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Format: The Butterfly Effect

Updated: Jan 1

Not entirely sure why I decided to make up a long-form format, it’s definitely not the most lucrative way to spend your time. But I did. And here’s the story.

To try to save on shipping costs and currency exchange, I decided to organize a big ol group order of The Visual Guide to Improv. Then the pandemic happened, and I cycled around Berlin distributing copies to people which was fun and weird. And you can now get it as an e-book, so that’s easier. And less fun.

Most importantly, it’s awesome, and it had a description of a form I’d never heard of before called Anti Freeze Tag. Basically it’s a series of scenes edited with one person being tagged out (so like a La Ronde) but then the new scene must take place before the previous scene.

This sounded fun, and then sometime in the third lockdown my brain went waaaait a second why not stop the backwards movement at some point and then go back forward. With a change in the middle scene suggested by the audience to make it all about multiple timelines a la Marvel Universe, look at me and my up-to-date pop cultural references.

So Andrew and I decided to call our duo Chaos Theory and debuted the Butterfly Effect at 800a in 2021. This is how it works:

The plot* begins by going in reverse chronological order and then the first scene (in terms of story) is replayed with a change suggested by the audience, then the plot goes forward in time until we get to the first scene again. So (with scenes numbered according to chronological time): 5-4-3-2-1-suggestion interlude -1-2-3-4-5. Scenes are edited with narration of the form "XX years earlier" in the first half and "XX years later" in the second half. The editor then plays the new character in the next scene. Highly recommend having someone keep track of which year you’re in so you can focus on how the story should change based on the suggestion.

Because it’s hard to keep track of ages and years when you do it as a duo, I ended up as a fetus in my mother’s womb in one scene. Love improv.

We've done it three times now, and I'd love to hear about anyone else taking it on!

*where plot is the sequence of events as the audience sees them - and story the sequence according to chronological time.

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