2019 Abstracts: Wednesday

Abstracts are organized by approximate session time. We are still in the process of uploading abstracts; all are subject to change. Abstracts are also available for Tuesday and Thursday.

Virtual Theatres: 3D Modelling and Virtual Reality (Session 5)

Shakespeare-VR: Virtual Reality Education | Stephen Wittek

The Shakespeare-VR project uses virtual reality technologies to bring students face-to-face with professional actors performing Shakespearean soliloquies in a replica of Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Playhouse. Directed by Shakespeare scholar and Digital Humanities specialist, Prof. Stephen Wittek, the project combines the talents of partners from the virtual reality production company Stitchbridge, the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, the CMU Center for Digital Sciences, Humanities, Arts, Research, and Publishing (DSHARP), and the American Shakespeare Center with the goal of guiding students toward a better understanding of Shakespearean drama. In addition to providing an exciting, immersive introduction to the spaces Shakespeare had in mind when he composed his plays, the project makes an important contribution to the growing body of research on virtual reality in humanities education. This presentation will touch on a number of issues connected to the project, including VR development, pedagogical application, online dissemination & curation, and classroom testing.

Giulio Camillo’s Theatre of Knowledge: A Case Study for 3D Modelling in the Humanities | Oscar Seip

In the past decades, the creation of digital models has become an essential tool for visualisation and analysis in scientific documentation and analysis. Today, with the dissemination and development of 3D, it is increasingly being used by scholars in the Humanities and Arts. In particular, technologies for 3D modelling the physical world have been used to document historic sites, artefacts, and study their materiality. In some cases, these digitisations are used as a basis for reconstruction. However, the potential for 3D modelling to reconstruct historical sites or artefacts that have no material basis in reality (or no longer) is less explored. Also, the adjoining methodology for this application of the technologies is less defined. In this paper I will discuss the challenges and opportunities for this particular use of 3D modelling in the Humanities and formulate a set of best practices concerning the methodology. These findings are based on the outcomes of a pilot project to create a 3D prototype of Giulio Camillo’s Theatre of Knowledge. Traditionally studied as a mnemonic technique or mental architecture, new evidence has proved unequivocally that the theatre was an actual physical structure. Although no trace of this theatre remains and there are only fragmented and conflicting descriptions from vastly different manuscript and printed sources, I will demonstrate that 3D modelling can help to explore, compare, comprehend, and analyse this information. This helps to better understand the function and design of Camillo’s theatre and furthers our understanding of other contemporary theatres such as the Globe.

A reconstruction of the 17th-century “Olivera” playhouse in Valencia for Virtual Reality experience | Jesús Tronch, Gemma Burgos-Segarra

This paper will present the results of a project that has digitally reconstructed a lost playhouse in Valencia (Spain), “Casa de les farses de la Olivera”, in operation between 1618 and 1750. This digital project, directed by Joan Oleza at the University of Valencia, has involved an architectural reconstruction of the playhouse from extant early documents, the development of a graphical 3D model of this architectural design (using Rhinoceros 5), the development of an acoustic model based on the acoustical properties of the materials in the original builders’ documentation as texturized from existing buildings in Valencia in the same period, the development of a simulation using ODEON software, the auralization of some excerpts from Lope de Vega’s El castigo sin venganza (Punishment without revenge) performed by professional actors, the integration of the graphical and acoustical models (using Unity 5, FMOD and Csound), and the rendering of the latter in an interactive simulator that allows users head movement independently of the body. This exercise in virtual archeology for an immersive 3D experience allows users not only a visual, auditory and spatial perception of the lost playhouse as they are able to look and move around the simulated playhouse and hear the auralized Lope de Vega excerpts. As an application of Virtual Reality technology to the reconstruction of a lost playhouse, with contributions by theater historians, actors, architects, and computer engineers, this project is of interest in the fields of cultural heritage, education and entertainment.

The Triumph of Isabella – Virtual Reunification, Immersive Experience, and Augmented Reality in the Exploration of Performance through Art | Franklin J. Hildy (Collaborators, not presenting: Paul Deziel, Christen Mandracchia, Q-mars Haeri)

The digitally enhanced display of fine art has become so popular that an entire museum in Paris is being dedicated to it. The School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, has been exploring the ways in which our artist/scholars of live performance can bring a new dynamic to this emerging digitally-based field. Through our International Program for Creative Collaboration and Research, we have created a joint venture with the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, and the Museo Nacionel del Prado to bring audiences inside the world of the “Parade of the Craft Guilds”, called the Ommegang, which occurred in Brussels on 31 May 1615. The parade was dedicated to the Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566-1633), co-sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands and memorialized by the studio of court painter Denys Van Alsloot (c. 1568 – c. 1626) in eight paintings, each measuring 3.66 by 1.22 meters.  These paintings present a uniquely detailed representation of performance culture in Early Modern Europe with their display of secular power, ecclesiastical authority, military prowess, folklore and street theater along with issues of race and gender. This was all staged against a political backdrop of two popular co-rulers who created a golden age for northern European art in the midst of the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries.  The original immersive experience portion of this year-long multifaceted project was projected in 360° across multiple screens with surround sound. Our presentation today will feature, on a single screen, the digital animation and soundscape from this experience. 

Plenary: Digitising the Stage at the V&A since 2009 (Session 6)

Ramona Riedzewski

The V&A’s Department of Theatre and Performance holds the UK’s National Collection of the Performing Arts, which is one of the largest of its type in the world, comprising of up to 1 million playbills and programmes, ca. 2. 5 million photographs, 15000 posters, 500+ archive collections, 3000 costumes, 700 puppets, 500 set models, playtexts, prompt books, annotated scripts, architectural drawings, designs and much more. The collection will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2024. Before our significant milestone, however, the entire collection will move from its current West London location near Kensington Olympia to a new V&A Collections Research Centre in the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, which due to open in Summer 2023. The collections move is one of the largest projects in the Museum’s 150 year history and digitisation of materials sits at the very heart of it.

Over the past 10 years, the department delivered digitisation projects of all sizes, and processes have steadily evolved to deal with various collection materials. Ramona will reflect on some of these, lessons learnt and how this now feeds into preparing the collection for the move and the resulting extended access restriction period between 2021 and 2023.

As the collection prepares for its founding centenary in 2024, the team is actively planning this major milestone and how to truly celebrate the pioneering spirit of its founder, Mrs. Gabrielle Enthoven as well as prepare for the next 100 years ahead. Digitisation and of course, preservation and access to born digital collection items are very much part of it. However, in this digital age and increasing general public digital literacy, one of the truly challenging aspects are the limitations in actually documenting performing arts and the live stage. Indeed, in all the digitisation projects, one of the biggest challenges tends to be the creation and availability of an adequate record to attach digital assets to. One could possibly argue, that the current international collection management and documentation standards are not fit for purpose in facilitating easy and democratic access to core information and relevant collection materials, especially where it captured across different systems and data silos. Ramona will focus on her experience in the V&A specifically, which uses three different collection documentation standards to manage its collections:

  • Objects, 3D items: Museum (SPECTRUM), 
  • Collections by provenance: Archives (ISAD(G)) 
  • Printed materials, journals and reference items: Library (AACR2)

Reviewing a number of approaches already in place and applied nationally and internationally, Ramona will conclude, that solutions are at everyone’s fingertips and with some creative thinking (and some investment), our catalogues and documentation will become highly relevant not just as a tool identifying collection items, but the use of the data to our users.

Digital Tools in the Classroom (Session 7)

Reevaluating Performance History Resources for Students (and with Publishers)| Christie Carson

The world of digital resources for the study of Shakespeare seems to have arrived at a log jam of sorts. On the one hand, there are more resources available than ever before, on the other, the time available to teachers for preparation has never been in shorter supply. The desire to bring Shakespeare to the people, particularly the young people, through education is not new. Teaching a new course this year for English and Film Studies students at Royal Holloway I have been struck by the fact that there is a certain circularity to the history of reimagining Shakespeare for the screen which highlights the physical features of Shakespeare’s Globe and the cognitive features of a critical approach that focuses on the play text as studied in English Departments in the UK. These two forms of authority have been synonymous with the authority of Shakespeare specifically and the study of the Humanities more generally for over a century. The return to the ‘original’, the ‘authentic’ Shakespeare has been an underlying imperative in most of the practical and critical approaches to the texts and can be traced back to before the 20th century. But the current interaction between the stage, the page, the screen and the classroom has come to a point of remediation that has distilled and distorted the aims of this endeavour sufficiently to require a bit of a reassessment.

Presenting the Re-mix: The MIT Merchant Module | Mary Erica Zimmer

How might the affordances of digital media support students’ work with Shakespearean performance? Here, the concept of the remix provides a lens through which to understand contributions made by The Merchant Module’s approach. Ordinarily, one might see “sampling” and “remix” as insufficiently articulating the depth and richness of Shakespearean discovery through performance. Yet the multimedia environment of The Merchant Module is also a constellation of texts: visual, verbal, printed, performed, and above all preserved—not in full, in the case of the 2016 Merchant in Venice at the module’s heart, but instead in powerful fragments that are re-contextualized within learning sequences designed to encourage users’ own work of creation, as well as their sense of grounding in a continuum of performance practice.

Here, the site-specificity of Karin Coonrod’s 2016 Merchant, from whose performances the module samples, proves useful in pedagogical terms: visibly and vividly, the components of her production cannot be reconstituted, given their particularity in space, time, and historical moment. Invited into the logic of her production, as articulated and anatomized through a host of voices, users learn instead to make cognate choices: her production thus serves less as predecessor than partner in the long history of realizing Shakespeare. Beyond the main performance assignment, further opportunities for multimedia practice allow users to reflect, recast, and re-present, and design features of the edX Edge platform support the same in structural terms. How best to advance and archive users’ work remains a question: here, discussion is welcome, as the module’s “remixing” continues.

Macbeth Across the Centuries: A Panel Discussion (Session 8)

Participants: Stacey Redick and Sophie Byvik (Folger Shakespeare Library); Ramona Riedzewski and Richard Palmer (Victoria and Albert Museum); Jenny Fewster and Julian Meyrick (AusStage Database)

The Macbeth Story website, built collaboratively by a cross-institutional team from the V&A, AusStage, NUI-Galway, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, brings together collection items and performance data to tell a unique story of performances of Macbeth in Australia, Ireland, England, and the United States. For the first time ever, we have access to the technological infrastructure to combine all these resources in one website, broadening the reach of our collections and connecting our resources in a way that has not been done before.

This experimental website will be built in a customized WordPress environment connected to the Folger’s new home for digital collections online: the Miranda platform. It will share images from artifacts held in collections in Ireland, England, and the United States, and will mingle those artifacts with narrative content and data that establishes a unique perspective to the performances of Macbeth around the world. It will highlight the diversity of Shakespearean performance and reception in different parts of the world, including non-anglophone productions, such as in the Irish language. Digital images of collection items and their metadata will be pulled directly from their source repositories and shown alongside their related metadata and associated annotations.

The panelists, representing the participating institutions, will share what we have learned and discovered as part of this project, so that others who wish to build similar websites might benefit from our experience. As a team, we will discuss the technological affordances that have made this collaborative project possible and the opportunities for research and learning that arise when we connect and share collections in this way. We will also share the challenges we have encountered.