08 April 2011

Creating the "Really Real"

The making for the Summer Wizarding Event continues.  This week we sent out the first newsletter.  We're calling it that but it's really just a fun, faux newspaper aimed at getting people intrigued and excited about things.

Our goal is get everyone involved to imagine this could all actually happen, to suspend their disbelief.  So this newspaper -- we're calling it The Monthly Seer -- has to look authentic.  Our first review came in yesterday: a young reader who will be participating as one of the "new students" pronounced it "really awesome" and commented how much he loved "how old-looking it is" and "really real."

Why it worked:
  • The Seer was printed on heavyweight newsprint paper which was also a little over-sized.  This gave the paper the look and feel of being a real newspaper.
  • We didn't "dumb down" the content.  The stories, ads, and images were written "straight," i.e., as though they referred to actual events, objects, and people.
  • It came in the mail!  The layout of the newspaper included a panel with space for the name and address for recipient, postage, and the return address of the "wizarding school" it was sent from.
Essentially, The Monthly Seer is an elaborate prop for this live role play/theater event. The most successful props are ones that look the most authentic.  Paper props are always a challenge.  For a stage production, the documents only need to look credible from a distance.  

Actual Letter Envelope
Image source

Prop Letter Envelope

For an immersive event, such as a murder mystery game/party or live action role-playing game (aka: LARP), document prop authenticity is vital to maintain the believability of the event, to help the actors all stay in character, and, ultimately, to emotionally and psychologically satisfy the event makers and participants.

Players dressed in character at a LARP event.

Actual Western Union Telegram

Prop Telegram Blank
Real Theater Ticket (1941)
Prop Movie Ticket (used in movie Hancock)

Paper documents are often easier to make than 3-dimensional props,  but getting them to look "really real" can take time.  Some inspiration and resources for making prop documents can be found at these sites.

The Cartographer's Guild - A site for those interested in creating maps. Includes mapmaking tutorials and a library of free symbols, textures, and fonts.

Prop Replicas by Indy Magnoli  - A personal collection of props inspired by the Indiana Jones movies and TV series.

H.P.Lovecraft Historical Society -- These folks have created an extensive paper props collection, some available for free download and some for sale on CD.  NOTE: "Permission is granted for individuals to print copies for their own personal use in role-playing games, but any theatrical, commercial or illegal use is prohibited." 

Propnomicon - [from the site] "Propnomicon focuses on horror and fantasy props of interest to fans of H. P. Lovecraft and players of the "Call of Cthulhu" role playing game. That includes items directly inspired by Lovecraft's writing, DIY information for creating your own works, printable paper props, and source materials related to the 1920's and 30's, the "classic era" of the Cthulhu Mythos."

Eric Hart, assistant props master at the Public Theater in New York City, and a longtime prop maker, has posted some useful links and instructions on using Flickr to locate visual resources for paper props.  That link is here.

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