ACTING, ISOLATION AND DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
Updated: Nov 15
By Toby Redwood | Performer & Musician
It's no secret that the Arts have had a hard blow during this absolutely obnoxious time. Our beloved industry has been simultaneously swept under the rug yet never before has it been more needed. While those in power seem to forget about us, the need for escapism has never been higher. But what about creatives themselves? Where do those that provide escapism go to escape themselves?
From my experience it was once my art and performing that granted me said escape, but what does one do when the curtains have been shut and that is taken away? They find other ways to create! From Iso-late shows bringing together people that have never been further away to just feeling the music in your living room as your body becomes a contemporary masterpiece, the arts family continues to amaze me with its resilience and endless creative possibilities including in my experience, the option of a small weekly Dungeons and Dragons game!
When this pandemic started I tried to find ways to fill my time and scratch that itch to create. I wrote songs, played guitar, attempted to learn piano, though it was something it wasn't the same as sinking your teeth into a character and performing with amazing people. Now, there's no question I'm a bit of a nerd and before this point I was a bit of a fan of the youtube series ‘Critical Role’ which in their words is “a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors sitting around and playing Dungeons and Dragons”. Three episodes in, I was hooked and not for the game itself but the creativity and freedom behind it.
In its most basic form DnD is a tabletop roleplaying game where you create characters, level up said characters and go on adventures, but it is so much more than that. Watching from a performer's perspective it was so intriguing to see voice actors deeply embody characters that have come from their own imagination, It is so surreal that you sometimes forget they are just people playing a game as you get swept up in the story and emotions these participants are creating together on the spot. That aspect fascinated me so much and when the option for me and a few theatre friends to play, I decided to give it a go.
The game works like the world's greatest choose your own adventure. To explain it like a performer, it's like an improvisation experiment. You have the director who in this case is called the Dungeon Master, who creates the world in which the story is set, playing multiple characters and placing the actor, in this case the player, in various scenarios and situations. The actor's role or the player's role is just like any play-building exercise, the actor creates a character of their own choice creating a backstory and determining that character's passions, fears and feelings. You could be a dragon-born wizard who is on a journey of revenge or a human monk trying to achieve enlightenment, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
The Dungeon Master then sets up the situation, as an example “you awake in a long dark tunnel at the end of the tunnel are two glowing green eyes” they then ask a very straightforward question “what do you want to do?” and therein lies the creative potential as your decisions create the story and develop the character and as any performer knows some of the best moments come from improv.
For a creative human this was just the thing I was looking for and though nothing will compare to performing on a stage, this game gives me the chance to build a story and improve upon my own skills as a performer. Truthfully, it is exactly what I need and to be able to do it with other creative people is something very special.
Dungeons and Dragons is a unique tool every actor, producer, director, storyteller and artist should add to their toolbox. These are crazy times with plenty of uncertainty and sometimes we need a creative escape, DnD is one of mine but I encourage anyone reading to go out and find their own even if it’s something as small as doing funny voices in the shower.
We are a resilient lot and while the Arts will never die, until it returns full-time it’s up to us to keep that passion alive for ourselves. The world has gone a bit dark in 2020 but there is a spark ahead of you so…. “what do you want to do?”
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