NIDA’s Digital Theatre Festival performed online for the first time

Primetime Emmy Award-winning Spielberg, Halo and Nine Inch Nails collaborator Sean Stewart headlines NIDA’s Digital Theatre Festival

  • For the first time, NIDA’s final-year actors perform their major productions via Twitch, YouTube, Zoom, Facebook, Instagram and purpose-built websites.
  • All six works in the Digital Theatre Festival are world premieres written for the online space, many are transmedia and/or interactive.
  • One featured work, Roundabout, is written and directed by Primetime Emmy Award-winning Spielberg, Halo and Nine Inch Nails collaborator Sean Stewart, from his home in Los Angeles.
  • Another featured director is the renowned Nigel Jamieson, who owns a place in history as director of the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
  • Join us for an experience that is ‘ambitious and courting chaos’.

Primetime Emmy Award-winning storyteller Sean Stewart is creating a groundbreaking new work to headline the National Institute of Dramatic Art’s Digital Theatre Festival (4–9 August 2020).

One of the most influential digital storytellers in the world, Sean pioneered the field that became alternate reality games (ARG). He is renowned for using transmedia storytelling to create worldwide pop culture phenomena, such as his legendary work in the launch of Microsoft’s Halo 2 with ilovebees, Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence with The Beast and Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero.

NIDA is respected around the world for alumni such as Cate Blanchett, Baz Luhrmann, Miranda Tapsell, Sarah Snook, Hugo Weaving, Yael Stone, Rob Collins, Sam Worthington, Richard Roxburgh, Remy Hii, Catherine Martin, Judy Davis, Jennifer Kent, Justin Kurzel, Deborah Riley, Fiona Crombie, Jacob Nash and many more.

The Digital Theatre Festival is an ambitious reimagining of the storytelling landscape. Bringing together NIDA students from all disciplines and featuring international collaborations and a mixture of established directors and new minds, the Digital Theatre Festival comprises six world premieres of works written specifically for the online digital space, being neither livestreamed theatre nor films. These works, many transmedia in nature, range in interactivity, with characters sometimes controlled by the online audience.

Sean Stewart recalls, ‘So I said [to NIDA], “What if we made a play about a love triangle, only it’s also musical chairs because there are six people moving in and out of three bodies? And also it’s not in a theatre, it’s on Twitch. And, oh yeah, the audience gets to interact with everything in the show, including the props?” And amazingly, NIDA said yes! And now all these incredibly talented actors and crew are making it real.

It might be the most fun I’ve ever had on a project, and I think the audience is going to have a hell of a good time with it.

David Berthold, curator of the Digital Theatre Festival and NIDA’s Director Centre for Creative Practices, said the festival will ‘genuinely break new ground’.

Around the world recently we’ve seen all kinds of experiments with online theatre, but these works crack open new territory,’ he said. ‘They not only directly respond to the times, driven by some of Australia’s brightest young imaginations working with directors of terrific international standing, but they anticipate what new times might bring as theatre continues to journey into digital realms.

NIDA CEO Liz Hughes said, ‘I’m very excited about the Digital Theatre Festival and these six new projects. Applying incredible innovation and out-of-the-box thinking at every moment, we might just be seeing the invention of another future for the performing arts.

This future pushes the boundaries of storytelling and technological platforms, embeds the audience in the experience and evokes age-old wonder and surprise.

The international collaborations featured in NIDA’s Digital Theatre Festival include Sean Stewart, who is working with NIDA students from Los Angeles, and renowned large-scale theatre and event director Nigel Jamieson, who received a Greater London Arts Award for his contribution to London cultural life, and owns a place in history as director of the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Jamieson’s piece, Lockdown, follows a group of young people across various media platforms as they traverse the social and political cracks opened up by a pandemic.

Katy Alexander, former resident director at California Institute of Arts, and who trained with Robert Lepage and The Builders Association (NYC), is connecting with theatres and artists around the world in Ghost Lights, an experience that follows the ‘lost characters’ of darkened theatres as they wander empty public spaces, searching for each other and for the audiences that enable them to exist.

Six, directed by multi-award-winning former Associate Director of Melbourne Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre Company, Leticia Cáceres, tells the story of four strangers who somehow end up in the same Zoom meeting, only to find that a fifth window is mysteriously black and insists that they all embark on a deadly game involving paranormal forces.

Lunacy, directed by Artistic Director of Crack X, opera librettist, Google Creative Lab collaborator and 2012 NIDA directing alumnus Pierce Wilcox, is an epic and witty 1960s sci-fi adventure involving a mysterious alien artefact on the Moon and a psycho-sexual story of love and longing.

A Pox on Both Your Houses comes from Australia Council New Media Arts Fellow and former Artistic Director of Salamanca Theatre Company and Urban Theatre Projects, Deborah Pollard and links three love stories from the worlds of Romeo and Juliet, the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, and an online dinner date between two young men, who ‘share’ food with their online audience.

Sean Stewart’s Roundabout, is ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a dash of Hunger Games’–  a science fiction fantasy, coming-of-age romantic comedy and swiftly accelerating farce for three actors and their audience. Three scientists who uploaded their consciousnesses to the internet have become godlike digital beings, and as they drift online they come upon three recently graduated school friends who are catching up via Zoom.

Livestreamed on Twitch, with an execution that is ambitious and courting chaos, the audience pulls the strings as various characters move in and out of three actors, even as they take phone calls from the audience in real-time.

Digital Theatre Festival 4–9 August 2020
Katy Alexander, Ghost Lights
Leticia Cáceres, Six
Nigel Jamieson, Lockdown: Love and Death in the Age of Covid
Deborah Pollard, A Pox on Both Your Houses
Sean Stewart, Roundabout
Pierce Wilcox, Lunacy

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