Cross Reality Music Theatre / Opera

Book by Chris Eales. Music by Rupert Cheek.

Book - Prelude - Characters - Scenes - Music - Visual - Virtual Worlds

Earth & Moon - Gallery - Highway - Team - Jobs - Fund - Events - Chat - Links


Space on screen - Filmosophy - Live Theatre - Virtual World - Real v Virtual - Audience - Set

You can download a list of influences/inspirations here (this is the same as the Music list)

With a story that's so centred around technology, it might be easy to let the technology used
to produce the show become the end to the means rather than the means to the end.
It's important to me to use the technology to tell the story, not just for the sake of it.

One of the most recent and relevant operas which has been/ is a model for WAKTM is
Death And The Powers by Tod Machover. He explains the concept & philosophy behind the opera...

Space on screen

TV and Film and provide much inspiration for various aspects of WAKTM, such as the computer characters
in 2001; A Space Odyssey (WarnerBros) and Red Dwarf, the designs of Star Trek® and Star Wars®.
The 2009 Duncan jones film Moon starring Sam Rockwell re-ignited my excitement for the project.
Jones was himself inspired by Stanley Kubricks masterpiece 2001.

Alien features spaceships and planets

The Philip Glass / Godfrey Regio Qatsi collaborations are audio visual tone poems without spoken dialogue;
Koyaanisqatsi is ‘about’ the present, the impact of humans on the planet, the dependence on technology.
It “contrasts the tranquil beauty of nature with the frenzied hum of contemporary society”. Naqoyqatsi essays
the "shift from a world organised by principles of nature to one dominated by technology, synthetic & virtual”

James Cameron's Avatar (2009) differs from WAKTM in that in WAKTM the 'others bodies' of the characters
are Virtual whereas in Avatar, they are a physical biological body. Cameron wanted his audience to imagine that
"...human technology in the future is capable of injecting a human's intelligence into a remotely located body,
a biological body. It's not an avatar in the sense of just existing as ones and zeroes in cyberspace. It's actually
a physical body. The lead character, Jake, ..., has his human existence and his avatar existence. He'll be
shown using live-action photography in 3-D and computer-generated imagery."
(R. W. Keegan, 11 Jan, 2007, Q&A with James Cameron. Time Magazine)


The Matrix "depicts a future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality
created by sentient machines to pacify and subdue the human population, while their bodies' heat
and electrical activity are used as an energy source" Wikipedia

Digitized; the science of computers and how it shapes the world
by Peter J. Bentley, pub OUP, 2012

"Descartes concludes that he can be certain that he exists because he thinks. But in what form?
He perceives his body through the use of the senses; however, these have previously been unreliable.
So Descartes determines that the only indubitable knowledge is that he is a thinking thing."
(Decartes @ wikipedia)

Consciousness Explained by Daniel C. Dennett
pub Penguin, 1993

Total Recall similarly deals with the "question of reality versus delusion" and asks
"whether the character’s experience is real or being fed directly to his mind" (wikipedia)

Browsing indiegogo (a crowdfunding film website), I chanced upon "Meaning of Life".
Reading about the project resonanted with me and the WAKTM project; This is part

"...we are today in the midst of a technological revolution that overturns everything and provides
unprecedented opportunity for global collaboration and communication. The sharing of ideas
and melding of imaginations will enable us to solve global problems and answer universal
questions that have eluded us from the beginning of time."

Live Theatre

Thoughts from Bella Rose about senses

All our senses are linked to our memory pathways.
Smell is supposed to be the strongest, but colour plays a part too.

The colours in Virtual Reality could/should be different, hyper-real, over saturated.
Certain colours can sooth or stimulate, trigger a memory, help you feel stronger
when you need a boost. Bleak & monochrome schemes for scenes that are
meant to make us sad Brighter & warmer colours to suggest happiness.

Music (a song, lyric, even a few bars) can also trigger memories,
especially if it was playing at significant moments.

text © Bella Rose 2011

Derek Gifford wondered if we might base the production/appearance of the opening
scene on a scene from the movie CONTACT where John Hurt invited Jodie Foster
to take a ride as that is the basic visual from the audience perspective.

"One person is in a space station and another is elsewhere looking into a monitor.

1) a stage
2) scenery on the stage
3) a projected video backdrop

The Virtual Reality world from a Second Life point is the space station.
The backdrop is there and the actor is green screened over it then it is filmed
the resulting film is run and shown on a screen to simulate a large monitor
so the onstage actor can interact with it"

Elizaberth Stenger agreed "I do like this idea for The Highway, I still think The Garden
would best be represented in Second Life or another Virtual World"

Elizabeth Stenger (19th Feb 2013)

"As far as the virtual scenes in WAKTM would require land to provide that
as well as I'm looking for a team of Machinaphotograpgers as the way
we shoot scenes in Virtual Worlds required more than 1 camera."

Virtual Worlds

Bella Rose posed various questions & shared some thoughts about Virtual Worlds;

Nico Mulhy's opera Two Boys contains 'chorus passages delivering
multitudinous internet voices lit by the glow of hundreds of laptops,
with the entire stage flooded with video imagery'.
(D. Benedict, Pub Wed., 29 June 2011,

Mulhy argues that projections should be "integrated intothe environment as elements of plot,
not just decoration" and suggests that "projections are essentially stylized versions of lighting"

Elizabeth Stenger shared this;

"As far as The Garden Scene, I think that can be filmed entirely in Second Life.
As far as The Highway Scene based on our chats we've had I really like the idea
of using the Microcosm and Macrocosm as energy from the way the brain works,
or the universe for that matter might be better done with avatars filmed on a green screen."
"To maintain continuity between the people cast in the physical roles and we can make avatars
to emulate their physical appearance. When you ask me why I haven't moved forward, part of
the reason is I haven't seen the cast. Without knowing what the physical cast will look like
it is difficult to create avatars so the audience will know which avatar is Matt,
Trinity or other characters in these scenes."

Real v Virtual; People & Places

My initial throught was to present the Real life scenes through Real / Live performers/performances on stage,
and the Virtual world scenes through virtual sets (perhaps projecting a real time Virtual world scene
on a large screen) or film. Elizabeth Weiss Stenger is currently exploring various Virtual Worlds.

At the moment, I see 4 possibilities:

Real characters in Real life places
Real characters in Virtual places
Virtual characters in Virtual places
Virtual characters in Real places

Then I met Jaap Ruurd, who suggested dividing the stage in two thus;

Stage 'left' Real Now
Stage 'right' Virtual Flashback

I then started to research the History of Theatre to look for ideas; my first port of call was Wikipedia

"BURSTvisual is a collective of multimedia artists [...who...] specialise in the production and
direction of original video and photography, in particular for use in live settings such as
theatre and opera. Our content is a lively mixture of original 3d and 2d animation,
filmed material, video archive and live mixed sources."

Burst also work with/as New Opera Hero, "a live act who compose music, story, visuals
and technology simultaneously within the structure of a band." and are interested in creating
"an on stage multimedia collage in which every element influences and changes the overall
performance. The production process is not built around a finished script or score; instead it is
the combination of various building blocks. Musical themes, story characters, images,
technology, and acrobatics are shuffled around like a painter moving parts of a
collage around a canvas until they fall into place and reveal the final picture.

Some of BURSTvisuals' work reminds me of Alkamie digital theatre, combining live performance with
projected digital virtual sets. I met alkamie though my involvement with transit station, and spent some time
rehearsing with them, accompanying them as a pianist/improviser/composer.

alKamie’s Virtual Reality Theatre

"coalesces the alive tangibility of real performers with 3D animation technology to create
a hallucinogenic theatre through which onstage characters and audiences tumble alike...
uses front projection over an entire white stage space to immerse live performers in the
virtual space of computer models. Imagine performers onstage inhabiting the world of
a computer game. They appear to move within the world and you can follow their actions
in the same way a viewer of a film follows the actions of the character.

I found something along similar lines in the work of Joachim Sauter via The Creators Project.

"For a performance of "The Jew of Malta", Joachim Sauter did elaborate projection mapping.
He projected virtual architecture onto the stage [as alkamie does], and the actors costumes
were camera tracked so when they moved, the image being projected would move as well."

Sauter explained that "The goal of the project was the enhancement of the traditional static stage
setting into a reactive and dynamic stage design that plays its own vital role in the narration."

Medial Stage and Costume from ART+COM on Vimeo

Exploring Sauter's site, I found what might perhaps be a more relevant application
of the technology "grammar" he is helping to develop; a virtual garden of sorts.

The Creators Project (a partnership between Intel & Vice) also introduced me to Amon Tobin's
ISAM. Using a 3D set is another way of creating or enhancing a 3D effect.

Version 2.0 of ISAM is a 'mixture of a movie, theatrical thing and a live show'.

I also found a "Futuristic Animated Opera" in progress called Liberteria (facebook, blogspot)
by composer Sabrina Pena Young. Although more of a film than a live performance,
it does share a few concepts with WAKTM; post-apocalypse and death.

A video I chanced upon of an advert for the LG Optimus mobile phone
showed me further possibilities of 3D projection .

Whilst researcing the LG projection above I discovered NuFormer.

"NuFormer is an innovative multimedia agency specialized in 3D video mapping on buildings and objects...
branching film and video productions, combined with 3D and 2D motion graphic design."

iClone4 is a film and video production engine which allows user to animate 3D video in real time.

Another possible way of realising the virtual world section(s) of the production
would be to create machinima, which 'uses real time interactive online 3D engines',
often Second Life (PookyMedia - YouTube).

Perhaps Reaction Grid, who have offered their support for the opera
by building a 3D space, could assist in this department.

'Machinima (muh-sheen-eh-mah) is filmmaking within a real-time, interactive,
3D virtual environment, often using 3D video-game technologies, the convergence of
filmmaking, animation & game development.' (

In August of 2012 I discovered this 360 degree immersive project. I think it looks amazing!
The 360 degree element makes me think of the Roundhouse in London.

Audience Participation
aka 'User Generated Content'

The Blue Man Group show in London raised the question of the possibility of
audience participation, to support the Internets trend towards User Created Content

Blue Man Group
"Please yell if you're paying attention"
"Stomp your feet / clap your hands"

For WAKTM, this might involve audience members sending in media (text, images,
audio, video) - perhaps using their mobile phones, but this would necessitate making
sure that WAKTM had permission to use such submitted media which may cause
a problem. It may involve audience 'performance' e.g. clapping, singing...

"I love the idea of the audience being able to "text" or "email" things during the play,
which would appear on screens and images as part of the set... But, this would need
to be monitored/screened to prevent profanity ... Perhaps someone backstage could
& check the messages, and include the better ones within the screens.
It does leave open the danger that everyone will be on their phones rather than
watching the play, so perhaps this "interactive" function should only be made
available to the audience at certain (appropriate) times....?"
(Eales @ Facebook Group)

Callie Del Boa"Check Livestream, I believe it can be done this way there.

Partly inspired by this comment, I wondered if it would be possible to have some kind of live stream
of blogs somewhere within the staging/set of WAKTM. I wondered how fast the stream could/should be
- i.e. how fast could the audience read? Would they need to be able to read the actual words
or would it be sufficient for them simply to be able to recognise that it was a blog-stream?
If we used actual blogs, we would need permission from authors/publishers to use their content.

Can we get the audience to sing?

'The recent developments in mobile Augmented Reality (the addition of
a virtual layer to reality) allows Sander Veenhof to explore ways to open up
the virtual public space for anyone to contribute to.'

Set Design/Production

What does The Highway look like? How can we create (the illusion of) a space shuttle?
How might film/video, lighting and sound combine to create a storm?
How might we suggest that a scene was a flashback?

For John Adams'/Peter Sellars' opera Dr Atomic, the set(s) 'intentional sparseness is beautiful unto itself'
and "funnels the viewer's attention to the compelling content of the opera - the powerful words and music...."

I met Anthony Doherty on LinkedIn when he commented on a post about WAKTM.
He shared some insight he'd gained into opera and music in general with me via email; I thank him
for giving me permission to publish what he shared. He is a composer, arranger, voice teacher,
tutor and editor as well and sometimes dusts off his stage manager clothes

"The director David Belasco was famous for reproducing exactly any actual setting, such as a real
restaurant, down to the smallest detail. Another writer pointed out the effect this has: the curtain goes up,
and the audience recognizes the interior of the restaurant and starts checking out the all the details.
Meanwhile the play is going on. Better to have just a few tables or whatever without more details than
necessary for the action. The audience accepts what it represents and pays attention to the play itself.
Good designers know how to deal with that. I was musical director/conductor for a production of
[Puccini's] La Boheme, in which the designer, working with the director, came up with a basic structure
that worked for all three different scenes, just by moving some things around. Doing things like that
can also have a unifying effect. Opera is symbolic. After all, people don't go around singing
at each other in real life, and especially suddenly all singing the same thing as a chorus."
(Anthony Doherty)

"In our opera the action takes place either on a dock by the sea or on the patio deck of a house.
That's from my librettist's original short story, and it's brilliant. A deck and a dock are similar structures.
It's almost the same word. but in this story they represent two opposites. The sea is lonely.
From the dock you can't look out and see where you came from or where you're going.

For the main character the dock is the gateway to nowhere.
The deck, on the other hand, is attached to a home (not just a house). It's a warm, safe place.
It can have a railing to keep you from falling off, which the dock doesn't. So we realized that
for the set the same structure had to be used for both deck and dock, because it's a powerful symbol
of the two paths in the main character's life. (It also lowers costs, since only one structure needs
to be built instead of two. Producers like that.) I sketched a possible way that could be done.
That helps us picture the action as we write & compose. But it will be up to
the designer to make it work." (Anthony Doherty)

Would it be possible to have just 1 set in WAKTM?

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WAKTM Text © Chris Eales & 2006 - 2013.
Other Text* & Music © Rupert Cheek 2009-2013.
"WAKTM" & "W@K2M" are trademarks of WAKTM
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* Unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved. 2013

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