AHRC-funded Telepresence Stage project explores collaborative solutions for the performing arts

[The telepresencestage.org website describes and provides free resources from “Collaborative Solutions for the Performing Arts: A Telepresence Stage,” a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Excerpts from the website’s pages are below; see the site for more details and images. –Matthew]

Collaborative Solutions for the Performing Arts: A Telepresence Stage

OVERVIEW:

In our safe distancing times, this research is developing effective and affordable techniques to connect theatre and dance performers from their separate homes and place them within virtual sets online to create, rehearse and perform together as if on a real stage.

The website provides helpful DIY how-to-guides and resources, including audio-visual materials and analysis of ongoing residency projects with eight UK performance companies.

DESCRIPTION:

The performing arts have suffered significantly from the effects of COVID-19 and have almost ceased to exist in their traditional form since March 2020, with many in the sector finding themselves out of work and unsupported. While some working lives have migrated online in Teams and Zoom meetings, the performing arts requires a far more co-existent video experience to adapt.

Collaborative Solutions for the Performing Arts: A Telepresence Stage is an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project led by the School of Art and Media at the University of Brighton, in collaboration with LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore and the Third Space Network in Washington DC. In response to the COVID-19 impact on the performing arts sector, this project aims to identify new and creative ways for actors, dancers and other performing arts professionals to rehearse and interact together in shared online spaces and to produce collaborative live performances from remote sites. In a dramatic shift from the paradigm of the web-conference grid, the Telepresence Stage seeks to identify conceptual and technical solutions to break free of these isolating constraints and provide an altogether new platform, where our experience of online connection is heightened and re-envisioned through the superimposition of our bodies in virtual spaces.

The project team from media and performing arts backgrounds bring together their knowledge and experience of developing live networked performance research and practice for over 30 years. Through this partnership, the 18-month study will combine techniques such as green-screen technology, networked video production and virtual set design to create a telepresence studio laboratory, providing full-body interactions between remote participants. Eight UK performing arts companies will undertake residencies to test, explore, and perform online techniques, between their participating members in remote locations. Each residency will explore and develop a live-streamed public performance demonstrating a unique range of telepresence solutions, made available via case study documents and videos, providing help guides, tutorial support and open-source resources designed to assist UK performing arts professionals to adapt and continue to work online.

“The project brings significant new levels of creativity to videoconference-based performance, free from the entrapment of Zoom boxes. It explores issues crucial to the future of theatrical practices: from new approaches to spectacle and illusion to understanding the nuances of telepresence intimacy, empathy and communion.” –Professor Steve Dixon, Co-Investigator and President of LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore

This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of UKRI’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Programme.

RESOURCES:

[The resources page of the website includes] a full archive of all the material and content generated from the eight residency programmes throughout the project, providing examples, guidance and tools for future use and further development. These resources are made openly available and released under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0)

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