Alpha Society

Posted on October 5th, by aka wendy in Findings. No Comments

A multi-level audience experience 

March 14, 2013
ReDesigning Theater class final prototype

Design principles/questions:

The Winter 2013 ReDesigning Theater class combined a number of its various learnings from research and earlier prototypes to create Design Prototype 3: The Alpha Society.  Some questions it addressed included:

– How can you create multiple audience experiences?
– How can you curate an audience that will be engaged in the event?
– How do you build a community before and after the show?
– How do you extend an experience beyond the actual “performance”?
– How can you create a meaningful experience that also fits into the busy schedules of students?

The multi-level audience

Unlike more traditional theater experiences where all audience members have roughly the same experience, this prototype intentionally divided the audience into 2 groups: the Stanford Mystery Society and a regular audience.

Stanford Mystery Society

Half of the audience had been engaged in a 2-week clue-finding experience that brought them to different locations around campus.  They had gotten involved by noticing a small sign that asked, “Like mysteries?” and gave a number to text for more information.

After following a series of clues, these agents were instructed that they would be infiltrating an initiation dinner for the Alpha Society.  Since not every student responded to the initial sign or followed the clues, the Mystery Society audience was a cultivated audience of explorers and adventurers who were ready and excited for an interactive experience.  They met before the event at secret locations across campus and were transported to White Plaza in a car that gave them instructions to be aware during the event and, if they heard the code word, run back to their meeting point.

Regular Audience

The rest of the audience was attracted through more conventional publicity, advertising a production called “The Alpha Society: It Begins” that promised “food, friends, and fire.”  They arrived at White Plaza unaware of any of the rest of the backstory, but, after noticing a few clues hidden around the event, many of them became hooked into the Secret Mystery Society and continued their involvement.

The Event


– Participants were excited about the Mystery Society lead-in and were very engaged with their clues and tasks.
– Many participants (or “agents”) commented on how there was something exciting about meeting up with other people who had been following the same series of clues as they had.
– Some agents cited a feeling of disconnect between the tone of the actual event and the tone of some of the clues leading up to it.  One thing to explore in the future is how do you transition from an individual and long-term experience into a one-time community event while maintaining the same tone and level of excitement.
– Mystery Society participants liked the discovery aspect of their treasure hunt: it brought them to parts of campus they had not explored before and made them more aware of their surroundings.

Next Steps:

The Stanford Mystery Society lives on (through a ReDesigning Theater Seed Grant).  Stay alert around campus and you might find a clue…

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