“We know what we are, but know not what we may be” — Shakespeare
Since January, I’ve been working with Plank on planning their various events (from talks like, Shared Histories to conferences like the recent Owner Camp 012). The web design world has been an interesting challenge for someone who is much more accustomed to dealing in the physical world! My experience is rooted in running festivals, venues, and theatre productions across Canada for over 20 years. When Arts & Culture was declared the topic for Plank’s 2016 Hack Day, I was excited that we chose a theatre project. It was the perfect bridge between what I know and what I’m learning.
“Sketching out the navigation framework started looking like set design, blocking, and choreography notes. How would our users move through the space of our application? What “materials” and colour scheme would best showcase the design concept?”
On the morning of Plank Hacks Culture, Steve asked me how many plays I’ve worked on. Well, now. I’ve worn many hats in my theatre career. I’ve been a costume designer, stage manager, director, producer, venue and box office manager, and yes, even an actor. So it’s safe to say I know a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes at the theatre. But what goes on behind the scenes of web design? Not so much.
My trepidation was mixed with curiosity as I sat down to the morning brainstorming meeting. “Subdomain”, “Git repo”, “UI”, “UX”, and “sockets” were terms that were being thrown around the table. While I confess this lingo only vaguely made sense to me, I pretty quickly started to recognize many of the same considerations that go into a theatre production meeting. In order to accomplish our task, we had to consider our audience, the time and location of the production.
As the day progressed, I could see the work of different teams coming together the way they do during “Tech Week” (theatre-speak for the week leading up to the opening night of a play). Just as the first day on set with actors in costume and lights and sound, the pieces all start falling into place. But I had to laugh at how all of this last-minute activity happened so quietly. No one hollering from the booth to someone on a ladder, all of that was contained in the Slack channel (the office chat tool), and in hushed tones around a monitor.
And suddenly, the day was over, and it was showtime! I felt that familiar waiting-in-the wings tingle of butterflies as we raised the curtain on our work.
The team at Repercussion was excited by what we presented, and the post-show talkback was animated, with lots of enthusiasm about where we could take this project with a bit more time and tools. Phew!
Unlike a theatre production, our task was not to challenge our audience, but to make their journey easier. I’m proud to have been a part of it and who knows, maybe by next year’s Hack Day I’ll be adding “front-end integrator” to my many hats!