Exploring Theatre in the Digital Age

Category: stage 158

Fredericton’s Hyperloop Theatre aims to push the boundaries of creation and accessibility. 

Matt Carter 
Trent Logan (left) working the boards with Hyperloop. Photo: Facebook.com/hyperlooptheatre

It can be easy to look at the past ten months and think only of all we have lost or missed out on. There’s been a lot. Our lives have all been complicated in numerous ways since the arrival of COVID-19. That said, it has also been an incredibly inspiring point in our lives, especially when you consider how artists have adapted to find new ways to create within this new reality we’re living. For many, going digital is no longer simply a new creative path. In many circumstances, it’s the only option. Finding new ways to bring arts experiences to audiences at home is now a priority and part of the inspiration behind the creation of Hyperloop Theatre. 

The pandemic has really shaken up how we think about theatre. Since we can’t perform traditional theatre right now, people have been forced to really get creative, which I think has been awesome,” said Hyperloop Theatre co-founder Jean-Michel Cliche. 

“I know everyone is eager to get back to that familiar theatre format, but I am personally finding working outside of the norm to be very freeing. For me, it’s given me the opportunity to explore and create in a way that would be too risky or experimental in the Before Time’s theatre. In many ways, my hope is that Hyperloop will be a place where myself and other artists can do the unconventional work many of us are enjoying right now.”

This past summer, Cliche created the play Space Girl as a response to the current climate of live performances. Included as part of the 2020 NotaBle Acts Summer Theatre Festival, the play was live streamed and relied on audience interaction to guide the narrative. It was a bold new step for both the festival and Cliche’s own creative process.   

“The play involved a bunch of iPads, camera operators, wires everywhere and a ton of hand sanitizer,” said Cliche. “The show itself went really well, but it was a logistical nightmare. With every choice, we needed to reinvent the theatrical wheel. When it was over, Trent Logan, who was working on that show with me, was like, ‘Let’s do that again…but better.’ That was the inception point of what has now become Hyperloop Theatre.”

With a few projects currently in the works and new ideas popping up all the time, Cliche and Logan are already looking at ways to develop their new creative outlet in a post-pandemic world.   

“Obviously right now, we’re focused on creating work for virtual audiences. We have a couple of upcoming projects that will continue to explore digital theatre,” said Cliche. “But Hyperloop isn’t just a pandemic theatre company. When we are able to return to theatres, the goal is to bring our technology with us. For example, how does using your phone to interact with the live show taking place in front of you change your relationship with the story? There is a ton of awesome tech and software out there just waiting to be played with, and we want to play with it!

“Theatre has also historically been a privileged experience that can often be alienating or just straight up inaccessible. By incorporating technology into our performances, we’re hoping to make our shows more accessible and inviting. That could mean providing live-captions for the hard of hearing or even just making a show available to watch from the comfort of your home. We’re approaching everything with universal design in mind. That will take some trial and error, but we’re going to do our best to make our spaces welcoming, whether they are physical or virtual.”

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