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Rehearsing a Play via Telepresence

June 2013: While rehearsing “Sex, Flap & Jazz,” we used the Vidyo telepresence platform, which is a business-quality videoconferencing tool for corporates. Most people assume that Vidyo is similar to Skype. However, the platform is more than a video chat over the Internet. It’s actually simpler. No number to call, no ringing, no waiting for someone to pick up, and no disjointed pauses or hang-ups.

A telepresence platform is akin to virtual room.

All you need is an email link to enter the room. You can pop in and out of the room by clicking on the link.

It feels as if you’re entering and exiting another dimension – a fourth dimension – in which you don’t exist as an avatar but as yourself. Live. No cartoonish masks. You can interact with a remote person with minimal latency. For drama, which relies on dialogue, even a second or two of latency can dash the connection between people and make theatre untenable.

When you’re using telepresence in a play, one actor is live on stage while another actor works from a remote location. During a performance, the remote actor is streamed into the play and projected on a large screen.

About a dozen plays in TimeWave are using telepresence and connecting British actors with American actors in either New York City or Los Angeles.

Question 1: How do you rehearse a play with actors in different cities and time zones that may span five to eight hours apart? With the time zone difference, how do the circumstances affect the mood and experience of the actors in a scene?

Question 2: How do you stage this kind of piece for a live audience?

Question 3: How do you stage it for a remote audience watching the broadcast over the Internet?

The TimeWave artists are charging toward the frontier. They may slip and slide, but the technology is robust and easy to use. As they continue to explore this terrain, we will update you on progress.