I owe some of the best things in my life to roleplaying games. But the greatest gift I received from our strange and wondrous hobby was the gift of love.
I met my wife, Taurie Kinoshita, when we were both graduate students in the Theatre Department at University of Hawaiʻi. She wasn’t a gamer, and this is not a story of how D&D brought us together…well, not exactly.
My wife was already famous on the islands when I met her, for her own particular brand of theatre, unlike anything I’d ever seen before (or since).
I went to see one of Taurie’s shows before I’d met her. I arrived at a café with a makeshift box office set up outside. I paid for my ticket. I got handed a card that gave me a character name, and two sentences about my best friend (to be played by an actor in the show), and a costume piece (so the actors in the show could identify me).
Next a car pulled up and I was bundled into the backseat.
What followed was the most intense, engaging and thought-provoking 45 minutes of theatre I’d ever experienced as an audience member. I found out my best friend was being snatched up under the Patriot Act (brand new at this time, back in 2002).
My “best friend” (a very well-trained actor) improvised around everything I said and did, seamlessly adding it to the plot and themes of his show. It was uncannily similar to a truly masterful feat of gamemastery at the rpg table. Every choice I made changed the story and had intense consequences.
At the climax, my best friend was taken, and I was truly and deeply bereft. Through the magic of theatre, I felt like I was losing a dear friend, even though I’d only met that actor 45 minutes ago.
Flashforward a few months, and through a lot of luck and one heck of a Charisma check, I’d landed a role in Taurie’s next one-on-one interactive improvised show. By then I’d discovered she had innovated a whole new style of performance to create these shows, and an entire complex system of training actors to weave the potent experience I’d enjoyed in her last production.
Our first few rehearsals together reminded me deeply of rpg again. I created a character and then rehearsal was spent with her asking me questions about my character. She was deeply impressed at how complex a character I’d fleshed out, and how quickly I could expand on that character’s backstory.
My future wife was smitten with my rpg skills. What she, as a non-gamer, couldn’t know, was that these rehearsals were basically her asking me to tell her about my character. Every gamer’s dream date.
Flashforward 18 years, to the present, and its a bit like we’re living inside a dystopian future rpg.
I’m helming a Theatre department of my own now. In the intervening years, my wife and I have taken her shows on the road – New York, London, but we’ve returned to the islands where we fell in love.
When Covid swept the world, and every theatre closed its doors for the foreseeable future, I was struggling to determine what we’d do in the Fall for our amazing students’ production. One night during a long walk, my wife turned to me, with that mischievous Loki-like look she gets, and said: “I’m bringing back the one-on-ones.” I smiled the way I would when one of my favorite PCs, an epic-level badass of titanic might, pulls out that mighty relic she’d kept under her robes for the past two campaigns. The one the GM completely forgot existed. The one she saves for only the worthiest of foes. The one that banishes all the evil the world can summon.
My wife, our resident director, is right now (as I type this) working her 9th level spells on a whole new generation of actors (a fair few of them gamers, we aren’t as rare as we were in the early aughts).
Her upcoming show with our incredible actors is called “Protocol Z”.
You’ll be making a Zoom call to your best friend as the Zompocalypse (Zoompocalypse?) rages. Revelations, terrifying breaking news, and other twists and turns shall ensue, as your friendship is tested, and the world unspools around you both. If you’ve missed roleplaying, remember these actors are trained to take anything you bring to the story, and make it part of the show. Your own individualized, personalized performance. A one-off rpg session GMed just for you and one other audience member (see it with a fellow gamer if you like).
If you’d love to see where the river of rpgs runs into the ocean of theatre, I’d highly recommend you tune in this week or next. It might just be the most engaging half hour of your life outside your bubble since this pandemic began. Heck, if you just love zombies as much as I do, or could use something creepy todig into this Halloween season, don’t miss this experience.
If you are interested, take a look at our schedule of performances (remember all times are Hawaiʻi local) and drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The show is free, but we beg a donation if you’re able. We suggest $15, but you can give what you can. Anything will help us survive our own apocalypse – the demise of live theatre for the near future.
(Times in Hawaiian Standard Time)
October 16 and 23 (Fri.), 7:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 9:00pm
October 17 and 24 (Sat.), 7:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 9:00pm
October 18 and 25 (Sun.), 4:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m.
October 21 (Wed.), 7:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 9:00pm
October 22 (Thurs.), 7:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 9:00pm
Hope to see you at the show. Who knows. Maybe it’ll change your life, the way it did mine. Roll a 20 and find out.