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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Proceeding from a framing of theater as collaborative storytelling, I argue for defining role-playing games as a kind of performance and for their value in structuring experiential and participatory theater. Building on the impulse at the heart of experiential and immersive theater to place the audience within the world of the performance and center their experience, I explore what it means for theater artists to cede control over how audiences make meaning of their work in favor of letting narrative emerge from the participation of the audience during the performance event. I propose a framework called pervasive performance that merges theatrical frames and methods with pervasive gaming, which expands the magic circle of play and blurs the distinction between the game and everyday life. This union of ideas puts audience members in contact with one another and allows them to be playful and co-author the overall performance experience. Further, the blurring of the performance and everyday life transforms audience members’ relationship to the real world and gives them space to imagine and experiment with other worlds and ways of being in them. I devised an alternate reality game (ARG) at UMass Amherst in May 2023, and in my thesis I analyze this project and the process of creating it as a case study in pervasive performance.


First Advisor

Harley Erdman

Second Advisor

Christopher Baker

Third Advisor

Cameron Awkward-Rich

Fourth Advisor

Priscilla Page

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.