The bard awaits the pleasure of your company

ShakespeareAs one of the oldest theatre companies within Second Life, the Avatar Repertory Theatre (ART) operates from their theatre in Cookie, and has been at the forefront of bringing  diverse, live theatre to a widening audience through virtual performances since 2008.

Productions have included first-time realisations of works by living playwrights, through to major immersive productions such as their own adaptations of the classic Greek Drama Oedipus Rex and the works of Lewis Carroll via Alice in WonderSLand and Through the Looking Glass. In addition, the company’s theatre has played host to many and varied events and performances, including Seanchai Library’s The War of the Worlds, which I reviewed during its initial run in 2011).

However, while operating a theatre company in a virtual world is a lot more cost-effective than doing so in the physical world, it is by no means free. So, in October and early November, the company held a very special auction, the proceeds of which will go towards meeting their on-going running costs. The Shakespeare By Request Auction offered Second Life residents the opportunity to bid for a member of the Avatar Repertory Theatre company to perform a selection from the works of William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare By Request saw members of the ART company offer their talents for auction to help met the company's running costs. On Friday, November 21st, 2014, you can join the audience as ART presents the results of that auction in the special Shakespeare By Request evening.
Shakespeare By Request saw members of the ART company offer their talents for auction to help met the company’s running costs. On Friday, November 21st, 2014, you can join the audience as ART presents the results of that auction in the special Shakespeare By Request evening.

Now all of those who took part in the auction and residents of Second Life as a whole, are cordially invited to attend the results of this auction in the Shakespeare By Request evening.

Commencing at 17:00 SLT on Friday, November 21st, at the ART theatre in Cookie, members of the ART company will present the winning bidder’s requests. On offer will be pieces from Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, Hamlet – and more!

So why not join the audience and enjoy a unique series of Shakespearian performances – and if you’re so minded, offer a donation to additionally help ART meet their running costs.

Join the company at their audience at the ART company's theatre in Cookie
Join the company at their audience at the ART company’s theatre in Cookie

About ART

ART is a programme run by New Media Arts, Inc, a registered 501 (c) (3) tax exempt non-profit organization in the United States, which has recently released its first Go Fund Me Video in support of their mission to develop graphical, theatrical, literary, educational, library and other fine and practical arts on the internet, in 3D graphical user interfaces, multimedia, new generation computing devices, and other electronic and digital communication media.

further information on ART can be found at the Avatar Repertory Theatre company’s website and via  Facebook and Google+.

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ART for you: bid for an actor to give you a command performance

ART-logoFrom now through until Friday, November 7th, the Avatar Repertory Theatre is holding a very special auction, the proceeds of which will go towards meeting the company’s running costs.

As one of the oldest theatre companies within Second Life, the Avatar Repertory Theatre (ART) operates from their theatre in Cookie, and has been at the forefront of bringing  diverse, live theatre to a widening audience through virtual performances.

Productions have included first-time realisations of works by living playwrights, through to major immersive productions such as their own adaptations of the classic Greek Drama Oedipus Rex and the works of Lewis Carroll via Alice in WonderSLand and Through the Looking Glass. In addition, the company’s theatre has played host to many and varied events and performances, including Seanchai Library’s The War of the Worlds, which I reviewed during its initial run in 2011).

However, while operating a theatre company in a virtual world is a lot more cost-effective than doing so in the physical world, it is by no means free. Tier and other costs need to be continuously met. The Shakespeare By Request Auction offers Second Life residents the opportunity to bid for a member of the Avatar Repertory Theatre company to perform a selection from the works of William Shakespeare, with all money raised through the winning bids going directly into meeting ART’s ongoing costs. Bidders can be specific or as general as they like in their choice of the piece to be performed, by:

  • Simply indicating the play they want, and let the actor find something from it, or
  • Choosing a specific scene from a specific play, or
  • Requesting a favourite monologue that they’ve always wanted to hear their chosen actor perform.
The Avatar Repertory Theatre Company's reproduction of the Globe Theatre in Second Life
The Avatar Repertory Theatre Company’s reproduction of the Globe Theatre in Second Life

Winning bidders will have a week to finalise their choice following the ending of the bidding period on Friday, November 7th, 2014, and will be invited to attend the performances at the Company’s popular Plays Around event scheduled for Friday, November 21st at 17:00 SLT, at the company’s theatre.

To place a bid, visit the patio area outside of the theatre building, where you’ll find bidding panels for the actors participating in Shakespeare By Request. Simply touch the board for the actor of your choice and make your bid. If you’d like to sample the company’s work before you place a bid, you can do so by attending one of the company’s Plays Around performances scheduled for Friday, October 21st and Friday, November 7th, both at 17:00 SLT.

place your bids for Shakespeare By Request
place your bids for Shakespeare By Request

ART is a programme run by New Media Arts, Inc, a registered 501 (c) (3) tax exempt non-profit organization in the United States, which has recently released its first Go Fund Me Video in support of their mission to develop graphical, theatrical, literary, educational, library and other fine and practical arts on the internet, in 3D graphical user interfaces, multimedia, new generation computing devices, and other electronic and digital communication media.

further information on ART can be found at the Avatar Repertory Theatre company’s website and via  Facebook and Google+.

Join the performers who come in with the cold …

Cold Scenes V2On Friday August 1st, 2014, commencing at 17:00 SLT, you are invited to join the audience at the Avatar Repertory Theatre (ART) for a special  evening of entertainment, when the ART cast will be handling some cold scenes.

No, I don’t mean they’ll be enacting scenes from Anna Karenina or will be wandering around the stage in balacavas and great coats. Doing a scene or audition “cold” means doing it without a prior rehearsal or reading.

The outcome of performing this way can sometimes be unpredictable (and can land actors in a little bit of hot water when it comes to keeping up with things and the occasional need to ad-lib should things go a trifle awry!); however, it also exercises the eye, mind and body when it comes to stagecraft. So it takes a hot group of actors to cast their fortune to the wind; and these we have in the form of Rowan Shamroy, Corwyn Allen, Ada Radius, Kayden Oconnell and Caledonia Skytower.

So why not join them at the ART at 17:00 on Friday August 1st for what is surely going to be an excellent evening for all!

The Avatar Repertory Theatre
The Avatar Repertory Theatre

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From Horsell Common to Grover’s Mill: a Second Life for a famous broadcast

I think everyone expected to see a man emerge–possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks–like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me–and then another.

“The Cylinder Opens”, Chapter 4 of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds

October 30th 1938, and across the airwaves originating from New York City, comes the familiar announcement  to thousands of radios within receiving range: Mercury Theatre on the Air is once more live and broadcasting. But this was to be no ordinary presentation by the company co-founded and led by the rising young genius, Orson Welles.

Orson Welles
Orson Welles

War of the Worlds has gone down in history as one of the most famous radio broadcasts ever made. Transplanting the story of a Martian invasion from 19th century rural England to the east coast of America in the 1930s, the Mercury Theatre on the Air gave a dramatisation that was – by some at least – taken all too literally as it reached out across the airwaves (although it appears much of the upset linked to the show actually occurred in the days after the broadcast, rather than at the time).

The confusion that did occur during the broadcast was most likely the result of Welles’ own clever structuring of the show, which was presented as a series of eye-witness accounts being reported-on “live” from a number of locations in upstate New York and in the city itself, and which saw the first “breaking news” announcement timed to coincide to the period when many listeners would re-tune their radios to CBS after listening to a popular show on a rival station.

On Friday November 1st, and with special permission of the estate of Howard Koch, one of the two co-writers of the original script, the Avatar Repertory Theatre (ART) staged a performance of Welles’ War of Worlds to mark the 75th anniversary of the original broadcast.

The production, which had first been performed in Second Life in 2011 by Seanchai Library and friends, brought several of that production’s cast back to the stage, together with new faces and voices from the ARTs team, all of whom once again filled the original stage set.

War of the Worlds, Avatar Repertory Theatre
War of the Worlds, Avatar Repertory Theatre

The set for the production was simplicity itself; eight members of the cast standing in the windows of what appears to be a broken and shattered building, perhaps a shop-front in one of the towns the Martians passed through en route to New York or which might even be the ruined remnants of one of that city’s towering skyscrapers. The wall behind the actors changed as the production progressed, displaying various backgrounds which helped enhance the story and offer visua cues as the settings for the unfolding tale changed.

Kayden Oconnell as Professor Richard Pierson
Kayden Oconnell as Professor Richard Pierson

Reprising the role of Professor Pierson, Kayden Oconnell stood a little forward of the main set, framed by an empty doorway.

Given Pierson, the pivotal character in the piece, had been played by Welles himself back in 1938 and already regarded as an actor, director and producer of some considerable renown, any adaption of the radio play needs a lead who can fill Welles’ shoes with confidence. Kayden Oconnell is just such an actor. In reprising the role, he brought with him the same gravitas, tone and authority he presented to audiences in 2011.

Alongside of him, the rest of the cast, often performing more than one role, also presented the material with authority and skill, so much so that if you closed your eyes, it was easy to imagine yourself back in a war-jittery America, listening to the most chilling “news” being broadcast on a dark, early winter’s night.

But the production wasn’t all words; great care had been taken to add both aural and visual effects, as with the original broadcast. Thundergas Menges provided the sound effects and music, the latter of which did much to recreated the feel of the original broadcast through the inclusion of pieces Welles had used to  represent the various bands playing during the “regular broadcasts” from CBS which his “news bulletins” would periodically interrupt at the start of the piece.

The visuals with the piece were once again a treat, and added another famous ingredient to the mix. As the Martians started on their attempted conquest of the Earth, a huge fighting machine taken from Jeff Wayne’s more recent but equally famous adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel, reared up over the audience, heat-ray menacing and ready to fire.

"They were inside the hoods of machines they'd made. Massive metal things on legs ... giant machines that walked..."
“They were inside the hoods of machines they’d made. Massive metal things on legs … giant machines that walked…”

I thoroughly enjoyed War of the Worlds when first presented in-world in this format back in 2011, and found myself equally enthralled this time around. In both cases, the cast presented a piece that offered us a window into the past and those chilly October nights when the fear of war was once again on the minds of many people, while at the same time presenting us with an aural and visual treat we could enjoy simply as a re-telling of one of science-fiction’s all-time great stories.

My only regret is really that this was only a single performance; it’s a piece I’d happily sit through again, and would, were it possible, encourage everyone to go see and enjoy.

Bravo to all involved!

The heat-ray strikes!
The heat-ray strikes!

War of the Worlds was staged at the Avatar Repertory Theatre’s New Theatre. It was directed by Caledonia Skytower and featured the voice talents of Corwyn Allen, MadameThespian Underhill, Ada Radius, Avajean Westland, Sodovan Torak, Em Jannings, Thundergass Menges, and Caledonia Skytower, with Kayden Oconnell as Professor Richard Pierson.

War of the Worlds returns to Second Life

Two years ago, Seanchai library and friends set themselves a towering goal: to re-create one of the most famous radio events in history. One which, legend has it, caused panic across the United States as that great nation, like the world at large, suffered its share of pre-war jitters.

Orson Welles’ adaptation of H.G Wells’ allegorical classic, War of the Worlds sits in the annals of history as one of the most remarkable adaptations ever undertaken of a work of fiction – even though it would appear that some of the panic it was said to have caused at the time was perhaps not quite so widespread as later claimed. As such a famous piece, it has down the years frequently been recreated in various forms; not that this popularity has made it any easier a broadcast to recreate in any medium.

WotW 2013Staged in time for Halloween 2011, the Seanchai Library’s adaptation, however, was nothing short of marvellous. So much so that additional performances had to be scheduled.

Now, on Friday November 1st, 2013 at 17:00 SLT, the Avatar Repertory Theatre will be staging a single performance of War of the Worlds at their New Theatre at Cookie. The performance  will see several of the cast from Seanchai Library’s 2011 production return to the microphone, together with a host of new (to the play) voices from ART.

As with the Seanchai Library production, the ART performance will be taking place with the blessings of the estate of Howard Koch who, with writing partner Anne Froelich, wrote the original 1938 script.

Caledonia Skytower, who directed things in 2011, will be producing this very special performance to mark the 75th anniversary of Welles’ original Mercury Theatre production, which went out over the airwaves on October 30th 1938. In it, Welles transferred the events of the novel in both setting  and time from England in the late 19th century to New Jersey and New York in 1939.

Welles during his October 30th 1938 broadcast
Welles during his October 30th 1938 broadcast

Producing the show as well as performing in it, Welles is said to have deliberately structured his adaptation so that the first “news broadcast” from Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, would occur some 12 minutes into the show, knowing full well that it was around that time that those listening to NBC Radio’s The Chase and Sandborn Hour would frequently re-tune their radios to listen to his Mercury Theatre on CBS. Thus, they would immediately be caught-up in the drama as if it were real-life events unfolding before them through their radios – a move which perhaps worked a little too well, as subsequent real life events would demonstrate.

The ART production will feature the voice talents of Kayden Oconnell, Corwyn Allen, MadameThespian Underhill, Ada Radius, Avajean Westland, Sodovan Torak, Em Jannings, Thundergass Menges, and will also include dynamic effects. Because of the latter, and in order for lag in general to be reduced as far as possible, members of the audience are asked to refrain from wearing heavily scripted attachments, to remove HUDS and meters, prior to arrival, etc.

The performance is free to attend, although donations are welcome.  I’ll likely see you there!

Join the cast of ART on Friday November 1st at 17:00 SLT to mark the 75th anniversary of Orson Wells' War of the Worlds broadcast
Join the cast of ART on Friday November 1st at 17:00 SLT to mark the 75th anniversary of Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds broadcast

H.G. Wells and Orson Welles met only once in real life, and that was after the infamous 1938 broadcast. However, in 2008, a group of students from the Vancouver Film School presented a short film which brought the two men together in a fictional 1938 radio interview, the events of which just might have given Orson Welles a certain seed of inspiration. I’ll leave you with it in order to further whet your appetite.

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