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The Tavern: A Social Performance Project

COVID-19 is frustrating and scary for a lot of reasons, from economic worries to the obvious health concerns to the loneliness of social distancing. It's stolen lives and life events...and it's also taking over every single conversation in a way that is both understandable and exhausting. One of my favorite things I did in grad school was interviewing people for a podcast project - I adore personal narrative - so I wanted to riff on that experience to create an opportunity for meaningful connection in the form of a little performance art project.

Enter: The Tavern. Conventional Dungeons and Dragons adventures often begin in a tavern: a social space outside the world of the players and (often) the daily lives of the characters, a place for building new connections and initiating new experiences. For our purposes, The Tavern is the liminal space of a video chat (Zoom, Skype, Facetime, etc.) outside the circumstances of COVID-19.

This is a piece of experiential performance art with no audience, just two players and one very simple game. There will be no recording; both players will agree not to share the content of the conversation outside the space of The Tavern. Game play works like this:

  1. We set up a time for a video call and agree on the program. 

  2. At the beginning of the call, you click over into Roll Dice With Friends and roll one die x-number of times. Which die? That's part of the fun. I have a list of questions inviting varying levels of self-disclosure. A d-4, then, can only possibly select very safe getting-to-know-you questions, while a d-20 potentially selects from a much wider range. (D-6, d-8, d-10, and d-12 dice also exist.)

  3. I ask you the questions your rolls select; you answer them. OR you come with your own 20-question list and we take turns asking questions after the roll. OR I ask you the questions, you answer all of them, and then either turn them back around or pose your own questions that seem roughly equivalent. (All of which is to say, I am happy to either facilitate your experience or share it - that's up to you!)

  4. We disconnect. We leave The Tavern. We don't talk about the conversation again (unless there is something we explicitly agreed on wanting to discuss more later outside the parameters of this experience). 

Am I planning on conducting all of these conversations in my Renfaire dress and welcoming participants with "greetings, adventurer"? Yes, 150%. You are not obligated to feed into the DnD ridiculousness, but you are welcome to do so.

A few caveats/clarifications:

  • Part of the goal is to create a safe space of self-disclosure and a reminder that we are all still the heroes of our own adventures even in circumstances outside of our control: our stories are interesting and worthy of attention, and so our we. That does not mean anyone is obligated to share anything they'd rather not. Skipping a question, re-rolling, or being creative in how you choose to answer are all valid options. 

  • I am still working as a GTA (albeit remotely), which means I am still a mandatory reporter - if you are a KU student, keep that in mind before self-disclosing incidences of harassment or assault on campus or with KU-affiliated people. (I am thrilled to connect anyone who wants or needs them to campus resources for these problems, I just want people to be aware before we chat!)

  • No questions are intentionally crafted to poke at trauma or deep, dark secrets. Please use the same guideline if you choose to craft your own questions for me!

Reach out if you have any questions or want to set up a session!

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