To honor the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, the team at Hamlet's Castle decided to transform the play into an interactive performance. They hired me to rework the story. Here's what happened.
When the team said "interactive play," they didn't mean the audience would be milling around on stage, bumping into the actors and knocking over the lights. They meant that they wanted to incorporate technology into the performance - specifically this sensor-based motion-capture suit that allows artists to create "a natural human presence in the digital world."
(Do you want to know more about the suit? Or are your eyes already glazing over? If it's the latter, well, all I can say is that I feel you. The truth is, I have almost zero interest in new technology. I am not an early adapter; I am a "Do I have to?" adapter. All I've ever wanted to be is a writer. For me, tech has always been a means to an end. If it helps us tell better stories and reach more people, then I'm interested. Otherwise, forget it!)
The good news is that tech is evolving to the point where playwrights and actors and writers can incorporate it into their projects in creative new ways. Here's how Rokoko explained the suit in their successful Kickstarter campaign:
"Motion capture is known to be expensive, require a lot of technical expertise and being limited by very specific practical surroundings. The Salto suit turns this upside down. All the technology is built into a plug & play suit. The system is ready to use the second you put it on. You can wear it and use it anywhere, and it doesn’t cost more than a smartphone. Salto is the future of motion capture and it introduces this useful and unique technology to everybody."
And here is a frog to tell you more:
In our play, there will be exactly one flesh-and-blood actor performing on stage in front of the audience: Hamlet himself. When he approaches the enormous mirror/screen onstage, an avatar version of himself will appear inside the mirror. Real-life Hamlet will control avatar Hamlet, who will interact with the virtual play taking place inside. Real Hamlet will also interact with the live audience. Oh, and did I mention there will be a play within the play? Yes! Very simple to pull off!
Here's the man himself, thinking it all through:
I'll admit, this seems overly complicated. But the source material is perfect for this, because Hamlet is a character that lives in his head, and so much of this version of the play will take place in his (virtual) head in front of an audience.
The tech opens up all kinds of possibilities. It lets us blur the lines between make-believe and real-world to an entirely new degree.
So excited to see technology used for something other than this:
Are you still reading? Am I still writing? Is there more tech to explain? Can I have a beer?
Let's take a break and look at some puppies:
I feel better.
OK, enough tech talk. In the next post, we will get into the good stuff: the story itself.
Hamlet, you're in for it.
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