There is a group from the University’s drama department in the lab right now performing scenes from King Lear in a virtual ‘Globe’ theater. This world was created by our 3D-Anton before the students ever set foot in the space. The student’s perform a scene in small groups, then talk about how it feels to perform in a virtual space versus a ‘real’ space.
It is very interesting to watch play and listen to the students’ views on stage space. As a former drama teacher, I know how important it is to get students accustomed to their stage space, both in reference to others and in order to own and commit to the space they occupy. The students bring up important points such as audience point of view and what is receiving the ‘importance’/attention during the scene.
As you can see from the above picture, the students located on the side, around the computers, are performing the scene. The students located in the chairs and bean bags are watching the performance.
Issues other than stage space are also important in their discussion such as how believable the performance is and how adding actors on the different, smaller stages would change the feel of the play. Performing in this space, in a replica of the Globe, is a wonderful way to construct an ‘authentic’ experience. While that may sound odd, considering this is a virtual space, due to the different points of view the avatar can have, movement does feel quite realistic, especially in a relatively confined space.
Moving and learning in these spaces gives the students a chance to experience Shakespeare in a completely different way. He suddenly becomes very accessible! The students must understand the point of the scene and plan out the action accordingly. This is more than moving a puppet across a stage.
Sitting on the outskirts of this class and watching the students, I am excited and amazed at their level of enthusiasm. They comment and exclaim and back-up their acting decisions. Sometimes it can seem so hard to motivate your students to the level of enthusiasm I saw in the lab today. But it is obvious, I think as I watch the students file out, all giggling and chatting about their in-world experience, that this project is brining theater to them in a new and effective way!