As you know, Covid-19 has changed our lives more than we could have ever expected. We have gone through a tough and long period. We haven’t been able to see our future. And as insignificant as it may seem, people have also stayed away from theaters. It may seem right from a certain point of view, as while people were losing their lives in hospitals, no one had the opportunity to think about theaters.
In those days we were deeply feeling an absence in expressing our emotions to each other. Since we can say that art, and especially theater is one of the best ways to express our emotions, we needed theaters to open again. For me, theater is one of the best examples of art, and just like modern Turkiye’s founder and first president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk once said: “If a nation is artless, it means that one of its lifelines is cut off.” There is an undeniable concept: “Deprivation leads to creations,” which means in backgrounds of all inventions, there is always a needence. For theater, it was a new trend called “Virtual Theater”. Let’s see how this new trend is different from traditional theater.
Well, there are two sorts of a “virtual theater”. First one seems more like the traditional one and is called “online theater”. It is something too basic and simple: there are actors who play on stage and you watch them via a zoom meeting or a Google meets call. You buy your ticket online, they send you a link to join, and when the time comes, you join it with the rest of the audience, as usual. Just like I have said, this is more like the traditional one and there is not any editing; thus, it is a live performance just like the traditional theater. And the second kind of virtual theater is called “Pre-recorded theater”. That is way too different than the traditional theater. In this version , actors perform the piece before, they record it with multiple cameras and edit it. So when you buy it, you can only watch the edited theater play. Because of that editing part, theater lovers are in seesaws whether it should be considered a theater or a movie. We will be discussing this later.
Pre-recorded theater plays offer a new opportunity, as they can be recorded as VR by 360-degree cameras. With this, you can be able to watch the entire theater play with your VR glasses and feel like you are be on the stage! For you to better understand, this method offers a totally different experience by taking you on stage! Using this method, Macbeth, a classic play from Shakespeare, has been performed. In addition, this experience is totally free — you can access it via this link: https://youtu.be/Jc88G7nkV-Q. But for a better experience you will need VR glasses, in which you can change your perspective by using your mouse. Via this new sort of Virtual Theater, you can share the same stage as Macbeth, shake hands with him, or even be the Macbeth! In the TEDX speech of Corinna Di Niro, where she speaks about the new opportunities that VR theater offers us, she explains her belief in the future of this kind of theater. According to her, via this trend, people who have talent will be able to see the world through the eyes of an actor. You can watch the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNvBwss9KiI
Although the numbers of such plays are way too limited, we hope that in the near future, we will be seeing these kinds of plays in our country, Turkiye, where we can reach pre-recorded theater plays but not as VR. Via an application called “Cep Tiyatrosu” (Pocket Theater), you can buy theater plays and watch them. Unfortunately, in Turkiye, we do not create VR theater plays, but I hope one day we will. For me, this is a totally new and different step in theater, and I would be glad if we can take this step in Turkiye as well.
Although there was never a VR option, pre-recorded or online theaters were too popular during the pandemic. Even though the pandemic is over now, we still wonder what will happen with this new trend. In Turkiye, we continue to create new pre-recorded theater plays. In addition, subtitles are now available! Although the original performance is in Turkish, we can now add English subtitles. This means, while watching a different country’s theater play, language is now not an obstacle for us to understand different plays in different countries.
Besides these positive points, virtual reality theater has caused many controversies around the world. Theater lovers are divided on this exact question: Is Virtual Theater still theater? Some people are open to change and see it as a step of development, but the rest are not sure that “theater plays” can be recorded by cameras and be edited afterwards. They think that it damages the definition of theater. For them, this method belongs to cinema, not theater.
And you? What do you think about Virtual Reality Theater? Will this theater experience leave a lasting impression and be able to exist against traditional theater? Please share your thoughts with us.