The Great Gatsby: virtually redefining educational outreach

Explore TGGThose of us involved with and immersed in virtual worlds are very familiar with the power and opportunities they offer for educational purposes.

In January and February 2015, this will again be demonstrated in a unique way as literature, live theatre and a virtual world combine to present theatre goers and school children with the opportunity to not only witness the unfolding of one of the great stories from American literature – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – but to actually immerse themselves in the story itself due to a new an unique collaborative partnership between the Tacoma Little Theatre (TLT), in Tacoma, Washington state, and the folk at Seanchai Library.

From on January 23rd, 2015 through until  February 8th, TLT will be presenting Simon Levy’s stage adaptation of The Great Gatsby, directed by Dale Westgaard, to adult audiences and daytime audiences from local schools.

Coinciding with the play, through their extensive facilities on Kitely, the Seanchai Library will be offering audiences and schools attending performances with the opportunity to explore the world presented by the novel from the comfort of their own home or from within the classroom.

Explore Gatsby will run alongside TLT's production of 's stage adaptation of the novel, giving patrons the opportunity to explore F. Scott Fitzgerald's world in greater detail
Explore Gatsby will run alongside TLT’s production of Simon Levy’s stage adaptation of the novel, giving TLT patrons and schools  with the opportunity to explore F. Scott Fitzgerald’s world in greater detail

Explore the Great Gatsby Online, the début production in Seanchai Library’s EXPLORE the Stories Behind the Art series, will open its doors on January 14th, 2015. It will offer visitors the opportunity to visit key locations from the novel and play, and in doing so learn more about the era in which the story is set, explore Fitzgerald’s life and writings and discover more about the theatre in which the play is being performed.

On offer within Seanchai Library’s virtual environments will be a reproduction of the fictional West Egg, where the story’s narrator, Nick Carraway rents a small holiday guest house, only to find himself living next door to the enigmatic Jay Gatsby, giver of lavish summer parties. Both Carraway’s little holiday house and Gatsby’s mansion will be open to explore.

Also presented with the Explore Gatsby facilities will be a portion of East Egg, where Daisy Buschanan, the subject of Gatsby’s desires, lives in opulence with her husband Tom. Here, behind the Buchanan mansion’s façade, will reside a reproduction of the Tacoma Little Theatre itself, offering the opportunity for people to discover more about the theatre itself, which is among the oldest community theatres in the United States, and the oldest on the U.S. west coast, with a rich heritage going back to 1918.

And, of course, there will be the opportunity to visit the so-called “Valley of Ashes”, the industrial dumping ground so pivotal to the unfolding story, which lies between the fictional East and West Egg and the beating heart of New York City.

These various locations will serve as venues for a range of live events which both support TLT’s  production of The Great Gatsby and which also encourage visitors to further immerse themselves in literature, the stage and more; there will be readings and performances from the novel, interactive elements, within the various settings will provide information on a broad range of subjects, including information on the 1920s and the social issues people living then faced, the characters from the novel, etc.

Explore Gatsby will essentially be an educational study guide brought to three dimensional life. Through a special portal currently being developed by Seanchai Library, visitors will be able to learn how to download and use a viewer and operate an avatar, and then connect to Explore Gatsby in Kitely.

Tacoma Little Theatre will feature in Explore Gatsby, allowing people to discovery more about this historic community theatre
Tacoma Little Theatre will feature in Explore Gatsby, allowing people to discover more about this historic community theatre

Of special note with the project is the fact TLT present daytime performances of the plays they stage for local schools to attend. Thus, through their Explore Gatsby partnership with Seanchai Library TLT is presented with a dramatic – no pun intended – new way to engage with teachers, educators and school children in an immersive manner which links the performance of the play directly with classroom learning opportunities. The same also goes for TLT’s patrons, who can take a performance of The Great Gatsby home with them and them delve into Gatsby’s world through the Seanchai Library’s virtual recreations and events.

As noted above, Explore Gatsby will be opening its doors on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015, with in-world events and activities commencing on Friday, January 16th. Everyone involved in virtual worlds is extended a warm invitation to pop along and join in with planned activities as they take place – a programme calendar will be available nearer the time, and I’ll also be presenting it through these pages.

I’ve been privileged to be associated with Seanchai Library for a while now, and as a part of this association, I will be covering Explore Gatsby and the EXPLORE the Stories Behind the Art series as it develops. I’ll be kicking-off things in due course with a behind-the-scenes look at preparations for the début production.

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