Participation as Intimate Act: Audience Reflections on Strategies of Consent in Roll Models

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Kelsey Jacobson
Bethany Schaufler-Biback


Immersive, interactive, and participatory performances often promise co-creative or otherwise unique roles for spectators, who may be called upon to directly interact with performers, explore performance sites, or help shape plot. The nature of much of this heightened participation is important to note: audience members might be expected to be visible onstage, make choices that affect the show, offer personal information, or engage directly with actors, in an ask for labor that is resultantly accompanied by increased risk, vulnerability, and relationality. This article uses the case study of Roll Models, a longform improv show that enacts a short adventure campaign in the style of Dungeons & Dragons on stage, in order to characterize audience participation as an intimate act. Building on previous scholarship aimed at assessing consent, intimacy, and participation in immersive theatre and live action role-play (Villarreal 2021, Biggin 2017, Machon 2013), we query not only into what participation, consent, and on-boarding processes were present in the performance, but also how audience members themselves viewed such mechanisms, understood and learned their role in the performance, and related to actors and each other.

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