City as Stage: A Shakespeare-themed digital experience

Monica Virtue

Few authors have had as profound and lasting an impact on global culture than William Shakespeare. Four hundred years after the death of that extraordinary English playwright and poet, Digital Futures MDes candidate Monica Virtue is mining the Bard’s enormous influence in one of two research projects she’s conducting as part of her studies at OCAD University.

Virtue came to the Digital Futures master’s program with a longstanding project, a facet of which formed the basis for her thesis. For that project, she’s creating an interactive documentary on Ipperwash Beach, an Ontario tourist attraction that’s home to the controversial WWII-era army training base called Camp Ipperwash and site of the 1995 police shooting of First Nations activist Anthony “Dudley” George. Virtue’s thesis builds on her many years as a documentary film producer — work that’s made her adept at historical and investigative research as well as the rooting out of underlying stories in unexpected places.

City as Stage, Virtue’s independent research project for Digital Futures, represents one such surprising take on story. First, there’s the location. In investigating “the potential for an illuminated walk around the Stratford Festival,” Virtue is engaging in a way never before seen with a beloved and internationally known repertory theatre; a point of pride for many Ontarians. Then there’s the fact that she’s looking to Shakespeare, one of the world’s greatest storytellers, to thematically bring to life an interactive multimedia experience.

This is how Virtue describes City as Stage:

My research focuses on the feasibility of developing a major digital multimedia exhibition for a prominent Canadian cultural attraction. The study involves two industry and cultural partners: the Stratford Festival, an internationally-known repertory theatre company located in Stratford, Ontario; and Moment Factory, a creator of multimedia environments based in Montreal, Quebec.

For this study, I am using a previous Moment Factory exhibition as a case study. The exhibition is Foresta Lumina, a nighttime illuminated walk created in 2014 for Le Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook in Quebec. The Foresta Lumina installation combines storytelling about the provincial park’s myths and legends with advanced digital technology such as projection mapping.

Applying general knowledge gleaned from Foresta Lumina and other Moment Factory creations, as well as employing strategic business planning and foresighting techniques, my research focuses on areas of specific importance to the Stratford Festival: high-level storytelling possibilities that offer audience engagement, current resources and infrastructure, and potential partnerships with other organizations in the Stratford region.

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