Noah J Nelson on Friday, Aug. 28th
Okay, I don’t like to just replicate Press Releases, because that’s stenography not reporting. Once in a while, however, something comes across the desk and I just don’t have too much to add but I do want to share. So here it is.
A production house in the SF Bay Area known as The Department of Badassery is putting on a new play next month called Don’t Be Evil. In broad strokes: it’s about surveillance culture. That wouldn’t be all that newsworthy by itself, theatre companies put on new plays all the time–it’s true, you should really check some of them out they’re sometimes quite breathtaking.
What’s interesting about this one is that The DBA has teamed up with a Virtual Reality studio called CloserVR and they are going to “film” the piece in VR. Oh, and they’re selling $5 tickets to that taping–on what is essentially their preview night. It just might be the first event of its kind, I know that I haven’t heard of another like it. (Not that I’m omniscient in this universe.)
Full Press Release and all the fiddly details after the jump.
San Francisco, CA, Friday, August 28 – The Department of Badassery and CloserVR are poised to make entertainment and tech history. On September 10, The DBA, a San Francisco-based production house, and CloserVR, an award-winning Virtual Reality production studio, will capture the world premiere of the new play, Don’t Be Evil, for Virtual Reality content before an invited live audience. It is the first time a new play has debuted both live in a theater and in Virtual Reality concurrently. The groundbreaking event will take place Thursday September 10 at 8pm at San Francisco’s hottest performance venue, PianoFight. RSVP at www.DepartmentofBadassery.com/VRto attend. CloserVR’s camera rig will capture the event in 360 degrees, including the audience in attendance, for an immersive 3-Dimensional experience that is as close to being at the theater as it’s possible to get. The final output will be viewable as a virtual reality film using any virtual reality headset, including Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, or on mobile phones with Google Cardboard.
A darkly comic subversive cocktail, the new play Don’t Be Evil, by rising-star playwright Bennett Fisher, tells the story of William Webster, a genius programmer who creates a new search engine that learns to breach national security to supply its answers. He is hauled into a secret interrogation site on domestic soil for questioning by two overworked and underpaid inspectors. Hilarity and moral dilemmas ensue as the tech world and the terror-industrial complex collide. Think “The Office” meets Guantanamo Bay with a side of Dr. Strangelove. After the VR filming on September 10th, the play will have a 4-week run for San Francisco theater audiences from September 11th through October 3rd at PianoFight.
The Department of Badassery’s mission is to deliver new ways of experiencing the world through storytelling using the oldest methods combined with new technologies. Co-founders Robin Fontaine and Gabriel Montoya are working on a slate of projects that combine live performance with Virtual Reality, of which this is the first step.
“Never before has it been possible to provide an experience to a viewer that feels as immediate and immersive as being in the same room as the performers,” says Fontaine, who has a background in theater, VFX and video games.
Future projects include capturing actors in live action as holographic video and integrating them with sets built in a game engine, and allowing audiences to watch or participate in immersive experiences in a shared 3D space in Virtual Reality.
“I think it’s important to see VR as a completely distinct new storytelling medium. It’s still developing a language, and the techniques that have been honed by theater makers for thousands of years will have a role to play,” says Fontaine. “Our production house would like to take part in this conversation, and this project is just the beginning.”
Don’t Be Evil‘s director, Gabriel Montoya, who moonlights as one of the most respected professional boxing pundits in the country, says of working with CloserVR, “Empathy, the loss and gain of it, its very nature, is a theme in the play. But more, it’s what we come to the theater for. We come for an emotional adventure. VR opens theater artists up to the world in a way we’ve never had before. The live experience of a play is hard to capture and share beyond the four walls of a theater space. But with VR, the audience is brought into the room. It will be impossible not to connect to the material on a deeper level.”
Dave Arendash, CTO of CloserVR, agrees, saying, “It’s not just 360 degrees. We also provide a 3D experience. Beyond that we’re operating in not just a 3D space, but an emotional space that really pulls you in.”
With the first historic step towards the marriage of Virtual Reality and live performance, Fontaine sees the future for one of our oldest and most treasured mediums. “Virtual reality may eventually solve the scale problem that theater has always had,” says Fontaine. “A theater has a limited number of seats, and a play is performed in one city at a time. But with virtual reality, an unlimited number of people from across the globe could experience an immersive story together. We could connect artists and audiences across the globe and lose nothing of the immediacy of the live experience that makes theater such a unique and vital art form.”
The 360 video Virtual Reality capture session will be Thursday, September 10th at 8pm. To be a permanent part of history and the captured studio audience, please join us by RSVP’ing here. The play Don’t Be Evil runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, September 11 through October 3, at PianoFight, 144 Taylor St in San Francisco. Get tickets at www.thedepartmentofbadassery.com. Follow @DeptofBadassery on twitter for updates, live tweets from the rehearsal process and tasty morsels from The DBA Research Department. The final Don’t Be Evil VR experience will be available at www.departmentofbadassery.com/vr.
Trailer for the play: