„Hold on tight! Wait! I… I’ve been here before! …but something’s changed. This building… it has been here before, but now it’s… it’s kind-of new! Is this the new place to tell our stories? What happened to our old place? Where is it? Or,more precisely, when is it?“
Unknown time traveller at Teatr Ludowy, in 2023. Shiftings in the space-time-continuum of the theatrical landscape are more common these days than you might think. Theatres are facing the challenge of finding new ways to tell stories to an audience that is continuously exposed to stories delivered to their tiny computers through the 5G network.Where shall we meet this audience? And when? The Scena Stolarniabuilding of the Teatr Ludowy in Kraków, Poland, has been hugely transformed in recent years and will re-open this summer as a whole new space.
What has stayed the same is their target audience: kids and teenagers from the neighbourhood. They play ballgames or hide-and-seek outside the Ludowy, have a beer as soon as they’re allowed to(or a bit earlier),and connect themselves with friends on their smartphones thanks to the free wifi from the theatre. But how do we get these young people inside the building? Which stories do we want to tell them? Which media do we use to tell stories for them? Are these stories told inside of the building or should we tell them outside? Do we want the kids and teens as our audience,or do we want them as creators on stage?To explorethe answers to these questions PlayOn! hosteda three-day hackathon on-site in Kraków.
During the hackathon students from the netword theatres and their partner universities gathered in small groups. Their skills ranged fromstudents of computer science, engineering, theatre directingto animation,and otherdisciplines. They werebe provided with projectors, sound systems, lights, tablets, lasers, fog-machines, motion tracking cameras and tons of ideas on software and services. The framing of the hackathon allowedthe studentsthe space and time to tell stories. The resulting content over two and a half days was visually beautiful and made the most of each new space int eh building. Group 1 created a robot ‘guide’ to the lower floor, who showed us scenes from his life. They incorporated projection, sound, AI generated images and QR codes to reveal AR renderings of the robot’s history. Group 2 explored projection on the ‘wooden room’ and encouraged audience members to ‘grow’ a plant in the projection by interacting with their specially modified watering can. Group 3 in the top floor spoke about using the ‘third space’ for young people, a place where they could relax and socialise. The room had projection, sound sensitive installations, QR codes and a VR experience.
Technology was a large part for the process but the backgrounds of the students also meant the storytellers and theatre makers work could be seen in the display in each room. The results were impressive considering the timescale and enabled the PlayOn! partners to leave feeling inspired by the work on display.