This afternoon, I attended a Second Life performance of Avatar Repertory Theater’s production of Oedipus Rex. Actually, attended isn’t the right word – I participated. The play’s audience stood on stone palettes, one avatar per stone (as you can see in the photo above). Animations were pre-loaded into the stones and then manipulated by a back-stage producer, using a HUD (Heads-Up Device), puppeteering the audience in response to the play, as it unfolded. So, periodically, all of the avatars would dance, sway, or kneel in unison. It was a wonderful effect.
The ticket to the performance (cost $2) and it takes the form of a lovely olive branch that also became a part of the performance, swaying as we danced, and then occasionally waving it at the actors. The playwright, Ada Radius, also participated (in fact, that’s her in the photo, kneeling on my left). More photos of the production here.
The actors did a fabulous job – and their avatars all looked great. Lovely costumes, beautiful sets, and all very detailed. The entire theater, really, was the set, giving you the feeling of being in ancient Thebes, right along with the actors. Immersion meets immersive worlds. There was also a musical score that helped to set the mood.
After the production ended, the actors came out for a short Q/A session. When asked how much time it took to pull the play together, they said hundreds and hundreds of hours. I’m sure it did – so many moving parts! There are 21 people in the company – about a dozen people were involved in this production (six of them actors). The actors are doing what they call “voice over acting” and of course, at the same time, puppeteering their avatars. They described some interesting quirks, particular to producing a play in the virtual world. For instance, there is occasional lag to deal with – depending on your computer and your internet connection, you might see or hear things slightly later than someone else would. What the actors referred to as a latency problem. So what they do to address this is to over-ride their typical acting instincts (to wait until the last actor has finished their line before speaking) and, instead, start their line two or three words before the end of the previous speaker. With this technique, they can pick up their cues and wind up delivering at the right pace. Fascinating. The director also explained that she engages all the actors in private IM windows, during the play, so that she can coordinate them and let them know if they are lagging.
There was a beautiful (Thincbook) program – listing the cast and giving the play’s background story – very nicely done. Oh, and gift bags for the audience members as you entered the theater, with appropriate greek outfits and sandals. Nice touch.
Stay tuned for their next production – Virtual Short Play Buffet – you won’t want to miss it. They also perform “plays around” – improv, scenes, and readings – every Friday at 5:00 pm (SLT) in Second Life. Here is their web site for more information.
Added later: Hilarious rendition of Oedipus Rex, told with vegetables, from Mark Childs (thanks, Mark!)