Here’s a small live action game inspired by some recent reading I’ve been doing…

A freeform game for three players and two hours taking place in the New York City parlor of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell in the fall of 1876.

  • Play in a quiet, comfortable space. Have some tea and cookies available.
  • When your two fellow players arrive discuss safety. Establish rules of contact and engagement. Note that the game strongly addresses sexual themes.
  • Choose characters.
  • Arrange the game in six short scenes, 10-15 minutes each. The goal is to ensure that each dyad gets a chance to have a scene alone, and this is best accomplished organically. For example:
  1. Kitty and Elizabeth
  2. Everyone (Sachs arrives)
  3. Elizabeth and Sachs (Kitty fetches tea)
  4. Everyone (Kitty brings tea)
  5. Sachs and Kitty (Elizabeth excuses herself)
  6. Everyone (Elizabeth returns)
  • Reserve time for a post-game debrief.


You are the 55 year old Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first openly female licensed physician in the United States. Yours has not been an easy path but it has been a righteous one, and your skill and tenacity have earned you a measure of respect among liberal thinkers. You are currently deep in the writing of your new book, Counsel to Parents on the Moral Education of their Children in Relation to Sex, which is largely inspired by conversations with Mr. Alfred Sachs, a frequent visitor to your home. Your adopted daughter Kitty gets along famously with Sachs, and the three of you have many lively discussions.

  • Alfred Sachs is a brilliant young man, progressive in his sensibilities and held back from greatness only by the anti-Semitic society he is forced to endure. Although your difference in age is vast, you feel that you and Sachs are soul mates – and you have never bowed to convention. It’s time to confess your feelings to Sachs. Without trying, he has overthrown your heart.
  • Kitty Barry began her life as an Irish orphan, but you have built her into a confident and capable amanuensis. Although you love her, there is no real bond of maternal devotion – she is your secretary and steadfast companion, and you want the best for her. Kitty will never amount to anything without you, but since she has you this is not really a tragedy.
You are the 26 year old Mr. Alfred Sachs. The scion of a Washington, DC Jewish family that made a fortune during the war, you were a few years too young to fight but not too young to immerse yourself in the abolitionist cause, which is how you met Dr. Blackwell and her daughter, Kitty. You became fast friends with both of them, and are a frequent visitor to the Blackwell home, where you and Elizabeth engage in long discussions about morality, medical ethics, sex and children.
  • Dr. Blackwell is your sparring partner in everything from Republican politics to birth control and prostitution, and she is more than your equal. Elizabeth is a brilliant woman and you have enormous respect for her and the things she has accomplished through a combination of sheer force of will and native talent. Her book-in-progress, Counsel to Parents on the Moral Education of their Children in Relation to Sex, is largely a result of your spirited arguments.
  • Kitty Barry is Dr. Blackwell’s daughter, a few years older than you but radiantly beautiful, well spoken and utterly confident in her place in the world. At some point she transitioned from devoted daughter to devoted secretary, and she is fiercely loyal to her mother. Your heart leaps when she joins the two of you for an impromptu salon, and you feel as though, in your own shy way, you have been courting her all along. It’s time to ask her to marry you, after seeking Elizabeth’s blessing. Without trying, she has overthrown your heart.
You are the 29 year old Miss Kitty Barry, adopted daughter of Elizabeth Blackwell. You were raised as an odd combination of beloved daughter, domestic servant and test subject for Dr. Blackwell’s theories on health, education and discipline. Treated as an adult from a young age, you grew up with few friends and limited exposure to the world. After a rigorous education funded by Dr. Blackwell, you returned to her side as soon as you could. You are shy and self conscious of your partial deafness.
  • Alfred Sachs is a young idealist who has found a kindred spirit in Elizabeth Blackwell. The two of them are thick as thieves and seem to delight in arguing about the great issues of the day – particularly those that touch upon the more untoward. They are never happier than when discussing the lurid details of prostitution, birth control or abortion. Sachs is a good fellow but a little too busy for your tastes. And, worse, he looks at you like a man buying a racehorse. You’re afraid that some day soon he may declare something dramatic and unreciprocated.
  • Your relationship with Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell is complicated. One one level she is, at least technically, your mother – but neither of you have ever really seen it that way. In accordance with her theories, she raised you at a distance, loving but remote. And as you grew to be the woman she envisioned, you also grew to love her as more than a caregiver, more than a mother – you love her as a woman, romantically. She raised you to be a rebel and suffer no orthodoxy, but until now you’ve kept your passion hidden. It’s time to end your silence. Without trying, she has overthrown your heart.

If you play, let me know how it goes!

Counsel to Parents on the Moral Education of their Children in Relation to Sex
Tagged on: