VR Performance: A Halloween Special
Outside the USA, Halloween really only happens in night clubs and international schools where they make you pay like $40 to buy a costume and then your kid won’t wear it because to them it’s a meaningless accessory and, since she’s like two years old, life is already a pageantry of weirdness, so what’s the point? So to my surprise, yesterday at 5am EEST, I ended up acknowledging the spookiest holiday in AltspaceVR’s own haunted farm environment with none other than musician/comedian Reggie Watts and writer/actor/comedian Justin Roiland. The stage was in a rickety barn at the end of a dark and dusty road. Our community manager Lisa was giving the crowd of robot avatars their orientation, but couldn’t finish before Justin apparated and broke into a C3P0 impression by slumping his shoulders and stiffly swaying his arms .
As a co-founder of VR game company Squanchtendo, Justin quickly showed his VR literacy by making use of the space when other stand-up performers might confine themselves to the stage. Since Mr. Watts was not yet with us, Justin walked among the crowd inside the barn asking, Where’s Reggie?, and led us out the barndoor. We searched a nearby graveyard adorned with a granite crucifix tombstones and a bare juniper tree. We then followed the dusty path to a point where we found an abandoned car with the taillights left on; it’s Reggie’s car, he’s been some horrible accident. Amidst Justin’s mournful calls, Reggie appeared from the periphery and nonchalantly asked everyone what was going on.
After a tearful embrace, the talent and the captivated audience glided or warped back to the barn for an on-stage chat. I won’t retell the back and forth of the set, sufficed to say they covered: magic mushroom chocolate bars, Chris Carter of The X-files and life as a fetus in your mother’s fetus. Beyond conversation, what I and everyone else saw represented a new brand of entertainer, VR performers, people who engage an audience not only with revelatory tales of their youth or their drug-fueled weekend, but also wow a herd of automatons by unlocking the potential of the simulated space and their own avatars — Reggie and Justin stayed on stage only for as long it was interesting and then took tours of the room, even taking us to the lofts for an intermission during which we perched on hay bales and rafters. They also explored their virtual bodies; when asked an overly specific question about Rick and Morty DVD sets, Justin answered while rubbing his inner thigh suggestively while Reggie chuckled to the side. Reggie later kneeled and glided across the floor like R2D2 while Justin did an encore impression of his pre-Force Awakens counterpart.
The climax of the show was a return trip to the graveyard where the comics came across two avatars, Crystal and Pepsi, and wrapped their virtual arms around them in a group hug. Reggie and Justin then sat across from each other beneath the bare tree and surrounded by moss covered headstones where they held a seance (pronounced Seyonce). They asked everyone to toss their HTC Vive Controllers into a circle at their feet and called upon a great spirit to give them a sign, at which point a string of controllers grew from the ground and snaked through the air.
This is where I hit an urgent leave time and had to log out, but I will be at each and every future performance with either one of these guys. And by the way, if anyone wants to start a VR improv group or come to our show after we form, then…Oh, no? Never mind.