Monday, March 5
10:15 AM-11:15 AM
William Barton

Virtual Theatre: A Practical Introduction

Roundtable ID: 34989
  1. aaa
    Jim Parker
    University of Calgary

Abstract: The teaching of the arts has been subject to budget cuts in the past few years, in spite of the importance of art, music, and theater. This roundtable is intended to allow the participants to explore Internet theater in a practical way using virtual spaces as a venue. The value lies in the fact that the performances can still be live while the sets and props are created using the computer, contain no material and are nearly free. The audience for such a show can be international; anyone on the Internet could watch it. The intent is to use the skills that the attendees possess, and add an understanding of virtual performance by having them participate. A stage performance in a school environment requires a great deal of extra-curricular work on the part of students and teachers, and that work is done in person as a group. Stage work implies the need for sets, props, and costumes, for lighting and sound systems. Time is limited, often weeks from inception to the first performance. All of these are reasons to conduct performances in a virtual space like Second Life.


This is a practical examination of a set of entertainment arts and technologies. It need not involve programming in the traditional sense, but brings together a variety of skills from multiple disciplines that are focused on creating a particular result – a show. It’s rather like game development in that respect, except that building anything but a trivial game in a few hours would be impossible. This tutorial will allow the attendees to take this back to their classrooms and mount performances that have less cost and a greater potential audience.

Topical Outline

1. [60 Minutes] Basic Elements of Second Life • General structure and operation • Navigation • Object construction • Sound 2. [30 minutes] Script Analysis • Looking through a script for cues • Read through script • new cues: object manipulations, gestures 3. [60 minutes] Set Construction • Design of set prototypes • Props and decorations 4. [60 Minutes] Audio • Setting up the stage sound; mixers, mics • Music, sound effects 5. [60 minutes] Gestures, costumes • Creation and upload of animated gestures (Avimator) • Costumes; design and upload. 6. [90 minutes] Rehearsal and Show Iterate the sets and gestures in rehearsals. It would be interesting to have the show take place over lunch so that others could watch (a real audience!) The stage could be projected on a large screen for all to see, and the group could get real feedback.


The target audience is eclectic: teachers of drama looking for a new perspective; theatre people looking for a new and tech-savvy audience; artists and musicians looking to improve technical skills in a practical way; programmers evolving an appreciation of the arts/tech interface. Digital media has all sorts of people working within it, and many of the technical people want to have skills in the more creative areas, while the musicians, artists, and actors often wish they had more technical skills. I would hope for a variety of basic skills in the audience, because the goal is to mount a real (if hurried) performance. There is room for all skills, and everyone will learn something new. wish they had more technical skills. I would hope for a variety of basic skills in the audience, because the goal is to mount a real (if hurried) performance. There is room for all skills, and everyone will learn something new.

Experience Level



Dr. Jim Parker is a researcher and teacher, and an enthusiastic proponent of computer games in education. Dr. Parker created the first University course in Computer Game Programming in Canada, and has recently been a developer of virtual theatre, putting on four plays in 2009 alone. His Ph.D. is in Informatics from the State University of Gent in Belgium, but now works in the Art department at the University of Calgary. Originally a researcher in both the areas of digital simulation and pattern recognition/computer vision, Dr. Parker now works in areas related to non-traditional interfaces of games, such as gaze, gesture, and audio. Dr. Parker has also taught courses in games for teaching and computer animation, and is the author of four books, and of a score of research papers and talks related to video game technology. He has been lead designer of educational games, and most recently was a speaker at the Canadian E-Learning Conference in Edmonton, Canada, where he spoke about game design and virtual theatre.
No presider for this session.


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