Aonrú is a one act play that that uses projection technology to immerse the audience in a magical and tech based world. It tells a story of a sorceress named Lir who must mend her relationship with magic and an angry spirit in order to rejoin the world around her. The themes of the story focus around the fear of isolation, the interconnectivity of magic and technology, learning to communicate, and problem solving. The goal of Aonrú is to make the application of technology a necessity to tell the story and to show how theatrical performance can evolve and become more immersive with the help of new technology.
There has been an unmistakable divide in the theatre community for and against heavier uses of technology. I think a large part of the problem stems from retellings. Most of the well known uses of projection mapping and technology are used in shows that do not necessarily need to have this sort of technology to tell the story. It is merely a creative decision of the director. It is my hope to have the technology be an integral part of the story, not just the direction, to show how this technology can be used to tell new sorts of stories. I do not want to subtract, however, from the necessity of actors on a stage as the element of live performance. Thus, I want to find a middle ground between the two, proving it’s innovation but still keeping to the conventions of theatre by having the connection between actor and audience by using projection mapping.
Projection mapping is a technique that allows people to map projection over surfaces that are multi layered and dimensional using a normal projector. It uses computer software to manipulate the images, creating several layers of images and videos in a projection and warping these layers to fit a certain shape.
Projection mapping is used in a wide variety of areas such as concerts, museums, smart homes, gaming, and retail.
In theatre specifically, there has been a lot of developments in projection technology. In 2009, 33 Variations used projections to let us into the mind of a dying musicologist and her obsession with Beethoven. In the 2011 revival of Kramer’s The Normal Heart, projection mapping was used at the end of the play when they projected the names of those who died during the AIDS epidemic on the walls of the theatre. The 2011 production of War Horse won a Tony award for the projection design moving the story from a small English town to the desperate war fields. There is no lack of productions that use projection mapping on their sets. Just from the productions I have recently seen on Broadway, I can recall If/Then, The Encounter, Wicked, Wonderland, Ghost: The Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Fun Home, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch all used projection mapping in their set design. Projection mapping in these shows is used for very specific scenery purposes and little else. My hope is to bring more storytelling to the projection instead of using it as a replacement for set pieces.
I will be using projection mapping to illustrate Lir’s magic and Orin’s overall presence in the story using animation from programs like Maya and After Effects to make the video. I will then use software like VPT7 to map the videos onto surfaces at different cues. I will need several projectors to fully capture the surface area of the set, I imagine three, and perhaps cloth to do a rear projection if deemed necessary.
Front projection screens reflect light while rear projection screens diffuse light through material. Front projection can be obstructed by people and objects walking in front of the projector but are much easier to set up. Rear projections need a significant amount of space behind the material, but do not have the shadows that front projection would. I may need to use a combination of both front and rear projection depending on the effect I am trying to get across and what looks best for the stage.
Projection mapping will be used to emulate the character Orin entirely in the show. He does not exist outside of the realm of projector. There is no actual actor on the stage there to portray him. Projection mapping is used to deliver this character and make him real to an audience. The projection will also be used to show Lir’s magic. It will encapsulate the entire room, occasionally falling on the audience members letting them be a part of the “magic” of a production.
Here is a link to an outline of the play that includes the setting, a list of characters, a run time, and a detailed scene by scene. I’m looking forward to bringing the production to the stage next semester, be sure to follow me for updates.