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Could we do Playback Theatre on VR?

We are almost reaching the mark of one year since the pandemic started and the performers had to find shelter into the digital world. One year ago people couldn’t think of a video conference as a viable option to keep growing. Now, it’s a fact. It’s here for the long run looking at how things are developing right now. So, zoom claimed its throne as the ruler of digital improv and playback theatre and people are throwing money at it, even if there are other free viable options. Anyway, there’s one thing zoom can’t do: go beyond the second dimension.

This Christmas I got myself an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset after listening to Chris Mead talking about the possibilities of it. The growth of technology is making easier and accessible for people to get into VR devices without having to rely on heavy knowledge and tethered solutions. Just put your headset on and you’re good to go. Beyond the (short) games and the experiences provided by the developers, it’s the social component the thing that could become the boost for this kind of devices. Especially when we are locked down in our homes. One of the most established social apps is AltspaceVR.

My AltspaceVR self in the Playback Theatre venue I created

AltspaceVR has become a hub for all kind of activities and events just beyond being a digital playground for socializing. You can find safe spaces for different communities like the LGTBQI+ and there are events for exchanging languages, guided meditation, education, moderated social discussions, book clubs and performances. If you can find stand-up and improv events on AltspaceVR, why not playback theatre? So, I started building a world with a venue suitable for playback theatre… kinda. In the following video, I give you a tour through that venue.

In the video, you can see that it is possible creating the space and the immersion level could be better than in zoom playback. However, we are tied to the props we can find around and the only way you can express feelings beyond your voice is by the use of emoticons. Nevertheless, I think it’s worth the try once this media gets closer to the mainstream audience. It’s been hard to educate the people to get used to zoom and changing habits in the masses it’s quite difficult to do. Maybe someday we’ll be ready to practice playback theatre in VR. Whenever that happens I’ll be ready.

One of the perks of AltspaceVR is that you can use it without the need of a VR headset as PC app, although it defiles its purpose. You can find it through this link. And you can find the world featured in the video clicking here.

See you in the virtual reality?