A virtuoso performance and a Dickens of a tale

Dickens-2013Sunday December 1st, 2013, Saw two special premieres take place in Second Life and in the same time-frame. The first was for the opening season two of The Blackened Mirror. The second was a very special presentation of A Christmas Carol, forming the return of The Dickens Project to Second Life – and its first presentation in real life.

The presentation took place at the Greek Archon Theatre in Cookie, where Caledonia Skytower, Shandon Loring and Kayden Oconnell took to the stage before an audience of invited guests to present Dickens’ most popular Christmas tale. At the same time, Caledonia’s real-life persona, Judith Cullen, was seated in the Pythian Lodge in Tacoma, Washington, before an audience who had also gathered to hear the story, and who could  watch in-world activities via a large screen. As is the magic of Second Life, Kayden joined her via voice from Minnesota and Shandon from Nebraska.

As with the original run of The Dickens Project, performed over Christmas 2012, the reading took place in a specially created set representing a scene from Dickens’ time and which, when the project re-opens its doors to the public later in the month, will provide a special walk-through of Charles Dickens’ life, works and the times in which he lived. The outdoor stage, sans props, provided a simple and effective focal-point for the reading, with Caledonia and Kayden sharing the role of the story’s narrator and taking on the various supporting roles, while Shandon once again reprised the role of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Shandon Loring reprises his role as Ebenezer Scrooge
Shandon Loring reprises his role as Ebenezer Scrooge

Prior to the reading commencing, the audiences in both worlds were told something of the history of the Knights of Pythia and the lodge in which the real world audience were seated. To help them understand Second Life better, Judith / Caledonia gave a very short overview of the platform, and members of the digital audience were encouraged to interact – if only one-way – with the real-life audience through greetings, etc. Nor was the performance entirely static for the audience in Tacoma; to give them a greater feeling of involvement, the in-world feed was monitored by another SL user, who used the viewer’s camera to show actors, audience and setting.

The performance, using a text adapted and annotated by Dickens himself when he presented the story in person, together with some additional text from the full novella, was presented with aplomb and style by the three artists. From my own perspective, I found it to be as much an engaging and virtuoso performance as the time I saw Sir Patrick Stewart perform A Christmas Carol as a one-man show; so much so that, other than the need to flick away for some 20 minutes to take care of other commitments, the time simply flew by for me.

The Knights of Pythia Temple, Tacoma, where the performance took place in RL
The Knights of Pythia Temple, Tacoma, where the performance took place in RL

For Judith / Caledonia, who conceived, directed and produced The Dickens Project, I know that this is very much a personal triumph; she has been working towards The Dickens Project being both a real life and virtual experience for the better part of a year. If the audio feedback was anything to go by for those of us in the virtual world, the performance was very well received in Tacoma and generated a number of questions about the story, the idea and Second Life from the audience there.

While the presentation was, in terms of a combined SL / RL event, a one-off (at least for now!), The Dickens Project will be returning to Second Life for a seasonal run commencing on Friday December 13th. I’ve no details on the schedule at the moment, but will publish them here once confirmed.

Caledonia Skytower, Shandon Loring (centre) and Kayden Oconnell is an evocative shot of the perfromance by Bear Silvershade
Caledonia Skytower, Shandon Loring (centre) and Kayden Oconnell in an evocative shot of the performance by Bear Silvershade

If you’ve not seen a performance of The Dickens Project, I urge you to take the time to do so once the new season opens. Anyone with a love for literature and especially for Dickens’ famous tale of a miserly old man, ghosts, and ethical and emotional transformations, will love this performance. Kudos to Caledonia, Shandon and Kayden and to all those who helped make The Dickens Project a reality once more – and in both the real and digital realms!

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Both the real world and SL presentations of A Christmas Carol were free admission. However, audiences at both were offered the opportunity to donate to one of two charities: War Child North America in the case of the SL audience and My Sister’s Pantry for those in the real world audience.

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