Telepresence may be defined as “live video that allows for human-sized interactions, while offering clear sound and visual fidelity to individuals in remote rooms” (Miller et al. 2015) and this project explores its potential for teaching and learning in the field of performing arts. In particular, the project facilitates international virtual mobility collaborations between theatre students at the University of Tampere (Finland) and Coventry University (UK), with a particular focus on acting in a foreign language.
While providing students with opportunities to engage in intercultural collaborations and to develop valuable global attributes, the project promotes a more environmentally sustainable model, diminishing the need to move large groups of student actors across the globe for rehearsals, workshops and even performances.
Taking the text of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus as a basis for study, in 2015-16 students of the two universities worked on a small section of the script (3:3) in both Finnish and English. A ‘virtual space’ was created in both locations through the re-purposing of videoconferencing technology and the use of large rear projection screens, high speed internet connections and unidirectional, hypercardioid microphones. Moreover, a unified spatial design and a careful use of lighting gave the actors the illusion that they were occupying the same physical space.
A second iteration of the project took place in February 2017, utilising the same group of students and culminated in a field trip to Tampere where both groups performed together live and demonstrated the use of the technology to an invited audience of theatre practitioners and technologists. The work continued to examine Shakespeare’s texts as the students already have some experience in dealing with Shakespearean language and the complexities of blank verse. The text chosen for this second stage was King Lear and we explored both a large ‘public’ scene as well as more intimate sections from the text in order to examine how this pedagogy enables rehearsal work in these differing circumstances.
The project also aims to explore technical systems and configurations that are both affordable and user friendly so that it can be accessible to a wide variety of user groups. In order to explore alternative technologies and suitable pedagogical approaches, a workshop will be hosted in December 2016 at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab of Coventry University with the aim of gathering academics and practitioners with experience in the use of telepresence in education or industry.
- Jan-Feb 2016: Coriolanus Online interactions
- December 2016: Telepresence in the Arts Workshop
- February 2017: King Lear Online interactions