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Immersive Telepresence in Theatre

Lab Contact: Daniel Villar-Onrubia
Team: Tom Gorman, Tiina Syrja, Samuli Hytonen, Joff Chafer

Project leaders: Dr Tom Gorman, Dr Tiina Syrja, Senior Lecturer in Acting & Dr Mikko Kanninen, Senior Lecturer in Theatre

Partners: Coventry University & University of Tampere (Finland)

Overview:

This project explores international co-operation in acting in a foreign language within a system that promotes a more environmentally sustainable model, eliminating (or at least diminishing) the need to move large groups of student actors across the globe for rehearsals, workshops and even performances.

For further details on the project visit http://telepresenceintheatre.coventry.domains/

Project Details

Taking the text of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus as a basis for study, in 2015-16 students from Coventry University (UK) and the University of Tampere (Finland) worked on a small section of the script (3:3) in both Finnish and English. A ‘virtual space’ was created in both locations through the re-purposing of videoconferencing technology and the use of large rear projection screens, high speed internet connections and unidirectional, hypercardioid microphones. Moreover, a unified spatial design and a careful use of lighting gave the actors the illusion that they were occupying the same physical space.

Skype and Adobe Connect were used for self-directed student rehearsal, peer to peer learning and discussion and were also used to provide a series of seminars and lectures contextualising Renaissance theatre, Finnish theatre culture and the theories underpinning acting in a foreign language. The scene chosen also allowed the opportunity to investigate the concept of the citizen in the “mobile” age, the relationship between politicians and the people and their ability to engage in meaningful political dialogue through computer-mediated exchanges.

A second iteration of the project will take place in February 2017, utilising the same group of students and will culminate in a field trip to Tampere where both groups shall perform together live and will also demonstrate the use of the technology to an invited audience of theatre practitioners and technologists. The work will continue to examine Shakespeare’s texts as the students already have some experience in dealing with Shakespearean language and the complexities of blank verse. The text chosen for this second stage will be King Lear and we will explore both a large ‘public’ scene as well as more intimate sections from the text in order to examine how this pedagogy enables rehearsal work in these differing circumstances

This second version will attempt to refine both the technology and the teaching developed during the initial instalment of the project. Work will continue on developing both spaces to give the illusion of one single, unified rehearsal room.

Placement of cameras and projection techniques will be central to improving the performer experience and we are in consultation with technical research and partners on virtual spaces as well as experimenting with 360 degree video to explore our options about this aspect of the work. Since internet connections still have massive fluctuations in terms of latency and network jitter, we will also be investigating new fibre optic equipment to cut down this latency even further which should also give us the ability to project in high definition without impairing the speed of the connection.

We also want to keep the equipment used both affordable and user friendly so that it can be accessible to a wide variety of user groups. Improved use of app-based technology to support the rehearsal process is also being explored taking into account student feedback and suggestions. In order to explore technological options a workshop will be arranged in December 2016, open to people with experience in the use of similar approaches.

Project Timeline:

Start date:

Sept 2015

End date:

July 2017

Status:

Ongoing

Team:

  • Dr Tom Gorman, Senior Lecturer in Theatre (Coventry University)
  • Dr Tiina Syrja, Senior Lecturer in Acting (University of Tampere)
  • Dr Mikko Kanninen, Senior Lecturer in Theatre (University of Tampere)
  • Jon Constable (Coventry University)
  • Samuli Hytonen (University of Tampere)
  • Samuli Nordberg (University of Tampere)
  • Craig Goddard (Coventry University)
  • Joff Chafer (Coventry University)
  • Dr Daniel Villar-Onrubia, Principal Project Lead at DMLL.

 

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