Extra projects

Theatre Design in New Media

Lecturer: Dr. Iryna Kuksa, Nottingham Trent University

All activities took place in the Teaching Grid at the University of Warwick Library. The Teaching Grid is an experimental space designed specifically for trying out and implementing new approaches to teaching. This is a flexible environment which can be modified according to the learning needs. The students were divided in groups of two or three (6 pairs and 1 trio – 15 students in total). Each group was allocated an avatar and given a handout which outlined the timings of the session, specific tasks to be accomplished in SL .

The design of the activities was informed by the module’s objectives, aiming to enable participants not only to explore relevant resources, analyse and discuss images, design objects and artefacts, but also to develop ideas in the light of own and others evaluation. Students were encouraged to record from direct observation and personal experience, organise, select and communicate solutions to the given tasks. The session was also concerned with building students’ interest and a critical awareness of environments – real and virtual.

The two-hour session design was comprised of:

  • a face-to-face presentation of approximately twenty minutes to introduce immersive virtual worlds in general, and the aims of the session in particular;
  • a practice session of thirty minutes in which students practiced acquiring the skills required to operate the interface;
  • wider explorations for thirty minutes by the students of indicated theatres in Second Life;
  • a plenary session of twenty minutes where the students discussed their experiences in SL while accomplishing the task;
  • the remainder of the timings was to allow for transitions between these activities.

The introductory part included background information on virtual worlds in general, on Second Life in particular, and how it is used for educational purposes and also as an experimental theatrical space. A number of existing projects in SL were shown, explained and discussed, e.g. the THEATRON project, the performance of Hamlet in Second Life [3]. In addition, a discussion took place regarding the nature of virtual worlds, their purpose and the role they could play in performance during this section.

For the practical exercise, it was decided to separate the groups of students. Although they remained in the same room, no pair was physically proximate to another pair looking at the same theatre. This was done to encourage virtual discussions in SL and the use of, and the potential for, immersion in the environment. Participants were given twenty minutes to accustom themselves to the SL (i.e. navigation, teleportation, interaction with the environment and each other) and afterwards received landmarks to six theatres to investigate. Three of the theatrical cites were based on real world theatres and three others were created specifically for Second Life. At the end of the practice session students were asked to teleport to these sites.

The sites explored during the explorative section were:

Real life theatres:

  • Theatre of Pompey
  • Bayreuth Festspielhaus
  • Globe Theatre

Second Life theatres:

  • Caledon Gaiety Theatre
  • The Canyon Stage
  • Ballet Pixelle Stage

For the theatres based on real life theatres the students were asked:

  • What do you think the challenges for actors and designers would be in the real theatre this model represents?
  • What would be the challenges for actors and designers working in the virtual theatre in Second Life?

For the theatres designed specifically for Second Life, the questions were:

  • What can you determine from the stage design (and any other surrounding spaces) are the nature of the performances, and the communities that built the stages?
  • How do these theatres/ auditoria differ from real life theatrical spaces?

The intention was that students would discuss their answers to these questions in the final plenary. For the theatres created specifically for virtual performances, it was hoped that students would surmise the types of performances that would take place within the spaces, based on their design (and their location) and also identify what differentiates the theatres that were original to Second Life from the theatres that were based on real life spaces. It was hoped that students would reflect on the different physics within the spaces and how this would alter performances and the design of the stages. For instance the ability of avatars to fly means that aerial ballets are a possibility within the Ballet Pixelle Stage. Another example is the Caledon Gaiety which is a theatre set in a steampunk roleplay area, therefore its design supports the fictional world in which the theatre is embedded, as well as creating a fictional (or more accurately metafictional) space on the stage.


Staging Titus Andronicus

Lecturer: Dr. Katherine Rowe, Bryn Mawr

A staging assignment that helps students learn to analyze symbolic uses of space in Shakepeare's plays, focusing on the opening scene of _Titus Andronicus, using the Theatron Globe.