Prototyping VR theater

A group of us at NYU are working on a theater piece that will take place entirely in shared virtual reality. Everyone will be physically in the same room — actors and audience alike — and everyone will see each other in their actual location within that room, but everyone will experience the theatrical work from within a VR headset, and all participants will appear to each other as avatars in a fantastical world.

It’s an interesting creative space, because there are two opposing forces at work. On the one hand, we can embrace the corporeal, since we really are there together, and we can talk to each other and touch each other just as we always do when physically together.

On the other hand, there are few limits on what we can see. In fact, participants can be seeing different things, in a way that would not be possible in traditional theater. For example, an actor might look like an angel to one audience member, and like the Devil to everyone else.

We are discovering that you can’t figure out what works in this space just by trying to reason it out. We pretty much need to dive into the shared virtual world together, and do all our prototyping there. And that’s kind of cool.

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