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Expanded Performance Category

Learning Portals and Digital Theatre

by Emile Clarke

Many happy Zeros and Ones to you all. I'm Emile, an Associate Artist with The Egg, Theatre Royal Bath. In May 2020, Kate Cross (Director of The Egg) and I, set out on our Expanded Performance journey with a slew of questions. Questions we thought would be relevant to the theatre industries evolution after the tumultuous year of 2020. Questions like:

“How can live theatre making experiences be shared, co-created and re-imagined with young people through emerging digital technologies?”

As an avid (but cool about it) gamer, watching many theatres unable to bring people together IRL, I was particularly enthusiastic about how we might use emerging technology and technologists to encourage inclusion in an often-exclusive theatre model.

We started our journey here:

Searching for a Tech-nut-ologist

The EP cohort, met frequently on Zoom to what I now affectionately call ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ as many professional (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematic) cultures began merging, interacting and questioning together in work shirts and pyjama bottoms. Aside from philosophising about liveness, sharing skills and research to evolve our story telling we navigated not just through video conferencing platforms but an international pandemic followed by a civil rights Movement.

During a Lockdown respite The Egg met to gather thoughts and surmise where we were at and created Not a website. A play.

After months of blue sky thinking and jumping down research rabbit holes chasing holographic shows for culturally underserved communities, interactive LiDar and explorative 3D theatre tours, a plan began to emerge.

By Lockdown the Third, The Egg’s slowly un-furloughing team were launching an online community:  and offering digital opportunities for young people as a response, in part, to our initial question about co-creation through technology. Alongside this we were still out to uncover what emerging tech could expand our story telling and from this exploration the Josephine Creative Learning Portal was born.

Josephine (the play) is scheduled for production later in 2021. Based on the life of the entertainer, activist and spy Josephine Baker. The show focusses in on how we tell the story of someone’s life, given the multi-faceted and multi-layered reality of us all as human beings. Crucially, this show would be touring into schools, a notoriously difficult market to access and engage with. We wanted to explore how we could build something across the digital and live performance worlds that would enhance learning and engagement with theatre:

I wrote about it here.

So, where we at now?

An iteration of the Creative Learning Portal (now called the Josephine Learning Portal) is being made with partners Stornaway: To roll out alongside the show, offering schools and audiences the opportunity to enhance and expand the experience of watching the play. Users will be able to define their journey through the Portal, exploring different worlds within and from the play as they come across them.

As part of this development, we are consulting with a group of 30 Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 teachers based all around the country, to investigate what a meaningful digital theatre experience would look like for them.

The Portal is being made with the involvement of ex-headteachers, animators, web designers, filmmakers, theatre artists and performers and emerging tech companies. A real merging of industries and experiences.

Check out the flier here.

The Josephine Learning Portal is our prototype for blended delivery and has brought us closer to answering questions we set out to uncover, such as:

  • How does the existence of a digital resource influence our thinking about how the work is made, both dramaturgically and in terms of production?
  • In what ways, do the digital and live experience affect each other? How does this influence audience behaviour?
  • How do we build from this experience to offer more meaningful and engaging opportunities moving into the future? What is the legacy of a platform like this?

It is these questions that lead us out of our time on the Expanded Performance cohort, one that has been immensely valuable in challenging, provoking, supporting and nurturing our thinking around how we truly expand performance in collaborative, landscape altering ways.

We are truly grateful to have been able to communicate outside of our spheres with the creative R+D cohort and we invite you to check out the fruits of our labour and head scratching, within The Egg Assembly and the Josephine Learning Portal, accessible through:

We pray these industries continue to exchange and collaborate so that they learn from each other as we have.

Emile Clarke and The Egg