Christmas (1994)

The "Christmas" series was the first series of performances by the Internet-based Plaintext Players, an improvisational troupe of net performers who began working in the text-based environments known as MOOs in 1994. I directed most of the 19 "Christmas" improvisations, as well as performing in them and writing the scenarios that guided each performance.

The main characters in the "Christmas" series were an archetypal trio —Big Man, Little Man, and Bloody Zelda — developed by director Robert Allen. In the world of "Christmas," the not-very-bright and easily enraged Big Man depends on Little Man to keep him calm and safe. But no matter where they go or what they do, Bloody Zelda is sure to turn up with her knack for creating chaos out of order. Over the course of this series, the ill-assorted trio find themselves in court, in hell, and lost in the desert as they play out their ever-renewed struggles.

Full Description

For each performance in the "Christmas" series, I wrote a new scenario focusing on the basic trio of characters, giving them new problems to solve. These scenarios offered goals and motives to structure the events of the improvisation, but much of the best material in each performance came from the performers themselves, and sometimes out of left field. For example, one episode started out as a legal battle between Bloody Zelda and Little Man over custody of Big Man, but as this courtroom drama unfolded, it was unexpectedly infiltrated by some of the characters who were then taking part (offline) in the OJ Simpson murder trial.

Each performance was accessible to both online audiences (gathered in a virtual theater space in the MOO) and real-space audiences (gathered in galleries to watch the performances on large projection screens). In some cases, the online audiences were given the ability to participate in the unfolding drama in small ways.

Following the "Christmas" series, the Plaintext Players undertook a half dozen more online-only series before beginning a series of hybrid-reality projects in which online performers collaborated with real-space performers.

Work metadata

  • Year Created: 1994
  • Submitted to ArtBase: Wednesday May 15th, 2013
  • Original Url: http://yin.arts.uci.edu/~players/xmas.html
  • Work Credits:
    • antoinettelafarge, director, scenarist, performer
    • Robert Allen, character ideas, performer
    • Joe Ferrari, performer
    • Thessy Mehrain, performer
    • Lesley Mowat, performer
    • Richard Smoley, performer
    • Heather Wagner, performer, director
    • Adrianne Wortzel, performer
  • Collective: Plaintext Players
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Artist Statement

I founded the Plaintext Players in early 1994 after becoming fascinated by the possibilities of pseudonymous role-play in online social environments, and over the years members of the Plaintext Players have included other new media artists, curators, and writers like Marlena Corcoran, Ursula Endlicher, Heather Wagner, and Adrianne Wortzel.

The Plaintext Players created eight performance series in which the performances took place wholly online: "Christmas", "LittleHamlet" (1995), "Gutter City" (1995), "The Candide Campaign" (1996), "The White Whale" (1997), "Orpheus" (1997), "Silent Orpheus" (1997), and "The Birth of the Christ Child" (1999). Beginning with "Still Lies Quiet Truth" (1998), the Plaintext Players began collaborating with real-space performers on hybrid-reality projects, others of which include "The Roman Forum" (2000), "Virtual Live" (2002), "The Roman Forum Project" (2003), and "Demotic" (2004/2006).

Spin-off works from this series included a graphic novel and a radio play, both based on "Christmas 9: The Cake of the Desert." In addition, a unique boxed edition of scripts and other materials from this series was created in 1995.

The Plaintext Players have never officially disbanded, but they have not collaborated on new works since 2006.

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