Karen is a new interactive work by Blast Theory for 2015 developed in partnership with National Theatre Wales.

 

The project reflects on the uses of big data, behavioural profiling and personalisation. Developed in consultation with Professor Nina Reynolds and Dr Kelly Page, the work starts with a smartphone app in which you interact with Karen. The app will be free. The work culminates in a live event for an invited group of the participants.

 

Project Description: Karen App

Karen is a life coach in her late 30s. She interacts with individual audience members via an app on their phones.  Karen is a character played by an actor: her interactions with audience members seem live to them, but in fact are all pre-recorded. She starts by asking questions about your outlook on the world to get an understanding of you. In fact, her questions are drawn from a well-established psychological profiling questionnaire called Mood Repair. She – and the software – are profiling you and she gives you advice based on your answers.  As she gets to know you, she gets more and more curious. She seems to know things about you that she shouldn’t.

 

The Story

Karen ‘calls’ the audience member once or twice a day for life coaching sessions. She is working from home as a freelancer. Karen is slightly chaotic with few boundaries between her personal and professional lives. Her flatmate Dave enters the story. Karen overshares and in return is very nosy.

 

Karen is fun and funny, always cheekily pushing her friendliness into new areas. She’s recently come out of a long term and moribund relationship. She’s got the rush of adrenaline and excitement of the newly liberated. She’s an explorer, voraciously consuming new experiences, new knowledge and new people during a key transition in her life.

 

As the experience unfolds, she gets more and more curious. Without warning a man appears onscreen. He introduces himself as her ‘flatmate’ Dave. At this point, he gives more information about Karen, he exposes more of her story to the audience member, letting them be nosey about Karen.

 

Karen Live Event

For audience members that have been especially engaged, the experience doesn’t finish after their week-long experience with the app.  Bright eyed and bushy tailed Karen pops up a week or two later to invite selected audience members to an intimate assignation with her at a motorway service station. This is the live event. When audience members turn up, they are greeted by Karen and around 80 other ‘close, personal friends of hers’ also in attendance. Audience members are taken to a picnic area where white plastic chairs and tables are arranged. They are seated according to their profile data: the most revealing friends are at one table, the most introverted at another. Karen mingles, hands out awards and poses for selfies. Karen takes the time for a private word with each audience member before stumbling back out into the night.

 

Character Background: Karen

Karen has lived in Wales for ten years but could have been raised in Wales or elsewhere in the UK. She’s divorced from Ash and has a grown up daughter. She’s a keen self-improver and reads widely. She works shifts for the NHS in the administrative section of a Children’s and Adolescent’s Mental Health Unit. Her new career as a life coach is only just beginning and she’s excited about taking the step into being self employed, more independent and doing a job that she loves.

 

Casting Breakdown: Karen

Woman of any ethnicity, aged between mid 30s and mid 40s.

Native English speaker

As per NTW casting policy, actors must be either Welsh, Wales based or trained professionally in Wales.

 

Character notes: Dave

Dave is a small town boy with a flinty attitude and a glint in his eye. He works as a restaurant manager in the fanciest place in town and has a flash car on HP. His chequered past with Karen is over. Except when it’s not over.

 

Casting Breakdown: Dave

Man of any ethnicity, aged between mid 20s and late 30s.

Native English speaker

As per NTW casting policy, actors must be either Welsh, Wales based or trained professionally in Wales.

 

Contract Notes

The project is co-commissioned by National Theatre Wales, who will contract actors, and is led creatively by Blast Theory, who will be responsible for scripting and directing the roles of Karen and Dave.

 

Filming Dates

There will be 5-day filming period in Brighton in January/February 2015.

Karen will be needed for the full 4-5 days.

Shots are scheduled for the 28th, 29th and 30th January.

Re-shoots are scheduled for the 17th and 18th February.

 

Live Event Dates

The live event will take place for one night only on or around 23rd July 2015, in Wales, with up to 5 days rehearsal ahead of this.

This date can be slightly flexible.

The actor playing Dave may not be needed for the live event.

 

Fee

Above Equity minimum

 

Royalties

Appropriate royalties will be arranged around any commercial exploitation.

 

Note

The role is a traditional acting job for two formats: an app and a piece of theatre. In the app, the actor will have no direct interaction with the online audience. In the app, the online audience will have no means to contact the actor.  The actor will then appear in a piece of theatre created with National Theatre Wales in a one night site specific performance with audience interaction.

 

About Blast Theory

Blast Theory is renowned internationally as one of the most adventurous artists’ groups using interactive media, creating groundbreaking new forms of performance and interactive art that mixes audiences across the internet, live performance and digital broadcasting. Led by Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanitj, the group’s work explores interactivity and the social and political aspects of technology. Blast Theory has shown work at the Venice Biennale, Sundance Film Festival and at Tate Britain. Commissioners include Channel 4, the BBC and the Royal Opera House. The group has been nominated for four BAFTAs and won the Golden Nica at Prix Ars Electronica.

 

About National Theatre Wales

National Theatre Wales was launched in November 2009, and creates invigorating theatre in the English language, rooted in Wales, with an international reach. To date, it has staged 35 productions in locations all over Wales, including The Passion, The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning and Mametz, gaining an international reputation for ambitious site-specific work, strong community engagement, and digital ambition. In October 2011, National Theatre Wales was described as “one of the best things to happen to the stage in the past five years” by The Observer. For more information on National Theatre Wales, visit: nationaltheatrewales.org

 

To apply for this project, please send your CV, headshot and a bit about yourself to casting@nationaltheatrewales.org

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