The creators of “Hamlet 360” describe the project as the rare instance where an entire play has been adapted to take advantage of the immersive possibilities of virtual reality.
But plenty of other theater artists — from the experimental to the commercial — have been making use of new technologies. Sometimes their work is seen, or heard, on a traditional stage; in other cases the boundaries between stage and screen are blurred. Here are several recent examples.
Don’t put away your phone
The Builders Association, which has incorporated cutting-edge technology into its work for decades, encouraged cellphone use for its 2015 augmented-reality-aided production, “Elements of Oz.” After downloading an app, audience members could watch the action onstage, along with nifty extras: Point the phone at Dorothy’s house, for example, and images of a tornado appeared onscreen.
Smartphones played a key supporting role in James Graham’s “Privacy,” at the Public Theater, too, demonstrating — sometimes uncomfortably — how much could be gleaned about a randomly gathered group of theater fans by the devices they carried in their pockets.
Digital wizardry in ‘The Tempest’
Working with Intel and a motion-capture company founded by Andy Serkis (Gollum from “Lord of the Rings” trilogy), the Royal Shakespeare Company featured an unusually shape-shifting Ariel in its 2017 production of “The Tempest.”
Mark Quartley, the actor playing Ariel, appeared both onstage and, at moments when his character referred to magic, as a digitally created avatar, filmed live and projected onto screens moving over fellow actors.
More ‘Object’ lessons
Sensorium, the company that oversaw the technical direction on “Hamlet 360,” also helped to develop “objects in mirror AR closer than they appear,” an extension of Geoff Sobelle’s acclaimed one-man show “The Object Lesson.”
Presented at New York Theater Workshop and at the Tribeca Film Festival, the piece gave viewers the chance to wander through sections of Mr. Sobelle’s clutter-filled set and, using smartphone technology, watch and learn more about what was inside the many boxes and drawers — further fleshing out, visually and aurally, what Ben Brantley in The New York Times called the “connective poetry in the seeming randomness of what we hoard.”
Musical videos in surround
Musicals like “The Lion King,” “Hamilton” and “School of Rock” have made videos that allow viewers to experience what it’s like onstage during a big number. You can circle your way through “Circle of Life,” or, in the case of “School of Rock,” use a mouse to explore a classroom where the school-age musicians headbang under the “guidance” of their teacher.
Playing with sound
“No production on Broadway has ever thrown the doors of perception open as widely as ‘The Encounter,’” Ben Brantley wrote of the 2016 show, courtesy of the London-based Complicite, which piped binaural sound through headsets to capture the journey of a Western explorer lost in the Amazon rain forest.
Orignially published in NYT.