Sunday, November 11, 2012

Theatre in 3D at a cinema near you

In an effort to kick start this rather neglected blog, here’s an article I recently wrote for Arts Professional magazine in my capacity as Creative Producer for Stellar Quines theatre company. Normal Deco to Digital service will soon be resumed.
It’s fair to say that a couple of years ago Stellar Quines was in the digital Dark Ages. Like many arts organisations we stumbled into our first AmbITion workshop wondering what all the digital fuss was about and what it had to do with live theatre. The workshop turned out to be a eureka moment in the company’s history as we emerged with our heads spinning with a new found realisation of the potentials of a brave new digital world.

As a result Stellar Quines’ mindset switched from analogue to digital. New possibilities and urgencies inherent within our core values opened up and the company caught the innovation bug. In tandem with our mission to be bold, relevant and brave, Stellar Quines now considers live theatre just one element of a wider theatrical process and we are committed to exploring, both artistically and entrepreneurially, the potentials of innovation within the equalities realm.

That said, it’s been a long journey: a journey characterised by learning curves, trial and error, experimentation, a lot of discussion and a commitment to venturing outside of comfort zones both in terms of who we work with and what we ask of those who work with us.

In practical terms, the AmbITion business case Stellar Quines created has three main strands: to become a virtual hub for all those interested in women and theatre; to deliver a series of creative digital labs where the interface between live theatre and the possibilities emerging through the virtual and digital worlds can be tested; and to train ourselves and those who work with us in new skills, new outlooks and new understandings – thus ensuring the journey continues.

At the planning stage, we considered the virtual hub as the natural first strand to develop. However, working reality has proved that experimentation through the creative digital labs had to come first. To date this work has been at the forefront of implementing our AmbITion plans, the belief being that trying out new ideas would inform the development of the company’s online and virtual presence.

The major digital lab Stellar Quines has undertaken so far is the development of an experimental prototype – a 3D digitised version of our last production, ANA – a first for Scottish theatre. The aim of this lab was to research whether 3D film can offer an artistic and commercially viable experience of live theatre.

Thanks to collaborations with Glasgow’s Digital Design Studio, Edinburgh Napier University’s Institute for Creative Industries and Freakworks film production company, we have succeeded in creating a prototype. Following an initial test screening of extracts to an invited audience, Dundee Contemporary Arts are now working with us to create a Digital Cinema Package out of this prototype which will be screened at this venue and in Scotland’s mobile cinema (the Screen Machine). At these screenings we will test the viability of the product and most importantly get to hear what audiences think of it.

This lab has been tremendously important in opening up the potential of new platforms to deliver work, experimenting with the company’s artistic remit and enabling partners such as the Screen Machine to broaden the programme of content they can deliver to isolated audiences.

The second digital lab Stellar Quines has undertaken so far involved the live streaming of one of our Rehearsal Rooms – a long-standing strand of our activity aimed at developing new scripts and emerging writers. Through a Rehearsal Room a new piece of work is rehearsed during the day and performed script-in-hand in front of a live audience in the evening. The live audience have their say and their input informs the development of the work. Via this digital lab we live streamed both part of the day-time rehearsal and all of the evening performance thus enabling anyone anywhere to access and participate, not least of which was the writer herself who is based in Québec.

Moving forward, this lab is now informing the creation of Stellar Quines’ virtual hub, and a third digital lab aimed at developing further the possibilities of digitising content and working with film companies is in the pipeline.

Moving forward again, innovation now underpins everything Stellar Quines does, not least of which is our on-going interrogation of the company’s core remit and public value. It’s easy to dismiss a women’s theatre that’s 18-years old as being old fashioned, old school and part of the Dark Ages. It’s so not easy when that company is pioneering new prototypes, experimenting with the emerging possibilities of film and theatre working together and reaching out to women across the globe.


Read the original article in Arts Professional.

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