Platforms for Multilingual and Tele-Immersive Storytelling and Improvisation
In 2020-2021, a pandemic caused a global shut down of the performance of live theatre. This led to many artists without creative outlets, many companies having to modify their programming, and, in an unfortunately large number of cases, the complete shutdown of theatres and companies. This circumscription led to a burst of technological innovation to support new ways to connect performers and audiences. In this work, we present two such innovations: Rosetta Code and Virtual Director. Rosetta Code is a tool for improvisation, live or online, which allows for simultaneous translation, enabled by artificial intelligence. The Virtual Director is a platform for tele-immersive performance. In the hands of multilingual cast members, the Virtual Director augments Rosetta Code to create online multilingual improv shows. We describe these platforms and provide descriptions and reflections on two performances of Improbotics Online which used the Virtual Director to bring together audience members and performers from around the world. These performances were part of the 2020 Paris Fringe and Improbotics Online received positive reviews and an award for the Most Innovative Show of the festival. We conclude this work by discussing the potential for mixed-presence international shows as we emerge from physical and social distancing requirements and how our tools will continue to support online and on-site performances. We have sparked a creative ratcheting effect: performers are enabled to tell new and interesting stories, and are inspired to suggest innovations which improve the tools with which they perform. These innovations are deployed in future performances. This positive feedback loop is a metaphor for the fundamental theory of improvisational: Accept and Expand.