As we started to see the restrictions related to the pandemic ease in 2021, the re-start and reopening of theatres was associated with much hope. Theatres hoped to reconnect with their audiences and artists hoped to be able to realise the new themes of the time.
In 6 exciting panels over two days, more than 600 people joined us online as we heard outstanding speakers share their experiences of interactive storytelling and the use of immersive technologies.
We discussed the future of theatre in the aftermath of the pandemic with experts from across the world. Together we explored the hope theatre can offer to its audiences with new formats for storytelling.
You can watch all of the conference panels. Click the + next to each panel title to reveal the video and information about the speakers and their presentations. Alternatively, you can view them all as a playlist on our YouTube channel: HOPE! 2021 Playlist.
Finding answers to the challenging questions of the 21st century by involving the audience. How are stories developed that identify new models of society and put the audience in the role of decision-makers?
Guy Gadney, UK, opens the panel with a keynote on creative artificial intelligence. Guy is co-founder and CEO of the ground-breaking storytelling platform charisma.ai, a toolkit for creating interactive stories with believable virtual characters. How can artificial intelligence become the co-creator of new storytelling formats?
Clara Ehrenwerth from machina eX (Germany) will present their production “Lessons of Leaking”. Machina eX addresses moral conflicts between the poles of democracy, transparency, manipulation and freedom of expression. Machina eX develops immersive plays which are at the same time walk-in-computer games.
Steve Bull from the Australian PVI collective present their work to encourage civil disobedience. In their productions they mobilise their audience, “play” revolution with them, also to find better solutions for our lives in an uncertain 21st century.
Social media has expanded the space for storytelling. Social media can serve as a platform for narration in its own terms, or combined with performative elements. In the process, our perception can be misled: fake news also greets us from the transmedia stage.
Cosmea Spelleken (director) und Lotta Schweikert (assistant director) by Werther.live, a German group that first met on zoom during the pandemic. They have adapted a German classic („The Sorrows of Young Werther“) into the virtual present and transferred Goethe’s characters into social media.
Werther.live received the audience award „Winner of Hearts“ from the online portal Nachtkritik.de.
Tomas Schweigen (director) from Schauspielhaus Wien developed Seestadt-Saga, a 25-day theatrical social media series in which the boundaries between reality and fiction blurred on the social web. The possibility of analogue contact existed, however, the primary storytelling tool was social media posts.
Laura Tontsch developed „Der Kult der toten Kuh“ (The Cult of the Dead Cow), a three-week Instagram game as an innovative digital performance format in which participatory narrative and digital theatre come together online. The project was part of her master’s thesis at the University of the Arts in Zurich, Switzerland (ZhdK).
The world we live in is staged and we move in different systems of order. What does it mean for spectators to enter worlds lovingly designed by theatres down to the smallest detail, in which large models of society are conceived as a game. The Storyworld generates an oppressive social experiment.
Using three exemplary projects by the theatre collective Prinzip Gonzo, the talk of David Czesienski explains the role of play currencies in the conception and realisation of immersive theatre plays. What influence do currencies have on game mechanics, narration and reception?
The theatrical installations of the Swedish artist duo Theda Nilsson & Julian Eicke move at the interface between theatre, visual art and performance and are constructions of distorted and deformed architecture due to unusual theatrical experiences of time and space. They talk about their current production of Valkyrie at the Cologne Schauspielhaus.
The Agency members Yana Thönnes and Belle Santos will take a closer look at their immersive theater work MEDUSA BIONIC RISE, produced 2017 at Kaserne Basel and ‘BOYS SPACE (online version)’, produced 2019/2020 for Münchner Kammerspiele and FFT Düsseldorf.
Lorne Svarc of Technodramatists will talk about Mañanaland by TheTank NYC. Mañanaland is an interactive trans-media piece that explores a utopian alternate universe where the social and political conflicts of today are a thing of the past. Experience this hybrid virtual-physical world through a virtual news network and a series of AR hunts across three of the five boroughs of NYC. The piece uses the existing AR game app Scavengar for theatrical storytelling.
Mixed reality applications draw their audience directly into the story, making it an intense experience. New forms of storytelling are made possible that allow each viewer to experience an individual, unique story. What technical demands does this put on artists? What challenges does the audience have to face?
Chong Tze Chien (Creative Director) and Derrick Chew (Executive Producer) from Sight Lines, an imaginative and progressive theatrical entertainment company based in Singapore, present their new interactive and virtual performance in a 5-star-hotel.
Anna West and David Callanan from idontloveyouanymore experiment at the intersection of live theatre and virtual reality, design becomes an element driving the story. From the initial stage production, Anna and David have developed an award-winning VR animation.
Momchil Alexiev, a Bulgarian director and head of VR-LAB BG, gives an overview of different storytelling approaches in VR and AR theatre productions. His keynote will put a special focus on Eastern European productions, giving us a change of perspective away from the very one-sided Western orientation.
This panel has the strongest reference for a practical implementation of immersive technologies in theatre. In short 10-minute pitches, the artists present a technology and give examples of artistic implementation. After all pitches, each visitor decides which artist they would like to meet for an intensive work talk in a break-out room.
Catherine Allen, CEO of Limina Immersive will give a keynote about what new VR audience want and what cultural institutions have to adapt to in order to reach their audience – and with which digital technology.
Immersive technologies and the artists who present them:
Next Generation – Holodeck by Nils Corte and Roman Sinkl
This talk will focus on how to build a mixed reality setup on stage and how to work with Peppers Holosuite, a multilayer visualisation software, discussing both artistic opportunities and the technical realisation. Creative coder Nils Corte and director Roman Senkl will look into examples, introduce a basic projection setup, and discuss advantages and disadvantages of different environments.
National Ear Theatre by Silvia Mercuriali
Superimpositions of Realities – how AR is expanding the ways of seeing by Sarah Buser
With the possibilty of location based Augmented Reality the phrase “All the world’s a stage” take on a new meaning. Based on examples of my work, I will give a brief insight into the possibilities of AR in a performative context. How can we understand reality anew, when we move in it, and simultaneously in a fictious space – when we become aware of how much we live in a fragmentary world, whose meaning depends so much on ourselves? With location based AR the line between reality and fiction, between virtuality and physicality blur and new practises of seeing emerge.
Live-Augmented-Reality-Glasses Performance by Oliver Proske (Nico and the Navigators)
Treachery of Images (Verrat der Bilder) – An example of a Live-Augmented-Reality-Glasses Performance
For the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, the company Nico and the Navigators took the leitmotif „art and technology – a new unity“, coined by Walter Gropius, seriously to try out something fundamentally new. The result was Europe’s first augmented reality performance with live actors – a performative journey through the Dessau Masters‘ Houses, the Georg Kolbe Museum in Berlin and the State Representation of Saxony-Anhalt in Brussels. In the process, the multifaceted history of the Bauhaus with its contrasting aesthetic and political currents is examined.
Poetic Immersion in VR by Leonhard Lass and Gregor Ladenhauf
Real World Game engine TOTO by Markus Schubert
Spheres of Imagination – Building collaborative Spaces Online by Marcel Karnapke (CyberRäuber)
In this talk we are going to hear about our technical and artistic approach to realize three entirely different online festivals and how we found a place between 2D and 3D that can inspire the imagination and help us to connect and relate to each other better online.
At its core art is the manipulation of someone else’s imagination. And while most people strive to recreate a true feeling of space, immersion and the co presence we found that through artistic transformation of real places we can inspire people to feel a sense of wonder and make it accessible across all devices and age ranges.
At the end of the HOPE! conference, we look at major institutions that have made great progress in the transition to the digital without losing their theatrical identity.
Noah Nelson, founder of the blog noproscenium.com, a guide to everything immersive, gives the keynote: The Power of Live: Theatre’s Gift to the Emerging Metaverse. Entertainment production as a whole is changing in realtime as realtime computer effects, streaming platforms and virtual production revolutionizes the entertainment industry as a whole. And Noah’s good news for us is that theatre artists have a real role to play in this emerging renaissance.
Annastina Haapasaari, project manager of Opera beyond, a project of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, presents the project based on the latest production Laila. Laila is an immersive, interactive installation, which won the 2020 FEDORA Digital Prize. By combining arts and technology without prejudice or preconceptions, Opera Beyond builds an ecosystem of independent actors that gives rise to unusual combinations.
Sarah Ellis from the Royal Shakespeare Company introduces the latest production „Dream“, an online performance in the virtual Midsummer forest. The audience follows Puck’s invitation on a magical journey between dusk and dawn. Dream is a shared experience between actors and online audience members.