Theatre in Second Life® Holds the VR Mirror up to Nature

Theatre in Second Life® Holds the VR Mirror up to Nature

Stephen A. Schrum (University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-352-4.ch021


As creative people inhabit virtual worlds, they bring their ideas for art and performance with them into these brave new worlds. While at first glance, virtual performance may have the outward trappings of theatre, some believe they don’t adhere to the basic traditional definition of theatre: the interaction between an actor and an audience. Detractors suggest that physical presence is required for such an interaction to take place. However, studies have shown that computer mediated communication (CMC) can be as real as face-to-face communication, where emotional response is concerned. Armed with this information, the author can examine how performance in a virtual world such as Second Life may indeed be like “real” theatre, what the possibilities for future virtual performance are, and may require that we redefine theatre for online performance venues.
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It’s like a Hall of Mirrors, where you keep bumping into reflection after reflection of things that aren’t there in the first place!

—Melissa Perreault, a resident of Second Life.

Are we avatars or people performing this particular dance?

—Meghamora Woodward, a resident of Second Life.


Theatricality In Second Life

In an article entitled “Begin with A Single Step: Adding Technology to a Course” (2000), I compared the use of email and electronic or computer-mediated communication to wearing a mask in an acting class:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Emote: Presenting text as an action rather than as dialogue.

HUD: Heads-up display; an attachment to the screen that allows you to click buttons and manipulate objects, while leaving the rest of the screen visible.

Virtual World: A computer-based simulated environment in which users interact as avatars.

MMORPG: A Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, in which players interact with other players and non-player characters within a virtual world.

Theatre: A form of live performance that relies on the interaction between an actor and a spectator, and that involves a story and dramatic conflict.

Computer Mediated Communication: Any communication that occurs through the medium of networked computers, including email, online chatting, instant messaging, etc.

Avatar: Originally, the incarnation of a Hindu god. In computing, a representation of a human figure in a computer game, simulation or virtual world.

Cyberformance: A performance with remote users meeting online in real time using internet chat applications.

Presence: The concept of being in the same space as another. Telepresence allows for presence through various technological tools, such as video conferencing, or meeting in virtual worlds.

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