In December 2014, I wrote about a new venture in educational outreach and public engagement through the use of virtual worlds when I took an early peek at Seanchai Library’s upcoming Explore: The Great Gatsby, the first instalment in their new Explore the Stories Behind the Art series.
Coinciding with a production of Simon Levy’s stage adaptation of The Great Gatsby, which will be in performance from January 23rd through February 8th at the Tacoma Little Theatre (TLT), Tacoma Washington State, Explore the Great Gatsby is a collaborative project undertaken by TLT and Seanchai Library, and forms a part of the latter’s extensive facilities in the virtual world of Kitely.
Officially opened on Thursday, January 15th at 12:00 midday, Explore: The Great Gatsby allows visitors the opportunity to visit key locations from the novel and play, and by 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. It is open to users of virtual worlds and, as a part of the collaborative nature of the project will be presented to audiences attending performances at TLT as a place they can visit.
“We have information available in our programme and via our website,” TLT’s Managing Artistic Director Chris Serface said in reply to my question about how audience will be made aware of the project. “I will also mention it in my curtain speeches that I give each night, and in addition local media outlets have been alerted about the project and we will hopefully get some coverage in that respect.”
Chris and Explore: The Great Gatsby’s creative director and powerhouse behind the partnership, Caledonia Skytower, had kindly offered to allow me a preview tour of the in-world facilities ahead of the opening, and while construction was very much still under way. “We’re also producing a short video on Explore,” Cale added, “TLT will be able to show that looped on their lobby screen.”
To assist those unfamiliar with using virtual worlds, the TLT website links to a special Explore website created by Seanchai Library, which provides basic guidance to visitor on downloading and installing a viewer, and a guide to using an avatar.
As well as providing the opportunity to explore the locations of the novel and learn more about Fitzgerald and his writings on their own, Explore:The Great Gatsby will feature a range of events both before and during the play’s run at Tacoma Little Theatre.
The first of these will launch on Friday, January 16th at 19:00 SLT / PST with the opening reading from the novel, which will take place in a small park specifically created for such readings. Part two will then follow at noon SLT / PST on Saturday January 17th, with the developing schedule of events available at the Explore website.
To encourage repeat visits to the installation, elements will be rolled-out over the course of the the next few weeks, such as the arrival of Jay Gatsby’s mansion. This is likely to initially appear in full party regalia representative of Nick Carraway’s first major encounter with Gatsby; later the mansion will be redressed, again to encourage further re-visits.
As a part of its service to the community in Tacoma, TLT present daytime performances of the plays they stage for local schools to attend. Thus, through the Explore: The Great 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. In preparation for this, Chris Serface has been meeting with local teachers and explaining the environment to them – and has been getting very positive feedback.
Explore: The Great Gatsby is the ideal début for Seanchai Library’s Explore series, being something of a labour of love for Caledonia Skytower, who has been closely involved with the Tacoma Little Theatre both professionally and artistically for a number of years.
Residents of virtual worlds can visit Explore: The Great Gatsby at any time simply by logging-in to the Seanchai Library homeworld on Kitely, or teleporting / hypergriding to it. Anyone with a love of The Great Gatsby and / or Fitzgerald’s work, or indeed, interested in learning about one of 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, is warmly encouraged to pay Explore the Great Gatsby at least one visit.
- Seanchai Library
- Tacoma Little Theatre
- Seanchai Library Kitely Homeworld
- Explore: The Great Gatsby at Explore the Arts