Spenser Davis wants you to know he feels like an “old soul” when it comes to technology. At the same time, the playwright behind A Million Tiny Pieces says he’s an early adopter.
An engaging, funny story about the creation of and the battle for the rights to the iconic video game, “Tetris”, A Million Tiny Pieces is one of the five plays chosen for this year’s Pacific Playwrights Festival, April 8-10.
“I think I just have an appreciation for the first of something, even those things that happened to be about video games,” Davis said from his Chicago home. “But I think I’m constantly enamored by this technology, which was similar to theatre in a way. It requires your participation. It can’t be what it is without your active buying-in. You are quite literally in control as a player. I think there’s something about that that draws me to these stories about early video games in particular. Because they really do feel like they’re engaging in the same way.”
Davis’ story engages you through the travels of two journalists tasked with ferreting out the story behind how this simple, yet highly addicting, video game of making falling pieces fit together got out of Soviet Union-era Russia and who owned the rights to it once it did.
Davis received an Elizabeth George Commission from SCR to write A Million Tiny Pieces, a commission that couldn’t have come at a better time for him.
“In 2020, just weeks after the entire industry shut down and I was let go from my day job, the team at South Coast Repertory commissioned me to write a play,” he said. “’Whatever you want to write,’ they said, ‘We’ll support you 110%.’ And gosh darn golly if they didn’t stay true to their word from that moment onward.
“A commission is always a leap of faith for an organization, their way of investing in artists that fall within their particular mission. A Million Tiny Pieces is the result of their investment in me, and it means so much that they’re as excited about it as I am. And this is going to sound cheesy, but having the play featured at PPF feels a bit like coming home.”
Commission in hand, Davis knew immediately what he wanted to write about. He said he was frankly shocked the story behind Tetris hadn’t been told already, outside of a YouTube documentary. He dived in during the depths of the pandemic and the words poured forth as he chronicled the tale of two journalists who were doing what few if anyone could during the spring and summer of 2020—hopscotch the globe in pursuit of a story. That story: who had the rights to this global gaming phenomenon?
Davis knew about the power of video games and the concept of journalists fitting pieces together—just like Tetris demands of its players—to craft a story was irresistible.
“At a time we felt so divided, I loved the story of a game that just by the love of it, brought the world together in a way,” he said. “This was an interesting idea that everyone could speak to: I’m addicted to this game, I don’t know what it is, but it has power over me. Secondly, it’s the first video game I remember my mom playing. She had the keychain version.”
There’s nothing like a mother’s endorsement.
To Davis, nor is there anything like creating a play or other work of art that borrows from another medium. To him, that was one of the essential features of A Million Tiny Pieces.
“I am constantly in favor of pieces of entertainment and storytelling that borrow pieces from other mediums,” he said. “It becomes something more than theatre, it becomes something more than film. I love that. It allows for a new aspect of discovery. In a format as old as theatre, the fact there is still innovation by borrowing cinematic tools can only be good for that format.”
Learn more about the Pacific Playwrights Festival and buy tickets.