url VS IRL
Andy's Summer Playhouse - July 2019
A team of professional artists and student collaborators ask the question: what is more real, the lives that we lead in “the real world” (the non-digital realm of family dinner conversations, driving to school, and brushing our teeth) or the “online world” of social media conversations, online multi-player games, and virtual reality headsets that fully immerse individuals in digitally created environments?
Combining the use of high-tech gaming technology and low-tech theatricality, URL vs IRL follows a group of teenage characters as their lives intersect and collide online and off. At the heart of the play we experience how technology brings us together, isolates us, engages us, leaves us empty, and is increasingly shaping the way we perceive the world and each other.
THE DEVISING PROCESS
URL vs IRL was created through a highly collaborative reserach, design, and devising process. Creation of the play involved the teen performers, professional creative team, gaming and social media consultants, and over 50 teenagers from around the United States who participated in developmental workshops with Dramaturg, Percy Hornak and myself.
Research: Six months of in-depth research and development of the play’s subject matter and concept through development workshops and interviews with the experts on the subject of teen online lives: teens themselves.
Design Process: Working closely with Game Designer, Derek Christansen, we developed a conceptual framework for translating the world of online gaming to the stage.
Location: To tell the story of the chracters’ online and offline lives, the play is set in two different locations. The first act of the play, focused on the characters’ offline lives, took place in a house across from the theater. Audiences moved from room to room to step into the lives of each character in the play. The second act took place in the theater where the artifice of stage lights, projection and sound design created the feeling of being in a digitally constructed world.
Rehearsal: Utilizing game structures and scenarios, the creative team and the student performers worked collaboratively to create the play’s characters and narrative events. The entire two hour production was generated in just three weeks of rehearsal.
Immersion: Audiences rotated through the different rooms of a house, engaging with the performers not only as passive observers but also as partygoers and classmates.
Installation: Dramaturg, Percy Hornak, transformed the rehearsal room into an interactive installation of gaming culture and history. Audiences could watch a series of interviews with the actors about their thoughts on digital personas and culture, read an in-depth timeline of video game history, and create their own digital avatar.
Innovation: The creative team pushed the boundaries of cross-disciplinary design through their blending of game mechanics and video design to create an interactive digital landscape onstage, as well as the use of smart-LED technology in the costume pieces.
URL vs IRL follows the story of four teens from their offline lives and spaces to their online personas as virtual reality gamers. When the challenges of their offline lives follow them online, how will they deal with the limits of technology to solve the struggles in their lives as well as find strength in the online relationships and personas they've created for themselves?