn to write succinctly.
Q: What have you learned from the experience of turning your play into an app? Do you think that by doing so, “The Tale of Sasquatch” can still be considered a play?
A: The most important lesson was staying true to what originally worked as a play. I didn’t try to re-invent the story or alter the characters. I believed that what made my story unique in the world of theatre would carry over into the world of app technology.
Hal and Panagiotis kept the play format when they created the app and in the “About / Info” section, I describe a Three Act play and created “Rupert’s Ten Acting Words Of Wisdom” as well as “Rupert Dictionary of Theatrical Terms From A to Z”. I thought a young reader would find it interesting.
I think a good story crosses over the boundaries of technology and as writers we owe it to ourselves to push not only the traditional writer/audience theatrical relationship but also embrace new ways of getting our plays to a broader audience. I honestly don’t care if my plays are seen in a theatre or on a iPad, iPhone or Tablet. I just want to share the world I created with as large an audience as possible.
Q: Is integrating your theatrical work with new media a priority for you? Has it changed your writing process in any way? How important is it for you to find new ways for audiences to interact with your work?
A: My career has be defined by being on the bleeding edge of technology (especially in the early years of high definition), so it seemed only natural to combine my love of theatre and my fascination with technology. My writing process hasn’t changed, but my writing has. Understanding the technology allowed me to write scenes that are enhanced by these new tools. It has allowed me to find exciting new ways to interact with the audience.
Q: Now that you have an interactive ebook under your belt, what can we expect next from you?
A: I’m currently producing a documentary feature titled, “Moving Images” which will explore the contributions of SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) to the last 100 years of film and television. I’m also working on two new children’s plays that are intended exclusively for app distribution. One of the two is being co-authored by William Lucas and will include original songs full of fun, clever lyrics.
courtesy Playwrights Guild of Canada