What are the opportunities and constraints in virtual or remote theater production and experience? What factors, systems, stakeholders, motivations, technologies and considerations are involved? How are they related to each other?
We found many studies, solutions and approaches that used virtual reality to translate the theatrical tradition. Many studies and academic papers in cognition, embodiment and immersion were also found to be related. We also included papers that described novel technology implementations.
We gathered information from many journals, scholarly articles, experiments, technology implementation and research paper. We informed ourselves on the subject matter as much as possible and looked at the current approaches people have taken in this situation.
See the list of research references at the end of the page.
Perspective of stakeholders
Podcasts, talks and conversation transcripts with directors and actors gave us some perspective on how stakeholders within the business and creative side are approaching virtual theater.
- Conversation with a director about how plays will have to change in the realm of VR. https://www.google.com/books/edition/_/hkgrDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1
- Actor Deidre Lyons speaks about acting in VR at Global XR Bootcamp. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-M0gZWwnhs&feature=youtu.be
Different mediums and formats
- https://tenderclaws.com/theunderpresents The Under Presents is a virtual reality theater app where you can book shows. They hosted a show called Tender claws back in 2019, and now they are back with another show, The Tempest (based on Shakespeare). It is guided by live actors, and the spectators are involved as characters in the performance.
- https://www.bigscreenvr.com/ Movie theater in VR. Buy tickets, attend at specific showtimes, watch movies in theater, with friends and strangers.
- Theatre Without Theatre, a new Instagram feed in which theater artists record a song, a speech, or just share sweetheart vibes to keep us all strong during these tough times. https://www.instagram.com/theatrewithouttheater/
- The 24 Hour Plays releases its first-ever series of Viral Monologues at IGTV @24hourplays and online. Twenty of theater’s top writers have been paired with 20 actors and have written unique pieces just for them. https://24hourplays.com/viral-monologues/
- One World: Together at Home live stream concert at home: A global broadcast to support the frontline workers by the WHO. The livestream concert featured several well-known artists. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/connect/togetherathome/
- “Ignite” virtual theatre experience:
- The show comes from The Strides Collective, a group of young actors and technical crew members who have dedicated themselves to providing diverse and meaningful performances, despite the continuing pandemic. Ignite utilizes a series of audio and video recordings to tell a unique story, all accessible from your living room couch.
- The online experience places you behind the screen an investigator into the library fire of a small Rhode Island college. You are provided with a website containing recordings of the phone and video calls from ten key students who are suspected of starting the fire, as well as a few audio recordings of conversations between these students. https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4730042
- The tempest (Live on zoom) – https://www.creationtheatre.co.uk/shows/the-tempest-live-interactive-in-your-living-room/
Netflix Movie Watch Parties
Another innovative streaming solution has been helping people self-isolate together. Rather than each household binge-watching at home alone, the app Netflix Party lets multiple users sync their Netflix streaming for a group watch party.
With the Chrome extension, each user signs into their own account, and the video is synchronized. With the chat bar on the side, viewers can stay closely connected, commenting about unexpected plot twists or bad wardrobe choices.
- Hidden Stages: https://calvium.com/projects/hidden-stages/
- As a large indoor space, we opted for iBeacons to help navigate visitors through the various “stages” of their visit. iBeacons provide a lot of opportunities for indoor positioning, but they can also behave in unexpected ways; bluetooth passes through walls & floors, reflects around corners and amplifies in steel lift shafts – requiring careful investigation to work out solutions.
- Uncle Roy all around you
- A game in which online and street players collaborate to find Uncle Roy before being invited to make a commitment to a stranger. https://www.blasttheory.co.uk/projects/uncle-roy-all-around-you
- Shakespeare’s Globe 360 and Globe Player
- There’s two offerings from the team at the thatched playhouse. The first, Shakespeare’s Globe 360, offers a 3D virtual reality trip around one of the most famous theatres in the world, complete with interactive points throughout offering added insight into parts of the building.
With movie theaters hit really hard, drive-in style approaches have been taken for a more socially-distanced viewing experience. https://digital.hbs.edu/platform-digit/submission/evo-theaters-social-distancing-and-watching-movies/
- The Guthrie audience primarily miss seeing plays, the physical space of the theater, and social components that accompany live theater. “seeing a show with my two good friends and discussing it with them afterwards.”
- While the Guthrie audience considers arts and storytelling quite relevant, they are not engaging regularly with Guthrie’s social media, nor is there a strong desire for new, online artistic content.
- Only 11,1% would not be willing to pay anything as they feel online content should be free. Almost half (48,9%) would be willing to pay half of the price and 37,8% would be willing to pay quarter of the price of face-to face event.
- Many artists lost their jobs due to postponement of activities involving crowds such as music concerts, dance performances, art exhibitions, and theater performances.
- Hybrid events will be the new norm in regards event organizing moving forward and for those events feel engaging, there needs to be interaction between all stakeholders.
- When participants were asked to provide some examples of ways to engage attendees online, the top 5 based on their responses were: polls, breakout rooms, active participation, camera and gamification.
- There were many people who had no experience about sponsorship in online events and were not able to give a response.
- The use of technology during the pandemic actually gave birth to a lot of creativity.
Academic studies of virtual theater
- “Hybrid Events Breaking the Borders: Transferring your hybrid event into an engaging and inclusive experience for different audiences and stakeholders” https://www.theseus.fi/handle/10024/344231
- “The Impact of Social Distancing on Box-Office Revenue: Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic”
- “It is a lifeline to understanding what we are experiencing right now.” Hearing from the Guthrie Theater audience during a pandemic. https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/214897
- “Children Virtual Concert in the Covid-19 Pandemic” – https://jurnal.isi-dps.ac.id/index.php/jomsti/article/view/1160/540
- “A real-time performance system for virtual theater” – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228679980_A_real-time_performance_system_for_virtual_theater
- In this implementation, the audience is in a physical space while the actor is in a virtual space
- The project was well received- immersion played a big role in audience enjoyment
- Only one actor was used to interact with physical audience members
Different forms of theater styles
- Virtual marionette theater using hand recognition
- Implementation of Kabuki theater in virtual reality
Cognition, perception and embodiment
- Usability study of live performance in virtual reality using EEG and motion capture performance.
- A study describing PlayVR for educational theater in virtual reality, corresponding to cognition and emotional involvement.
- Virtual agents, autonomous entities using AI, cognitive science, theatrical experimentation.
- A device that displays a virtual theater environment for audience members
- Presence in virtual theater
- Using motion capture technology to create a virtual theater experience that still involves the actors moving in real time
- Includes various implementations that already exist
- Paper on computer theater, the importance of action in theater
- Examines the aspects of theater that are easier to implement in virtual spaces
- Research project which implements a virtual theater experience and results
- Mixed reality/wearable technology to implement immersive theater experience
- Real time, virtual space, live theater
- Gyeongju theater – world’s largest virtual theater with 651 users in real-time with 3d audio, vibrations, olfactory display, etc. This paper talks about the production process and presentation techniques.
- Producing a real-time performance system for virtual theater