STUDIO RETROSPECTIVE is a half-hour interview show on public television, spotlighting accomplished actors. Their fame defies introduction — instead, our sense of them emerges through play.
Divide these roles:— 1 Host— 1 Star— 2 Performers (for larger groups, add more Performers)
Each player contributes the following prompts:— 5x dramatic character motivations— 3x locations— 2x headlinesCollect these, sorted & unread.
Playing an episode follows this outline:
INTRO. [1min]— Opening pleasantries! Establish Host & Star in broad strokes.
FIRST CLIP. [2mins]— Within a clip, one Performer acts as the Star. Rotate which Performer embodies the Star between clips. (With 3+ Performers, also decide who the clip includes.) Performers: take motivations. Host: take a location, set a 2-minute timer, & open the clip by saying “SCENE: [location].” Performers improvise the clip using their motivations until time expires.
STUDIO. [3mins]— Host & Star discuss the previous clip.
SECOND CLIP. [2mins]
STUDIO. [4mins]— Discuss! Host: at some point, introduce a headline about the Star. (Imagine an article, magazine cover, etc. appearing onscreen.)
THIRD CLIP. [2mins]
STUDIO. [3mins]— Discuss!
FOURTH CLIP. [2mins]
STUDIO. [4mins]— Discussion, + another new headline.
FIFTH CLIP. [2mins]
STUDIO. [5mins]— Discussion, + a final headline. As the scene concludes, wrap up with a brief outro.
This is a microgame I created for the 200-Word RPG Challenge in April, 2017.
There wasn't quite room to include it, but ideally I'd love to see players film each scene live as it's improvised (smartphone, streamed, etc.), "editing" the 30 minute episode in-camera. I'm a big fan of games that produce interesting artifacts of play that persist beyond the end of a session: the poetry made during Warrior Poet, the map drawn during The Quiet Year, and so on. Objects that can be shared (or created) digitally or via social media are extra welcome!
I've been having a lot of fun with prompt-driven, improv-heavy party games lately, which pushed the game into the shape it took. I can see this being played totally straight with a PBS/NPR vibe, or going headlong into "Between Two Ferns" absurdity instead, and both sound great to me. The spectre of "Inside the Actors Studio" and similar shows looms large over the concept, but the tone of this game is open-ended on purpose.
As for not having the Star act as themselves in clips, I think that owes a lot to a written interview format the A.V. Club does, called Random Roles. The films/plays/TV shows to be discussed are chosen & ordered randomly, so the actor being interviewed doesn't know what's coming. (Much like this game aims to do, by creating & using the prompts!) I think it creates an interesting twist on having someone reflect on a past experience, and creates a sense of recalling and analyzing a separate person from another time.