Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How They Met: An Interactive Social Experiment

In 2010, artist and director Ian Bell wanted to bring out the raw truth of day-to-day life in his city. He wanted people to experience Seattle through different eyes. The result: Seattle Confidential: Spill the Beans, Seattle!

To start, Bell set up dropboxes all over the city (physically and electronically) for people to both fill out survey questions and submit performance pieces based on a particular theme. Answers and submissions remain anonymous which, Bell hopes, will encourage more truthful material. "Seattle Confidential is...very personal in nature, like peering through a window into what defines ourselves and our city," Bell said in a recent press release. Before each new event, Bell collects responses and chooses the top writing samples. Then a group of the city's best actors perform the pieces in a staged reading-type setting and Bell presents the survey data, giving the audience an honest look at some fellow Seattle-ites. In this way, Bell refers to Seattle Confidential as "part interactive social experiment, part voyeuristic theatre event."

"How We Met," the newest theme in the quarterly series, was Monday, February 13. The evening featured seven unique stories ranging from an ex-prostitute's encounter with a former client to a man bereaving the loss of a good friend. In between segments, Bell presented the survey answers to questions like "Worst place to pick up a date?" and "Best place to have sex?" In an odd twist, the night's MC also asked audience members to take out their phones for live polling, and the room watched a projected graph of responses. For two hours, audience members read each other's answers, saw a snapshot of seven writers' lives, and wondered who among them just wrote "I'm Batman" on the screen as their favorite pick-up line.

"When you collect anonymous written submissions and surveys from the community, add local actors, plus the live electronic polling of the audience, you have a show that is uniquely and completely by Seattle, about Seattle, and for Seattle," Bell said.

Seattle friends - make sure to check out the Seattle Confidential website in the upcoming months to fill out survey questions or submit a writing piece.

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