樱木梨乃This blog is about new products and processes that are of use in technical theatre.From theory to practical, this blog will have a little bit of everything.

Monday, June 22, 2020

What is Immersive Theatre?

樱木梨乃We can start by what we claim at Living Lucid Creative:

“Immersive theatre includesmany different things.  From solving a murder and determining the endingof a show to one on one intimate experiences, the only thing you can expect isto expect the unexpected. In most of our everyday entertainment we are merelyspectators.  With these experiences we tear down the wall between actorsand the audience.  Here, you make the choices - you control the story and theexperience.  Every experience is unique - like those old Choose Your OwnAdventure books that we had as kids. Here too, now as adults you can bookanother experience to explore another path!


Stories range from phone callswhere our actors do live improv within a chosen scenario with you guiding thecues to text/phone call/email rescue missions and escape rooms to livestreaming events with groups guiding the story, to full scale environments thatyou can walk into and explore.  This new world of events createsalternative realities where you are a vital part of the experience - withoutyou it just doesn’t work.  Our productions will ensnare your senses andcapture your imagination.


Come join us, leave yourexpectations behind, allow us to introduce you to new realities and experiencesand live lucidly.


Immersion is a continuum.  On a typical stage show you are not really involvedin the action, yet we ask you to allow yourself to believe in the world in theplay.  If you see a stagehand onstagemove something it is assumed that since they are in black they “disappear”.  And some plays break the 4th walland do engage you as the audience.  Theymay speak directly to you.  Or perhapseven drag you up onto stage.  Butgenerally speaking it’s rather passive.

There are many types ofrole playing that are immersive and have been around for years.  From Dungeons and Dragons to Pirate Festivalsand Renaissance Fairs.  These experiencesvary in immersive levels – some get really into it, even dressing the parts,others enjoy more as spectators.  Andbeyond D&D, there are many more immersive styled games out there now thanthere ever were before.  They even have aname – COS play.  I think the next typeof things I recall doing was attending a new murder mysteries where over snacksor a meal you would interact with the other audience members and the cast todiscover who a murderer was.  And, youcould even buy kits that allowed you to have your own murder mystery dinnerparties (these still exist, and even have virtual download options – you caneven do the virtually).  One can make agood deal of arguments about what really is an immersive experience verses whatis a immersive theatrical experience.  Doesit need to have a story line?  Or does itneed to have live actors?  I found, in mysearch for connection many different types of things, different types oftechnology, some revolutionary companies, and in some ways a whole new world ofopportunities.  While my experiences arenot exhaustive, I will try to highlight some of what I have experienced so thatlater, we can eventually come back to what is immersive theatre, or at leastwhat Living Lucid Creative is working towards.

One of the first momentswhich grabbed me was actually a Netflix Interactive Special called Black Mirror Bandersnatch.  It is essentially a choose your own adventurebook, except you make you choices with your remote.  I was mesmerized.  I spend hours watching it, choosing differentpaths, googling paths – and even following one rare ending path that necessitatedme making over 50 different decisions to get to that one ending – and if mychoices were different at any point – I would not get to that alternativeending!  The choices were so seamless –the movie did not pause, it was very well crafted.  Netflix has others and some were entertaining,but not, in my opinion matched this one. 

One “event” that I didwas called Textback.  It was entirely as you can assume viatexts.  The premise was a guy had beenkidnapped and I had to help save him.  Tosave him I have to do a little research, solve some puzzles, and make a fewemails.  The story took place over about2-3 days, but it differs for different people. It was in a way like an escaperoom except there was interaction.  Theinteraction was driving by the game though – I would have to wait for the nextstage to begin, though I could wait to engage till I had time or pause it.   What is interesting is that the person textingyou doesn’t exist.  Sorry for the spoiler– but it is a bot.   Once written, this thing can run forever aslong as you pay for the server or whatever it runs off of.  There is nothing in theatre that even remotelyexists as somewhat passive income – we work hard for every ticket.  I was engaged – and a bit sad when it wasover. 

I have watched a largevariety of virtual tours.  In thebeginning when COVID first shut down everything everyone had a virtualtour.  I couldn’t keep track of themall.  And I found that I was oftendisappointed – that Frank Lloyd Wright house tour that I had never seen – was reallyonly a 3 minute into to the house.  Toomuch work to find what was good.   I alsovery much did not like the 360 tours where you can move yourself incrementallythrough a location.  Perhaps it was thatI did most of these with museums and you really could not look at the art orlearn about the art – and the tours would have been better for eitherarchitecture or nature.  They also had noaudio content (the ones I did), and they were just not very engaging.  A shame as though I suspect a lot of momentwas spent on some of these.   Some wereon zoom.  Some of these were okay – as longas the visual content of the tour was predominate.  Some companies managed this better thanothers.  Others were on Facebook Live or YouTubeLive.  Generally the best ones give yougood visuals and were knowledgeable about the content.  Not exactly theatre – more like attending aseminar.  But some were immersive in thatthey would ask trivia questions or otherwise try to engage the audience.  Unfortunately – these tours were often moreimmersive than some of the theatre I have seen on the same platforms. 

I have done a few showson Discord – the events have themed themselves as immersive theatre, but areall based on role playing, where it is essential for you as an audience memberto participate.  Never the same twice –very immersive.  Best when everyone canreally engage with the story.  Not aseasy for wall flowers to navigate. 

I have also tried a fewescape rooms.  One on YouTube live had anactor moving the story along, there were filmed video segments, you needed tolook virtually for clues and even send out an email, and we solved the puzzlewith seconds on the clock.  It was veryengaging, immersion was done through a chat box, and it had a story line…  I had not really previously considered escaperooms as part of a theatrical experience, but this has changed myperspective.  I also would not have saida haunted house was theatrical – but if it has a story line and actors, you areimmersed in the event – it probably qualifies. There was a couple of other immersive games, one on zoom and one with acreated internet interface that just did not connect to me personally.  One seemed to easy (yet hard to understand)the other was way long and way to complex (it was about Sherlock Holmes). 

I have seen some on Instagram,one on twitter – one on a fake pizza website.  Intriguing.  Some take you one andadventure – some don’t.  It’s a bit likethe Wild West – you don’t know what to expect. 

The other type that Ihave experienced were audio events.  Youdownloaded and listed to a track (play, story) while doing something.  These were intriguing ideas to me.  Immersive in a different way.

And I am sad to say butas of yet I have not seen a performance yet where I would say the format was asclose to theatre as virtually possible that was good.  There was either no real interaction (youcould chat but it didn’t effect the show) and one your input did alter the showbut the show was not easy to understand – and it left me with a feeling that Ijust lost 2 hours of my life). 

By the way, I am open toexperiencing as much as I can – so if you know of something let me know.  Somethings that I have come across are closedproductions, and it is not always very easy to track down productions (and of courseI have to be budget conscious). 

So this is the stew ofthoughts and emotions and types of things that I was engaging in whilesearching for connection and something more.

In some cases thosehosting virtual tours when right back to in person tours when their stateopened up.  I felt that was perhaps shortsighted as I would have still paid to see it virtually as often they were notplaces where I would have been conceivably able to go.  Not to mention that just because things areopen – doesn’t mean all people feel comfortable going out – and somepopulations aren’t able to get out – virtual immersive content reachesaudiences that live events can’t.

Also, it depending onwhat technology you were using these events could exist for as long as there isa potential audience for them.  Obviouslythere could be royalties or rights issues – but the Textback cell experience or the LifelineApp take virtually no support.  Therecorded audio files are similar. However, the immersive quality of these are different.  There is not a live actor.  You can change the story in some cases – in othersyou can’t. 

I was also surprised whensome of the shows that were one on one phone experiences with actorsclosed.  Perhaps they were not doing wellfinancially?  But there are many actorsout there out of work. 

Immersive theatre meansmany things.  I have not even gone intosome of the large scale live immersive events, which we will look to do in thefuture as well.  There are many differentplatforms to use.  There are manydifferent levels of immersion.  And Ithink each person will find that certain levels of immersion feel right to themand that certain platforms are more comfortable and easier for them to navigate.  And Living Lucid Creative is here to help navigatethese new worlds of options and ideas and bring you fresh, innovative andengaging content. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Covid19 and Current Theatre Musings

It’s been quite a while since I have written.  Much has changed.  And then COVID19 happened.

I was busy being baffled by why everyone was obsessed withtoilet paper.  Then schools startedclosing, then states.  I quickly foundmyself being primarily an elementary school teacher for my two daughters.  It definitely made me more thankful for theirteacher’s skills and expertise.  And Irealized how complicated logging in and out of 20 things can be for 2 kids foreach assignment…  But everything is alearning experience right?

Broadway closing was a surreal moment.  Almost unbelievable.  It was temporary – to control thespread.  We knew that at the “end” itwouldn’t magically be over.  The viruswould not be cured or a vaccine implemented – but in some ways expectationsseemed to change and our understanding of things changed, and then changedagain.  And of course there are many,many different views.  And the impact –emotionally and financially – personally and socially has been huge.  9/11 was my best comparative experience atfirst, but it is more than that!

At first I streamed as many shows as I could find (and Ifound many more than I expected). Streaming a play is never the same. Red and the Incident at Vichy stood out to me – theymanaged to catch my attached through the screen while the others didn’t.  I managed to feel emotionally connected.  A few feel good musicals did the same like Kinky Boots and Billy Elliot.  At home thereare too many distractions.  And if itdoesn’t grab your attention there are too many other entertainmentoptions. 

Some theatre folks had switched to making masks or faceshields – or even shields to install in companies for checkout areas and stufflike that.  We did what theatre does –keep moving and adapting.  But theatreswere dark…  Academic theatres were darkbut still trying to teach hands on skills in an online environment. 

Social distancing in theatre I think is a problem.  For patrons and backstage.  It just doesn’t really work.  There isn’t room backstage, and the showsrequire a certain intimacy between cast and crew.  For the audience, part of the experience isthe other audience members.  The tensionor laughter.  It makes theatre, welltheatre.  Streaming theatre loses that –but a mostly empty house might as well.  Plusthere is profitability.  Losing all thoseseats either means increased ticket prices – more shows (which actually also effectscosts), or decreased show budgets and scopes and a different level ofperformance quality – lowered production values.

As an introvert, in many ways, Ihave not minded some of the changes.  Ilike all of the virtual content available – though that is another post.  I like being about to do things online or onthe phone instead of going in and doing it. My life is a different pace than before. But what I found that I missed the most was connection.  As an introvert I could go out and myconnection meter would go up simply by being around others with inadvertent orsurprising short conversations.  Justrunning into people and saying hi.  With noone going out, social connection had to be a conscious choice.  To call. To text.  To respond to a post orsend an email.  And, nothing was the same– many people were out of work – many people had their job, now at home – plus educatingkids, nothing was quite the same so there was a lot to navigate.  Zoom became the new google. 

So I inadvertently set out on abit of a quest after streaming tons of Broadway shows to try to find moreinteractive content.   One of the firststops on that was an interactive episode on Netflix – which is also worthy ofits own piece of writing.  I’ve donethings on zoom, phone calls, texting games, escape rooms, tours, some “theatre”,some music…  and a wide variety ofImmersive theatre.  Good and bad.  It’s not really that new – and it’s beenaround for a long time in many forms.  ButI think, that it is one of the key ways for theatre to continue in today’sworld.  And that will be the subject mynext post!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

USITT tech expo

Tech Expo Deadline Oct. 14

USITT Tech Expo displays creative solutions to production problems. Every other year, this exhibit highlights the work of technicians from all areas of production including sound, rigging, costume, crafts, properties, mask making, lighting technology, stagecraft, and special effects. An article describing, in detail, the products and processes used to develop the idea, accompanies each exhibit. The articles are assembled into a catalog which is sold at the Conference, online, and by the USITT Office.

The application deadline is Oct. 14. Apply here.

Tech Expo is the only juried exhibition and publication devoted to theatre technologists.

Find guidelines and more info at www.usittshow.com.tech-expo.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Striplox Hardware

Striplox has and interesting product out that is fairly similar to the Z-Clip product that we use alot of around our shop.  It slides horizontally (or vertically), allows the connectors to be very flatly nestled together, though this is true if you inset Z-Clip as well.  It is a little different in that there is an option that makes it lock into place, so that it will not be removable once installed.

The website shows additional uses, including being able to put it into the end grain of a piece of wood, and to use it for corners.  It is definitely something that I could see being used in the shop.

Friday, July 22, 2016

On Teaching 3 – Online Learning

I wrote the first two of these after a bad online teaching experience.  During the last quarter I had an OK online experience.  Most of the classes I take are online.   It isn’t necessarily because I prefer them –but they are typically more convenient. As with any class there are many differences between classes andschools, even within a college or university. I consume a fair amount of content – much of it online.  Obviously it varies in the way that it isconveyed, but it is clear to me that online learning – actively with enrollment,semi actively via online sites like Lynda.Com, or open source universityclasses, or just casually with many of the articles and white papersavailable.
Generally speaking, most of this learning occurs much morepassively than traditional classroom learning. 

Generally speaking online learning is typically not as effective as classroom learning and retention is lower.  Considering the fact that online learning, in my opinion will only grow, finding a way to fix this is important.

My online classes have generally been 1 of three types. One is a live recorded actual class, in which the online portion participates asynchronously with the rest of the class.  One class gave you the option of watching it live (this was a fairly good online class).  One type provides pre-recorded lecture materials.  One of the best classes I ever took online had this - his lectures were full length, insightful, and on point.  The third, may have online recordings but they are short and no where near lecture length.

The other differences in classes of course is the assignments.  To "mimic" in class discussion, many (poor) online classes require an absurd amount of reading and writing posts relating to the topic and the commenting on other posts. Hopefully, they at least provide a rubric on what these posts should include to be meaningful, but they often don't.  And the amount of work that goes into this far exceeds that of a normal classroom discussion and sometimes equals a paper (some require resources).  I understand that it is more difficult to see what students are doing in a virtual world.  I find that discussion groups work better than doing whole class discussions, and that case studies and actual papers and analysis also work well.

Also what I find is that not only is the lecture material not the same as an in class discussion, but neither is the reading material.  When I first started taking online course it seemed like teachers just simply made their in class course into an online version (minus maybe the video).  I'm not really sure of that though - just as students seem to put less work into an online course - so does, it seems the professors do.

I realize that all of these thoughts on teaching may seem off topic to theatre, but frankly, especially in areas like Cad, I feel like there are things that could be taught online.  and I don't think that online courses will go away, because ultimately they do save time, even if they are made to be high quality.

So here are my thoughts :
1. Provide lectures.  I am taking a class to gain specific knowledge, but I am paying someone for that opportunity and feel like I deserve some sort of personalized experience and that includes relevant, and full length lectures.  I can find a list of books to read on my own, and probably even fine a discussion group.  The teacher aspect is lost in online learning and needs to front and center.
2. provide meaningful books, articles, etc.  not overwhelming, unless it is clear what is required and discretionary and check that the links are active.  (providing does not mean that we won't purchase materials, just in terms of choosing resources).
3. have meaningful assignments.  do case studies.  Have small groups discuss issues.  Busy work isn't productive, takes alot of time, and is meaningless for long term learning.  Focus on projects or papers. realize that while we are all using technology that group projects are still painful (not that I ever expect them to go away).
4. Use other technology.  There are spaces for virtual collaboration where people can put up PDFs and text chat, or mark up what is on the screen.  Resources are constantly changing, stay up to day.  have virtual office hours.  Be responsive.  Give students feedback.  Be clear what you expectations are.
5. tests and quizzes vary from class to class. i don't typically find them effective (they are usually from the text book company and are "tricky" just to be more difficult.  Though in one of the best classes I had we did have an in class essay final.  Obviously this will depend on the type of class being taught, but projects and papers can be viable options.  Don't make choices because they are easy, and don't use the teacher questions out of the text book because it is also easy for you to deal with.

As I mentioned, I dont  think this trend will go away, but I think it can be much better if approached differently!

Below are a variety of sites that talk about online learning in more depth.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Klimp Fasteners

A job recently came in and the crates used Klimp fasteners.  They "clip" into place and secure the crate without the use of bolts.  The package we received to do work on was about 5 years old, and had seen international travel, so they had help up pretty well as an alternative methodology for crate construction.  

While obviously useful for its normal use for crates, I would be curious to see if it would be a useful piece of hardware for scenery in rep theatre - though obviously it would be limited to 90 degree corners.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

HPL Graphics

When it comes to durable graphics, HPL or High PressureLaminate materials are the strongest that you can use.  They are great for museums for reader railsand in other high touch areas.  Thequality is great, the timeline is long – so plan ahead! 
Some go to sources for us are:
IZone, Fossil and Folia.

I have been looking into this below and looking to experimentmore with Envirosigns and Vacker signs, but am looking for more options.
Graphics are an odd part of my job as a PM.  We don’t make them either in terms ofdesigning content (though we have done this), or in terms of printingthem.  We install them – and we need tomake sure that images are correct and the correct size.  So on one hand, there is little to nohandling, except that on some jobs, graphic production, checking, and managementis actually a very large part of the work to be done.

I did run across a couple PDF’s that have more informationabout graphics to pass on:

New Companies:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Online Research

I write about many things here, but one topic that I like to engage in, and write about is research.   Usually my first step is Google Scholar.  You can configure it in many different ways, and even provide your school information to help make the process smoother (you typically have to log into many research databases with an ID, which you do through you school log in if you have one). Otherwise, some of these site will require payment (or sometimes they have a certain number of free articles allowed).   Google Scholar is also very useful in terms of looking up patents for theater technology.

I also frequently use the New York Times.  I was reading a book about a murder in NYC, and it dawned on me while reading the book that the reason I could not get earlier information about technical direction, technical theatre, and such from the times (late 1890's I think is the earliest that I have), is because they were not the dominate newspaper in NYC before that time.  The others that were are not as easily searchable, but I have not spend a significant amount of time following those leads.  I will say that newspapers and trade magazines are helpful in terms of tracking down industry trends and shifts.  For instance, many of the large scene shops switched hands over the years.  It is published that Variety was purchased by Showman Fabricators, but following the trail back can be tedious.  I have been looking at this history trying to trace the historical changes in the technical side of theater in the US.

New Mexico State University has a variety of PDF's available about doing research and using the library.  I know that all of the schools that I have attended have the same.  Connection to a college or university is nice because you often will have access to digital copies of articles that you may not otherwise have access too.  Many articles will not be available electronically though, so you still have to use the actual library!

Internet Scout Project  seams to be an online content knowledge management system where users can create their own database, but also provides databases to the public.  One such site is the Electro-Mechanical Library available which has a large collection of knowledge about devices.  This particular source is not necessarily research in terms of academic writing, but very helpful in terms of looking up information on specific electrical and mechanical devices.

Obviously, there are many, many, many more sources out there, but these represent a few that I have been using.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Led Lights

The whole of LED lights is much larger now than when I first started using them.
We often use lights from  Super Bright LED's.  We primarily use LED tape, and the projects often have a short lifespan.  More expensive LED's are usually fabricated under stricter scenarios.  But you pay a much difference price for that.  In this range the place to visit is: Color Kinetics, environmental Lights or DSL Group.  Basically, with LED's the quality does typically correlate with the quality of the lights.

Other good sources:
DSL Group

These sources will also provide enclosed LED strip light (similar to Neon Flex or the LED equivalent to neon).  LED only bends in certain directions, though depending on how you are using it you can often bend it naturally and bounce the light in the right direction.  If you buy it without the casing, you can only cut it within certain intervals.  This means that you need to occasionally bury the end of the tape, and that you have to plan ahead for where the lengths need to start and stop so that light is evenly distributed.

Often, once you get the LED's in place, if you are not using a packaged product (though this does occur in some packaged products as well) is that you can often see the LED's as single points of light which are not diffused.  To just dim the light we often use sheets of ND (neutral density) gel to block the light.  Milk white, sign white and Satin Ice acrylic are all good options as well.  If you are building something you will want to test - the specific type of acrylic you use, and the thickness of that piece will determine the spacing that it needs to be away from the LED to evenly distribute the light.

Lastly, if you are looking for specific colors, you may want to test the LED as samples before buying everything you need - for instance, we have had issues getting a good orange and red out of some products.  Its getting to be so common, that I think it is easy to slip into the idea that it doesn't need to be figured out - but that can bit you at the end when it doesnt work exactly how it was planned to.

Lastly, sometimes its helpful to buy something to hold the LED strips without manufacturing something new.  For this check out:
Klus Design
Outwater Plastics
Nova Display  We used the low arch product on a past project - you can see individual LED's but it looks sleek.  Nova Display also has many other products that are worth browsing.
And of course Amazon again.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Graphic and Shelving Hanging Systems

One of the items that I see more often in proposals and designs are cable display systems.  These can be fairly slick and elegant ways of displaying artwork or graphics, and even merchandise.

Most of the products I have used have come from Arakawa Hanging Systems.  There are many options out there though - I have often thought that the next time I do a cover the walls exhibit at USITT that it would be cool to use some of this equipment for the display.