GLOBAL THEATRE WORKSHOP

What happens when artists converge in the virtual space to tell stories? The powerful vortex of the collective imagination may be as transformative. When using new technology, the leap is how to innovate artform.

In 2012, an Anglo-American ensemble engaged in workshops experimenting with telepresence in live theatre. British actors gathered at Google Campus London while American actors converged at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

American actors: Zoey Martinson, Adam McNulty, Danielle Skraastad, Matt Citron, Neysa Lozano. British actors: Francesca Bailey, Mark Donald, Thomas Rushforth, Wendy Windle. Jonathon Ward (NYC) and J Dakota Powell (London) led the workshop.

Jonathon Ward used improvisational games to guide talent and provide structure. Ward: “In doing the improv with this technology…you, the actors, control the close-up, the long shot, etc. In effect, you’re the editor. You’re making the shot. Even in terms of the environment you’re in, you can change the camera angle. You can move the camera up so it’s looking down on you. You can put the camera below you so it’s looking up. You can change the lighting and the location. All of [these variables] turn the actor into the director, the lighting person and the photographer. It is a lot of responsibility.”

The transatlantic ensemble progressed in three stages.

Stage I: Who Are You?

British and American actors used improvisation to connect to each other, establishing a rapport over the fibers. Mirroring and counting games helped actors to pick up on each other’s verbal and physical cues onscreen.

Stage II: Where Are We?

Local actors began to explore their private space – work stations – while interacting with remote actors in their spaces. The natural geography of each space provided the “set.”¬†Actors could manipulate their webcams to control how other people entered or viewed their spaces. Once presence was made known and felt by the ensemble, the lack of presence – vanishing – became evocative.

Stage III: Where Can We Go?

Actors used mobile devices – iPads and Smart Phones – to roam into public spaces – hallways, elevators, balconies and streets. They could stream into the telepresence platform from their own devices. Only wifi was necessary to engage in a collective story. The public, passersby, other NYU students in the hallways became part of the virtual landscape.

IMPROV FOR TELEPRESENCE

Three work stations in New York City and three in London

REMOTE INTERACTION

Establishing rapport across fibers is key to communication.

MOBILE DEVICES

Mobile devices enable actors to travel.

COLLECTIVE BRAIN

Anglo-American ensemble discussed experiences.