PlayOn! Bulletin, Issue Two, May 2023

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PlayOn! Bulletin

New Storytelling with 2 Immersive Technologies

issue two May 2023

9 theatres from 9 European

countries in cooperation with

9 universities exploring the artistic

challenges of digital transformation



page 2

› PlayON! at re:publica, Berlin (DE), 2023

› Workshops

› Cutting Room (Berlin, DE)

› Exploring Microcontrollers (Ålesund, NO)

› Artistic Residence Portugal

page 3

› PlayOn! Budapest

International Theatre Festival for Youth

in the frame of the 10th Theatre Olympics

Budapest (HU) May 2023

page 4/5

› Productions based on

Immersive Technologies

2nd production phase

page 6

› Back to the Future of Theatrical

Storytelling – Connecting Space and Time

3days hackathon on storytelling with

technology in theatres, Krakow (PL)

› Open Lab #7 Theatre meets Digitality

page 7

› Productions based on

Immersive Outreach

3rd production phase


page 8

› To Bind – Youth Encounter Event Linz (AT)

› ChatGPT on German philosopher Ernst Bloch

and Digital Storytelling for Theatres

› Looking to the Future – PlayOn!

in its final year

› Imprint

Co-funded by the

Creative Europe Programme

of the European Union


York (UK), November 2022

In November 2022 the PlayOn! network

met at Pilot Theatre’s offices at The Guildhall

in York, UK. The aim of the meeting was to

bring together digital expertise from University

of York academics to create a ‘sparking

off’ point for the artists attending from each

theatre company.

Over the meeting several projects, technologies

and ideas were presented to the group

with time to come together and discuss

shared interests and potential collaborations.

Themes and technologies covered included

interactive audio, AR walking tours with

geo location technology, photogrammetry,

interactive video and 3D scanning.

In addition to more formal presentations

the group were given access to the XR

Stories lab, located in the building. XR

Stories provides research and development

funding, support and networking to expand

the potential of immersive and interactive

technologies for digital storytelling. They

are based at the University of York. Partners

were able to experience 3D scanning,

experience several VR pieces and try out

augmented reality glasses.



in a dynamic

and collaborative


that has the


to transform our


of the


ChatGPT on German philosopher Ernst Bloch

and Digital Storytelling for Theatres 2023

XR Stories Research Fellow David Gochfield

said, “The November meeting was a wonderful

opportunity to reconnect with the

PlayOn! partners and discuss their plans for

the third production. The projects presented

by York colleagues and local companies

seemed to provoke a lot of great ideas. It

was fun showing them some of the kit in the

XR Stories lab – especially our attempts to

3D scan the adorable puppet, Fiametta

from Elsinor!”

David Kirman, academic at the University

of York and who curated the talks added,

“The highlight for me was the breakout

meetings between researchers and theatre

makers. The discussions were really vibrant

and productive, exploring how different

technologies and ideas can work together.

You could see the excitement on people's

faces as they explored the creative potential

of different tools, and the excitement was

really infectious!”

Overall the meeting was a creative space

for the partners to explore exciting potential

technologies for their future productions,

the influence we hope to see reflected as the

project moves into its final production phase.

Looking to the

future: PlayOn!

in its final year.




As the PlayOn! project approaches

its final phase Lucy Hammond (Pilot

Theatre, UK) catches up with Project

Leader Dirk Neldner.

LH: The project is now reaching its final year

of productions – how do you feel the partners

have embraced the challenges so far?

DN: Of course, the theatres have gone

through very different phases of development.

But in general, I see that the artists

have become more courageous, more

daring and have developed an understanding

of how digital technologies can find a

place in their creative processes. Digital is

no longer simply added at the end – more

or less elegantly. It is now considered right

from the start of the development of themes/subjects.

With greater knowledge about the potential

of digitality in theatre, there has also been a

growing confidence that digital technology

does not mean that live theatre with its

traditions is endangered.

LH: What have you found most useful

through the process of engaging with the

digital experts on the project?

DN: The university partners have made

a major contribution to the process of

knowledge, insight and confidence. Through

contact with academics, the theatres have

been able to learn a lot, build trust and thus

know they have competent partners at their

side. This has enabled artists to become

artistically creative within the framework

of digital technologies.

The two sides art and digital have quite

different starting points. They speak –

almost literally - different languages and

need moderation in order to act as equal

partners in joint working processes. This

essential contribution has been made by

the university partners in many cases –

and thus an exceptional contribution in

the creation of many PlayOn! productions.

LH: What are you most excited about

for the future of digital storytelling?

DN: An area of interest is the use of

artificial intelligence (AI) and machine

learning to create more personalized and

interactive storytelling experiences.

continue on page 8

2 3


VAT Theatre (EE), Theatre OBando (PT)

and the Instituto Politécnico da

Guarda (PT), April 7-10, 2022

As a result of that artistic residence, the

aim of this text is to outline potential bridges

between the theatrical/engineering work

developed. There, a dialogue began between

theatre and engineering took place.

Theatre: We need a stage on a machine.

Engineering: Don’t you mean a machine

on stage?

Theatre: Yes, that as well, possibly many

machines on stage. But we also need the

stage to be inside the machine.

Engineering: We could use the cloud,

that’s a very large machine.

Theatre: We need a machine people can see.

Engineering: But it would need to be a

very big machine. How about a platform?

Theatre: Still too abstract. Also, it only fits

inside very small machines.

Engineering: Yes, that is true. But most

very large machines are made of smaller

machines. We could even make the stage

out of machines.

Theatre: That is a good idea, but we also

need a machine that is not the stage, where the

stage can fit. Preferably there should be some

space between the stage and the machine.

Engineering: A space between the stage

and the machine? Why?

Theatre: That’s the narrative. The

difference between being inside a stage

and being inside the machine.

Engineering: And who is inside?

Theatre: The audience.

Engineering: Inside the machine?

Theatre: If they want, they can also

be i nside the stage.

Engineering: So the audience needs

to fit inside the machine as well?

Theatre: Yes.

Engineering: It will need to be a really

big machine.

Theatre: You can use the audience to

make it. You can capture the audience.

Engineering: Ok. We could place cameras

above and screens on the side. The machine

could be made out of images and movements.

Theatre: Yes, we can guide the audience

inside the stage so they make the machine.

Engineering: Who will do that?

Theatre: The actors.

Engineering: Will the audience know?

Theatre: If they look. The actors will help

them locate the machine.

Engineering: Ok …

Theatre: What?

Engineering: Are the actors going to be

machines, as well?

Theatre: That would be very seductive.

Engineering: Why do you want so many

machines on stage?

Theatre: That’s what the play is about.

Engineering: The difference between the

stage and the machine?

Theatre: No, that’s the story we tell, but

it’s not what the play is about. The play is

about being among machines.

Engineering: On stage?

Theatre: Anywhere. Everywhere. Not a

play with machines, not even a play like a

machine, but the machines as the play.

Engineering: That would be very seductive.

They have learnt a lot from each other.

Nuno Atalaia (Radboud University,

Nijmegen; ERC project “Platform Discourses”)

PlayOn! at re:publica Berlin (DE), June 2022

The second major meeting of the project

involving the Artistic Directors of the partner

companies took place in Berlin from

9–11 June 2022. The reason for having the

meeting in the German capital was that

re:publica, the popular annually festival

for the digital society, was taking place.

re:publica focuses on the intersections

between technology, culture and society.

It is a platform for innovators, entrepreneurs,

journalists, activists, artists and academics

to come together and share their ideas and

perspectives on various social, political and

economic issues. Attendees share a common

interest in exploring the ways technology

and digital culture impact society. In 2022,

re:publica took place with the motto

“Anyway the wind blows”. The directors of

the PlayOn! theatres had the opportunity to

move around freely at re:publica and attend

lectures that were relevant to them.



PlayOn! was present at re:publica with

two productions:

The opportunity to experience the pro-

duction Berlin@play, was stimulating for

everyone involved, especially with regard

to the planning of the 3rd PlayOn! production,

in which immersive technology will

be used in urban spaces.

Berlin@Play -

an interactive AR theatre game

A joint adventure by Regional Theatre of

Saxony (DE), Platypus Theatre Berlin (DE),

Academy for Theatre and Digitality (DE)

In Berlin@Play, the audience becomes

the protagonist of an interactive story and

experiences an urban space as a stage for

virtual theatre. Using an iPad, a new level of

perception opens up to the participants: virtual

elements, projected into the real urban

space, combine to create an augmented

reality (AR) in which the spectators move

and act. In the process, they themselves

decide what their contribution to the Smart

City will be. It’s a story about our digital life

and the questions: What will the city of the

future look like? Who will live in it and own

it? And what role does one play in shaping

this future?

It is a theatre game that is also suitable for a

youth audience. One participant described

his experience: "I was very excited about

participating, because I hadn’t taken part in

anything like this before. When our teacher

told me about it, I imagined the whole

game to be more like outdoor lessons. Well,

to be honest, I didn't expect it to be so interesting

and such fun. The idea of getting to

know Berlin through a digital world stimulated

my interest. I thought it was great to

be active outdoors, to get to know the city

better and in a new way. So, I can definitely

recommend Berlin@Play."

Watch the trailer.



by Pilot Theatre (UK)

In the run up to showcasing the experience

the team were apprehensive on how the

project may be received. With the storytelling

in ‘Monoliths’ centred on the North of

England we were unsure how the project

would be interpreted by audiences in

Germany. Thankfully, we were wrong to be

concerned and we received lots of positive


Presented alongside two other VR experiences

in a specially dedicated space, the piece

was one of a handful of creative projects

that conference attendees could experience

during the festival. Nearly 200 people came

to see the project, with several audience

members returning up to four times to see

it again.

Our exhibition space was a dark seating area

housed underneath an old industrial furnace.

We wanted to create a sense of atmosphere

for those coming to experience the VR

and hung lights and other decorations to

‘stage’ the space and give a sense of what

audiences might see in the VR. There was an

interesting mix of delegates coming to view

the piece, many were not in the creative

industries and it felt good to have a spread

of audience members outside of just those

familiar with the technology.

A major highlight in having the experience

at the festival was the opportunity for the

PlayOn! partners to view the work. Unless

a person has experienced VR, it can be difficult

to describe the nature of the project in

detail to audiences and the chance to show

the work to our partners was invaluable

to shared understanding around VR. This

was especially true when during post-show

discussion we were able to receive feedback

on storytelling, visuals and the general experience

from the PlayOn! partners.




In the frame of the 10th Theatre Olympics

16-19 May 2023

Kolibri Theatre for Children and Youth,

Eötvös 10 Culture House Budapest

The festival includes performances seeking new ways of storytelling and immersive technologies, all of

which were created in the framework of the international theatre cooperation PlayOn! In these performances,

spectators become participants. Sometimes it’s because they watch the story through VR goggles, or an

Regional Theatre of Saxony (DE),

Platypus Theatre Berlin (DE) and

Academy for Theatre and Digitality (DE)


An interactive Theatre Game with Mixed Realities 1

To make the city even more liveable, the focus is on citizen participation. As surveyors, the audience is released

into the urban space using a measuring device to collect data. The path to the smart city is the goal: What is the city

around me? What role do I play in it? The staging of public space with digital technology reinterprets places, turns

the spectator into a player and puts them in Kafkaesque situations.

interactive tablet guides them through the city. At other times, they can influence the storyline through their

mobile phones or they are wandering in a virtually created soundscape.

Theatre Ludowy (PL)

1984: Ministry of Love

interactive performance

In 1984: Ministry of Love you will become a part of the jury that will pass judgement on the accused. You will get

access to the unique mobile application and court files. Pressing the button changes somebody’s life. Are you ready

to take responsibility for these people? Are you in this game?

Theatre Elsinor (IT)


Cutting Room

MARIAN URSU (Professor of Interactive Media, School of Arts

and Creative Technologies, University of York, UK)



Blog Post from Oliver O’Shea (Pilot Theatre, UK)


The performance can only be visited individually.

Kolibri Theatre (HU), University of York (UK),

Theatre Ludowy (PL)

A dream trip

A natural science student decides to create a human being. The experiment is an unexpected success. Its creator,

however, despairs. We discover that the author, Mary Shelley, is not entirely comfortable with it either. Throughout

her life, she denies and downplays the literary scope of her work.

Cutting Room is a technology developed in

the Digital Creativity Labs in York which provides

unique and powerful capabilities for the

development of interactive stories. Addressing

the needs of the ‘creative professional’,

it supports the development of complex and

ambitious interactive narratives, whilst requiring

no computer programming expertise. Its

uniqueness resides in its easy to understand

and effective three-dimensional modelling


Traditionally, interactive stories are modelled

as two-dimensional branching structures

(e.g. post-it notes linked by coloured strings).

Cutting Room innovates by adding depth –

a third dimension. You cannot create Cutting

Room structures with pen and paper or in

related software tools such as Twine; you

need Cutting Room. Conversely, structures

devised with pen and paper, or Twine, for

that matter, that take hectares of space (sic!),

can elegantly be expressed with only a few

objects on a few layers in Cutting Room.

Presented at the PlayOn! meeting in November

2022 in York, Cutting Room promised

potential for a number of productions

planned within the project. The top interest

was from Theatre OBando and their next

planned production targeting their 50th

anniversary told through

the ‘lens’ of Ernst Bloch’s ‘concrete utopias’.

A workshop was organised in Berlin in

January 2023 aiming to understand how

Cutting Room could provide the framework

for designing this production. After the team

from York (Marian Ursu and Daniel Slawson)

provided an overview of Cutting Room and

some exemplary interactive stories produced

with it, the creative juices immediately

started to flow. Cutting Room provided a

common frame of reference and a common

vocabulary to everybody around the table.

The skeleton of the production became clear

already in the first day of the workshop.

Details and options were added in the second

day. We are confident that the next workshop

planned for June, in Portugal, will see us with

a detailed plan of the production and with a

working prototype.

In December 2021 Pilot Theatre and Theatre

Vårt met in Ålesund to explore microcontrollers.

The group listened to presentations,

typed code into software, wired-up

development boards, raised dramaturgical

questions, consulted with technologists,

created prototypes, and benefited from

international exchange and collaboration.

As a case study, Peter and Johannes, our

facilitators, shared with the group how they

have been using microcontrollers in their

project Invisible Cities, in Innsbruck, Austria.

They developed an interactive ‘performance

machine’ contained in a pizza box, as a

response to the restrictions of the pandemic.

It is an interactive experience, autonomous

and self-contained, which audiences can

order to their home, as if they were ordering

a takeaway. By interacting with the pizza

box via buttons which trigger the micro-

controller, audiences can share their own

experiences of living in the city.

Each theatre company wanted to explore

the technology in relation to their second

PlayOn! productions. Pilot were interested

to use it for Monoliths, a project which explores

the relationship between women and

the Yorkshire landscape. And, for Theatre

Vårt, this workshop gave them the space to

experiment with how this technology might

be used by performers in their production

Drømmespillet. How can a microcontroller

enhance the interactivity of a prop? By

creating an ‘input’to a microcontroller, a

person can interact with it. For example,

imagine if the object you picked-up suddenly

started playing music – how could this be

achieved? Theoretically, if a microcontroller,

sensor, and audio speaker were embedded

within a prop: a sensor could detect the

object being held by an audience member,

and then the microcontroller could trigger

the ‘output’ of playing audio. In this way, the

interactivity of a prop in a theatre performance

can be enhanced, either for a performer

or, more powerfully, for an audience

member or participant.

Perhaps the most pertinent creative uses

with this technology are for small-scale

interactive experiences and installations.

But the scope of this technology opensup

possibilities in all forms and departments:

unique props within traditional

drama; automated devices for gathering

audience feedback; and co-creation tools

within participatory projects and education

settings. We are truly inspired and excited

to see how we can use microcontrollers as

creative tools, now and in the future.

An interactive detective game

This “detective game” is built on digital interaction is a one-of-a-kind enterprise in the Hungarian theatre scene. The

spectators themselves shape the storyline with the help of a mobile phone application, thus influencing the plot by

way of their votes throughout the entire play. The odds are high: are we to choose security or freedom, control or a

future full of hazards?

Kinder- und Jugendtheater

Dortmund (DE)

The future

An interdisciplinary

developed play

Let’s have a look into the future! But we are

facing a future that seems to be chaotic,

over whelming, and disturbing. What are we

connected to? What does our reality feel like?

Are we lost to the world? Is the world lost to us?

Landestheater Linz (AT)

Do you have time?

Science for kids

Alex must have missed the time. There's no other explanation for why he doesn't show up for the performance

- he's usually so reliable. Without further ado, the props assistant helps pass the time until Alex arrives. A story

unfolds, in which questions about time are answered in a playful and researching manner.

Pilot Theatre (UK)


Virtual Reality Experience 2

Three stories open the world of the English northern landscape in virtual reality, what it means to come from it,

live in it and belong to it. At once imaginative and immersive, this VR experience is an arresting testament to the

inextricable link between person and place.


The performance can only be visited individually.

Theatre OBando (PT)


Nomads tells the story of a woman (Annuszka) in an urban context, entangled in every day life, who, from the

moment when she meets an indigent homeless woman (Galina), abandons her family and spends the following

months traversing metro lines, travelling non-stop, refusing to go back home.

4 5

PlayOn! promises “New storytelling with immersive technologies”. To reach this ambitious aim the partners go

through three production periods. After exploring new models of participative storytelling by including gaming

elements into their first productions, they spent the last year working on a second production. The new approach

to storytelling that was gained from the first productions was integrated with immersive technologies for their

second productions. Supported by the digital departments of the university partners, the theatres produced a

variety of innovative and impressive productions that incorporated their previous learning and experimentation.

OBando’s ‘Nomads’ explores the intersection

of human interaction with that

of technology. Some questions to João

Neca, director of the production:

Tell us where the inspiration for this

project came from?

Nomads is based on the short story of

Olga Tokarczuk (Nobel Prize in 2019) called

Bieguni. In her amazing words and narrative

we found the inspiration to connect it

with a political and artistic reflection about

the relationship we have with technology

alongside the topic of surveillance.

How did you find the process of

creating the project?

We tried to design a process that was really

open at the beginning, organising three

artistic residences during 2022 (5 days in

Oct, Nov and Dec) to allow all the artistic

team to open more avenues within the

initial concept. After that, from mid February

untilApril 2023 we will be in a continuous

creative process with lots of open rehearsals

to test and clarify the relationship with the


Productions based on

Immersive technologies




What was your biggest challenge when

creating the work?

It's hard to say one of them in the middle of

THE FUTURE is a play that refers

to the current situation of mankind. Young

people are facing a future that seems to be

chaotic, dark, overwhelming, and disturbing.

During the pandemic, we expanded even

more into digital worlds where we find no

structures and ways to connect, and where

we can also get lost and alienated. But what

will the upcoming society be like? What are

we connected to? What does our reality feel

like? Are w e lost to the world? Is the world

lost to us? Have we ever been modern? Who

can we trust? What can we hope for? Is the

bubble we live in going to explode?

The aim is to develop a collage of voice,

body, sound, and setting to depict the simultaneity

of digital environments. How can we

face the current situation and look into the

future with courage and joy?

a big and complex project. I'll say the biggest

challenge is that we don't let the technology

and its amazing possibilities lead the artistic

decisions. We make theatre and we want

to continue to do that using technology to

improve the audience’s experience.

How did audiences respond?

We still haven’t premiered the show (13th

April will be the big day) but in the open rehearsals

we had the audience respond very

well, putting forward a lot of good questions

and enthusiastic expectations.


THE FUTURE is an interactive play produced

by the KJT (Children and Youth Theatre) in

cooperation with the Academy for Theatre

and Digitality.




VAT Theatre’s production ‘Vivaarium’

premiered in January 2023. The show

was interactive and immersive for audiences

as they were split into groups

and used a custom built app to help

experience the story.

Tell us where the inspiration for this

project came from?

The initial push for the topic echo chambers

came from director Helen Rekkor. She felt,

that the corona years had pushed society

even more into private little “holes”, where

extremes can flourish. So the main dramaturgical

mechanics of our production was to

divide audience members into groups and

then feed them their own preferences in an

exponentially extreme way – and then to

observe, if they would react. And oh boy,

how they reacted!

How did you find the process of creating

the project?

We tried to follow the structure, that

PlayOn! suggested us: we took more time

to experiment with different technologies

and really test out various playful ways

to engage audience. Sadly in the end we

couldn´t use motion and movement tracking

for this production, but we really hope to

incor porate it into our next projects. We

had many audience-tests before the official

shows – they were truly vital for getting

every aspect of the show working.

What was your biggest challenge when

creating the work?

There were many unknowns and that made

us quite unsecure. For me the biggest fear

was, that we allowed audience members

to use their personal phones. Would the

app work in every phone? Will people stay

focused on our show, when they have their

phone constantly in their hands? Etc.

Now looking back I have to admit, that most

of my fears never really became reality. I was

amazed, how well in the end all the aspects

of the show worked together and what an

experience they managed to create.

How did audiences respond?

I was pleasantly surprised, that so many

people came. We played 10 official shows for

100 people a night and we had almost every

show full (plus the tests beforehand). We got

a lot of feedback. People wrote us letters, describing

their experience. The show was often

called: birth of a tyrant (an idea, we had from

the beginning, but that we never really spoke

out in the show). It seemed, we hit the right

spot with the timing – the war in Ukraine and

the elections in Estonia really heightened the

sensibilities of the audience, when it came to

echo chambers, manipulation and propaganda.

We often received feedback, that this

kind of engagement of the audience in the

show was really liked, again disproving the

myth, that Estonian audiences only want to

sit in the shadows.



The story is cult: a natural science student

decides to create a human being. The

experiment is an unexpected success: The

Creature is born, beautiful and strong. Its

creator, however, despairs. He is afraid. Why?

We discover that the author, Mary Godwin

Shelley, is not entirely comfortable with it

either. Indeed, throughout her life she denies

and downplays her work and her interest in

it. The answer? The Creature is the Book. The

play is an original reversal of the way we look

at Mary Shelley's work. This production tells

of a time when being a woman and an artist

could be a problem, when giving birth to

books instead of children or cohabiting with a

man instead of marrying him could be "monstrous".

The show is a dreamlike journey into

the novel and into the inner life of its author.

It is an immersive journey with holograms,

video components, wireless headphones,

and the Binaural Dummy Head, an innovative

microphone in the shape of a human head

that reproduces sound in 360 degrees.


Dream Game

Join a mysterious journey where adventurous

costumes, lights, music and technology

create exciting surprises. What is

dream and what is reality?

Agnes is almost a teenager. She’s ended

up in a huge house where there’s a weird

little family. How did she get here? Inside

the house, the strangest things happen, and

Agnes meets strange characters – as in a

dream. She also meets Alfred and Jenny.

Together they discover puzzles and problems

that need to be solved. As the pieces

fall into place, their view of the surroundings

– and themselves – changes forever.

In Dream Game, you are invited on a journey

into a universe of colourful characters. We

get a chance to see reality in completely

new ways. Life’s both small and large, and

questions are answered with children’s

curious views of the world.

With Dream Game we wanted each

character to have their own soundscape

that moved with them. We discussed how

to do this in workshops and with ourselves

in detail, and after considering and testing

microcontrollers we chose to use a system

Landestheater Linz was inspired by PlayOn!

to do three projects instead of one. Each

has its own agenda, technical implications

and challenges. Inspiration came from many

places: With Hast du Zeit? (Do you

have time?), we wanted to find an artistic

way of looking at how science works – as

it has both an impact on and solutions for

the problems of our lives and time. Speaking

of “time”: Time became our main focus. How

does it work? Where does it come from?

And how can we research it? With Putsch

(Coup), the main attraction was probably

to work with Das Planetenparty Prinzip –

of iPod Touches connected to a portable

wireless access point. Then we used OSC to

trigger each iPod. Using iPods also enabled

the actors to control their own sounds,

if required. Portable lighting was also

embedded in some costumes and props

a Graz-based performance group that already

created grand scale theatre games, where

audiences take on assigned roles and perform

themselves. Together, we want to bring

a theatre game to life during the upcoming

SCHÄXPIR Festival in June. Hast du Zeit? and

Putsch (Coup) are both projects with quite a

few collaborations and different artists feeding

into the performances. Naturally, it is a

challenge to bring everyone to the table, but

at the same time the process is gratefully enriching.

Learning e.g. how others approach a

theatre play which borders on being a LARP

(live action role play) will hopefully again

feed in other creative processes.

The first of our new projects is, at the time


1984. Ministry of Love

No past. No choice. No future.

Year 20?? Before the court at the Ministry

of Love, people describe their relationships

with erased family members, who were

recognized by the System as enemies.

There are two interrogators. During the

performance, the Ludowy Theatre be comes

the Ministry of Love. The viewers and the

using small portable wireless LED controllers.

This also enabled us to integrate the

lighting into a show where each character

carried their own soundscape. Altogether,

the actors created an overall atmosphere

of lighting and sound.


of writing this article, already finished.

With Pinocchio A.I., we started with

the question how personality and society

interact: Where does the one clash with

the other? How does society shape our

actors will become active participants of

a dystopia which, thanks to the support of

new technologies, allows them to enter

the plot and influence its course by taking

the role of the Big Brother. The audience's

voting has a real impact on which of the

characters is questioned and in what order.

These choices influence the plot of the play.

personality? To answer this, we tried to

devise a branching narrative, where choice

had an impact. All the decisions made during

the play form a personality, therefore, each

performance forms one specific character

for the A.I., who is the main protagonist, and

through whose eyes we see the story unfold

(the A.I. part is a theatrical trick; all decisions

are made and programmed by humans). The

story was divided into different sections –

some decisions had an impact not only on

the character, but on the overall mood of

the classmates and the story’s progression.

The other challenge was technical:

Pinocchio A.I. would be played on our online

They constitute a sort of attack on human

memory and games that one plays with it.

They show different perspectives from which

we perceive the past. Reality appears here as

a kind of ambiguous, fragmented structure.

The viewers make an effort to integrate this

world in their heads and tell the story to

themselves in the clearest and most orderly

way possible. The recordings and drawings

of children from the past that are appearing

on screen only make the story less clear and

more ambiguous. Thanks to the synergy

between the structure and dramaturgy of

the story with new technologies, the viewer

can experience the rules and mechanisms of

functioning in an oppressive, authoritarian

state in an immersive way. By voting,

viewers take the responsibility that they

would never want to take in real life, which

creates a sense of guilt, and in in the end,

it is subject to manipulation of a typically

authoritarian, oppressive world in which

each seemingly independent and free choice

means being "sucked" into the rules of the

totalitarian system.





A coproduction from Kolibri Theatre (HU),

University of York (UK) and

Theatre Ludowy (PL).

This “detective game” that is built on digital

interaction is a one-of-a-kind enterprise in

the Hungarian theatre scene. The spectators

themselves shape the storyline with the help



of a mobile phone application, thus influencing

the plot by way of their votes throughout

the entire play. The odds are high:

are we to choose security or freedom,

control or a future full of hazards?

The topic of the show is the growth of

surveillance technologies: the girl is in

danger, hiding from both her hotshot

mother and a mysterious human rights

activist. She feels that every step she takes

is monitored. Shall the girl become a

heroine or a traitor?” – the question is raised.

“netstage”. 98 videos had to be shot, cut

and fed into OBS, which then again sent its

output to Zoom. Balancing sound and video

with decent quality was more difficult than

balancing the game mechanics. The live part

was mainly carried by the actor playing the

scientist, during whose research project the

audience takes control over the A.I.. The

short time where e.g. a school class had to

debate whether they lead the character

one way or the other was actually the most

enjoyable part of the whole game. Here

lies the main allure of these formats: If the

audience has an agency, their own performance

becomes the main attraction.

6 7



// 3-days hackathon on storytelling with technology in theatres

// aka "Digital Campus"

// March 30th -- April 1st 2023

// Theatre Ludowy, Kraków, (PL)

"Hold on tight! Wait! I... I've been here

before! ...but something's changed. This

building... it has been here before, but now

it's... it's kind-of new! Is this the new place

to tell our stories? What happened to our

old place? Where is it? Or, more precisely,

when is it?"

Unknown time traveller at Theatre Ludowy,

in 2023.

has stayed the same is their target audience:

kids and teenagers from the neighbourhood.

They play ballgames or hide-and-seek outside

the Ludowy, have a beer as soon as they're

allowed to (or a bit earlier), and connect

themselves with friends on their smartphones

thanks to the free wifi from the


But how do we get these young people inside

the building? Which stories do we want

to tell them? Which media do we use to tell

stories for them? Are these stories told

inside of the building or should we tell them

outside? Do we want the kids and teens

as our audience, or do we want them as

creators on stage?

To explore the answers to these questions

PlayOn! hosted a three-day hackathon

on-site in Kraków. During the hackathon

students from the netword theatres and

their partner universities gathered in small

groups. Their skills ranged from students

of computer science, engineering, theatre

directing to animation, and other disciplines.

They were be provided with projectors,

sound systems, lights, tablets, lasers, fogmachines,

motion tracking cameras and

tons of ideas on software and services.

The framing of the hackathon allowed the

students the space and time to tell stories.

Productions based on

Immersive Outreach


After working on productions using gaming elements (first production) and immersive technologies (second

production), the third phase will see the theatres leave their safe environment of the stage and look to apply

immersive outreach. In order to exploit all the opportunities offered by the new story-world-building, they

PLAY ON THE FUTURE The outlook of PlayON!

The theatres' third productions also mark

the final stage of development in PlayOn!

So far, the partners have gained experience

with interactive storytelling and the use of

digital immersive technologies. Now they

are asked to use their experiences to discover

the urban space and develop a production

that allows the audience to experience

immer sive, interactive theatre there.


Budapest Novel (working title)

With this aim, the theatres will extend

towards the public urban space and their

creative environment with relevant stories

by using new formats. To exploit all the

opportunities offered by the new storyworld

building, we want to explore how

we can engage our audience with points of

intervention and participation in the public

urban space. Immersive technologies offer

us a flexibility which enables theatres to

exceed limits of space and time. This is a

special challenge, especially considering

that theatres must tell the stories with the

audience in an urban space. Our responsibility,

as we see it, is to interrogate the im-

pact of new technologies on people’s real

lives, so our final productions will be developed

for locations specifically identified as

want to experience how they can engage their audience with points of intervention and participation in the

public urban space. The theatres are just starting this process, but even their first concepts promise that something

exciting and unusual will emerge.

being socially and politically relevant now or

in the near future: The Public Urban Space.

This is rapidly becoming digitally occupied

and commercialised: it has already started

to be a crowded virtual world. Theatres must

urgently make plans to take our place as

artistic mediators and provocateurs in this

new digital reality. With our final co-creation

we want to be seen by the young audiences,


A map to love

who have taken immersive technology for

granted as something that always exists all

around them. We will test this with young

people from all nine countries involved in

PlayOn! in autumn 2023 at Ars Electronica.

Young people will explore how urban space

changes in and through the virtual - and

above all, how the digital changes the

realities of young people's lives.

Dirk Neldner (Artistic Director of PlayOn!)

Shiftings in the space-time-continuum of the

theatrical landscape are more common these

days than you might think. Theatres are

facing the challenge of finding new ways to

tell stories to an audience that is continuously

exposed to stories delivered to their tiny

computers through the 5G network. Where

shall we meet this audience? And when?

The Scena Stolarnia building of the Theatre

Ludowy in Kraków, Poland, has been hugely

transformed in recent years and will re-open

this summer as a whole new space. What

The resulting content over two and a half

days was visually beautiful and made the

most of each new space int eh building.

Group 1 created a robot ‘guide’ to the lower

floor, who showed us scenes from his life.

They incorporated projection, sound, AI

generated images and QR codes to reveal

AR renderings of the robot’s history. Group

2 explored projection on the ‘wooden room’

and encouraged audience members to

‘grow’ a plant in the projection by interacting

with their specially modified watering can.

Group 3 in the top floor spoke about using

the ‘third space’ for young people, a place

where they could relax and socialise. The

room had projection, sound sensitive installations,

QR codes and a VR experience. Technology

was a large part fo the process but the

backgrounds of the students also meant the

storytellers and theatre makers work could

be seen in the display in each room.

The results were impressive considering the

timescale and enabled the PlayOn! partners

to leave feeling inspired by the work on


Budapest will be 150 years old in 2024. The

project Budapest Novel elaborates on local

stories and brings oral history, literature

and performing arts into play. The project

aims to find family stories from the past and

recreate them in the same spot. Audience

members can listen and look into the past

as well as imagining future events within the

city. The live performance (actors) combines

binaural sound, AR, and digital puppets.

These locations are not only unique but also

symbolic, where the secrets of the past lie

and the memories of things that happened

in the city are piled on top of each other.

These places also mean a connection with

the future because they will probably look


Extending stage reality

We are sure that our third production will

use technology to extend stage reality. We

don’t want to use tools like voting or video

recordings to achieve this. We want to create

a narrative structure that is only available

using an app or another special technology.

It must show viewers something more, let

them learn some secrets of the characters or

new facts from the plot. We can imagine that

it’s possible to achieve this using the space

of the theatre and the whole building, not

just the stage and the auditorium, making a

maze and let the viewers explore, get lost,

and then find a path thanks to special technological


the same in a hundred years.

Planned date of premiere: Spring 2024 (in the

framework of the Budapest Spring Festival)


Interactive, Augmented

Theatre Walk

"Who are we? Where do we come from?

Where are we going? What do we expect?

What awaits us? These introductory questions,

asked by Ernst Bloch in his book The

Principle of Hope, may also have been asked

by the Portuguese theatre makers of Theatre

OBando more than 25 years ago when they

decided to move from the capital Lisbon to

the rural area of Vale de Barris near the small

town of Palmela.

The audience is confronted with the essential

thoughts of Ernst Bloch in an interactive

walk through the extensive nature reserve

on the property of Theatre OBando, passing

through some of the most remarkable works

Actors, dancers and opera singers meet on

stage in our adaptation of A Midsummer

Night’s Dream, First Love – Ein Sommernachtstraum.

They will take on their roles as

lovers, fairies and craftsmen, who happen

to meet in the forest, where nothing goes

as it was planned. Deep feelings, flat jokes,

anarchy and chaos evolve.

In addition to our play, we want to send

the audience on their own quest for love,

or at least, on a quest for love stories. Real

love stories which have happened in Linz.

Therefore, we want to put all the knowledge

of the internationally acclaimed theatre.

Through augmented reality, earlier theatre

performances become visible again like

daydreams and the audience will experience

that we gained through our PlayOn! collaboration

to work and create a location-based

app, that will guide its users through the city

to various spots where people fell in love

with each other and reveal their stories. And

maybe, the ones who go on this quest will

find a romance of their own.

that it is important to learn to hope.

The premiere is planned for early October

2024 on the 50th anniversary of Theatre



The Quest (Working Title)



By Liv Heløe

The Fire will be an interactive theatre-event


PlayOn! first met at the Academy in Dortmund

back in 2021 where the fellows there

at the time presented their research. This year

(2023) has seen another set of fellows undertake

exciting research as part of the Academy’s

programme, sure to be inspiring to the

PlayOn! partners and all those curious about

digital innovation in theatre. On January 27,

The Academy for Theatre and Digitality hosted

its 7th Open Lab where fellows presented

the results of their five-month research. As a

collaboration partner of PlayOn! we aim to

expand theatre by creating digital synergies

between dance, robotics, extended reality,

and radio drama. Media artist Fabian Raith

created an interactive AR audio play called

A Bug That Eats Memories which questions

the digital preservation of familiar data. In

another showpiece, robotics took centre

stage. The duo Post-Organic Bauplan, consisting

of Salvador Marino and Josefina Maro,

performed Fase de Cicatrización - a live

dance performance using digital avatars and

robotic prosthetics, exploring the autonomy

we have over our own bodies. Sound artist

Jakob Lorenz and set designer Stella Lennert

hosted Palimpsest – ALL IS TRUE. A reactive

VR-installation where classic texts are staged

as a subtext while space and sound become

the main characters.

Pilot’s third production will be an adventure

through the city of York. We will be delving

into the theme of the climate crisis and

working with young people to understand

their thoughts, concerns and hopes about our city (York) and climate

change. We are still developing how we will use technology but we

are sure we want the experience to be interactive, playful and have

an impact on our city.

in two cities. Both cities have experienced

big fires: Ålesund (1904) and Molde (1916).

The performances are built upon the same

research but are fictive material and will be

adjusted to local conditions.

The Fire is made for an audience aged 12+

but is likely to also be for an adult audience.

The performance consists of three parts.

Part 1 and 3 are located in the theatre, and

in Part 2 the audience leaves the building

and is guided in the neighborhood by a

smartphone-app, making their way to an

exciting discovery.

Our hybrid theatre walk through the cities

will playfully connect sensual experiences with useful information.

Depending on certain answers, different ways to reach the aim will

show up. But all the routes lead to the final event for all participants:

a coming together in the theatre as a real event including the young

rescuers as active participants, not just as spectators.

We are sure that the production will be an unusual experience for

the young people. We will use their close connection to their smartphones

to tell them an emotional story of three girls, whose life was

shaped by a tragic event. An event that lives on in the minds of the

current residents of the cities and still shapes their identity.

two May 2023




New Storytelling with Nz.2



LINZ 2023



We live surrounded by technology. The

The PlayOn! theatres are developing their

technologies to explore concrete utopias is

sive experience, or using projection mapping

The ChatGBT, is an artificial intelligence

most frequent communication is no longer

productions under the thematic headline:

by creating interactive performances that

and other forms of digital media to create

chatbot. After ChatGPT became freely

between humans and humans, but between

Concrete Utopias in the Digital Age. "Con crete

allow audiences to participate in the creation

a dynamic and responsive environment.

available to the public on 30 November

machines and machines. There is no value

Utopias" refers to the book "The Principle

of the narrative. For example, a performance

At the same time, it is important for theatre

2022, over 100 million users had already

judgment about this fact. It is just a consci-

of Hope" by the German philosopher Ernst

might use social media platforms to gather

artists to remain grounded in the realities

signed up by January 2023, making it by far

ousness that activates thought and that

Bloch (1885–1974).

of the present, and

the fastest growing consumer application to

must lead

We are therefore

to ensure that their

date. We asked ChatGPT our question and

to concrete action. In the frame of PlayOn!

delighted that we

works are accessible

printed the answer here.

project, TO BIND is a theatrical event that

were able to interview

and meaningful to

aims to artistically reflect the action of linking

a widely recognised

audiences. This might

Ernst Bloch's concrete utopia corresponds to

the use of technology to 3 fundamental

Bloch expert for this

involve using digital

an attitude of militant optimism, perhaps this

values of life in society - Human Rights,

bulletin. How Bloch

technologies to

is a useful and hopeful attitude in these times.

Democracy, and Law - with about 50 young

would see the pro-

create works that are

people from different European countries.

cesses of realisation,

more inclusive and

We want to challenge young people from

Estonia, Norway, Hungary, Portugal, Italy,

in which the closer

determination of the

diverse, or to address

pressing social and


Austria, Poland, and the United Kingdom to

future is brought forth

political issues such

open their own Constitution, the General

groping and experi-

as climate change or

Newspaper 2 | PlayOn! New storytelling with

Law of each country. At first, we want that

menting, using Digital

social justice. Overall,

immersive technologies

the young people search for articles that

in theatre.

Bloch's concept of

Publisher Dirk Neldner

reflect on the use of technology. In a second

concrete utopia offers

Editor Odette Bereska, Lucy Hammond

phase, we ask them to write, in their own

PlayOn! bulletin:

a powerful framework

Layout & Design sign.Berlin

words, articles that they believe are import-

How can we use

for theatre artists who

Communications GmbH | www.sign-berlin.de

ant to regulate our relationship with techno-

Bloch's understan-

are exploring new

Printed by X-PRESS Grafik & Druck GmbH

logy and robots, for example.

ding of concrete uto-

forms of storytelling

Picture Index Jeremi Astaszow (PL),

During the Ars Electronica Festival we will

pias in theatre with

and experimentation

Jörg Metzner (DE), Birgit Hupfeld (DE),

promote a Young Lab to build a digital-robo-

digital technologies?

through digital tech ­

Lucy Hammond (UK), Klaudina Schubert (PL),

tic object that will have music and an associa-

Bloch's concept of

nologies. By em-

Anja Furthmann (DE), Florian Dürkopp (DE),

ted voice. This digital-robotic object will be

concrete utopia can

bracing the idea of

Marius Zschocke (DE), Luca Del Pia (IT),

the scenography of a final event where these

be a valuable tool for

a better future that

Gergő Bárdi (HU), Anne Marthe Vestre Berge(NO),

words can be written and perhaps printed

theatre practitioners who are exploring new

input and feedback from audiences, creating

is grounded in the realities of the present,

Diana Martins (PT), Rebeca Parbus (EE)

as a Constitution for Humans and Robots

forms of storytelling and experimentation

a collaborative storytelling experience that

theatre artists can create works that are both

© PlayOn! New storytelling with immersive

that will guide our future life in society.

through digital technologies. By embracing

is responsive to the needs and concerns of

inspiring and meaningful, engaging audien-

technologies is a European Theatre Network

TO BIND is artistically coordinated by

the idea of concrete utopia, theatre artists

the community. Another approach might be

ces in a dynamic and collaborative experien-

supported by the European Commission. The

Johannes May (Robot), Marius Zoschke

can create works that engage with pressing

to use digital technologies to create immer-

ce that has the potential to transform our

views expressed in this publication are only the

(Audio) and João Neca - Theatre OBando

social and political issues, while remaining

sive and multi-sensory environments that

understanding of the world around us.

views of the authors. The Commission cannot be

(theatre) inside PlayOn! - New Storytelling

grounded in the possibilities and limitations

transport audiences to a different world.

held responsible for any use, which may be made

with Immersive Technologies and will be

of digital media.

This could involve using virtual reality or

PlayOn! bulletin: Dear ChatGPT we thank

of the information contained therein.

presented in the frame of the Ars Electronica

One way that theatre artists can use digital

augmented reality to create a fully immer­

you for the interview.

Contact Odette Bereska | odette@play-on.eu

festival in September 2023.

Project Coordinator VAT Theatre | vatteater.ee

continued from page 1

Looking to the future:

PlayOn! in its final year.



streaming platforms to create interactive

performances that engage with viewers in

real time.

Overall, the future of digital storytelling is

full of possibilities, and I am excited to see

how artists and creators continue to explore

real spark of inspirations, sensations, practical

exercises and irritations. This was actually

an overload for all of us, which caused that

pleasant tiredness when you realise that you

are going through a development process.

over time and expect theatre to change with

them. But young people in particular have

developed a completely new communication

behavior that demands much more from

them as co-creators than ever before. Accordingly,

their expectations towards theatre

LH: What are your hopes for this final

year of the project?

DN: That the theatres become even more

courageous, that they get involved in the

digital challenges. To recognise the creative

This might involve using algorithms to

and experiment with new technologies and

Especially compared to our first meeting in

are different than in the past; participation

potential in it. But – as I said before – I see

generate unique storylines for each audience

forms of storytelling to create more dyna-

Tallinn in 2019, it was clearly visible in York

will play an even greater role in the future

PlayOn! on a really good path.

member based on their individual prefe-

mic and engaging narrative experiences for

that the PlayOn! artists were now talking

if theatres are to formulate their reasons

rences and interests, or using chatbots and


(almost) at eye level with the experts. In any

for existence.

I am looking forward to a new HOPE! hybrid

other forms of AI to create more dynamic

case, they were now able to ask concrete

format that we will try out in October 2023.

and responsive characters.

LH: Can you tell us about a moment in

questions, to put what they had experienced

Overall, digital storytelling has the potential

I'm really looking forward to the 9 producti-

this last year (perhaps a meeting) that felt

into a working context.

to reach new and diverse audiences, helping

ons and finding out what went wrong in the

DN: But also, the use of social media to

particularly significant for the partner’s

to expand the reach and impact of theatre

production processes, what was unexpected

create collaborative storytelling experiences,


LH: How do you feel Digital storytelling

as an art form. By embracing digital techno-

and how it led to a – hopefully – great result.

with audiences participating in the creation

for theatres can help reach new audiences

logies and experimenting with new forms of

Because only when we go through - often

of the narrative in real time. For example to

DN: Definitely the meeting in York, experts

storytelling, theatre companies can continue

painful - error processes we will reach the

involve using hashtags and other forms of

from the University of York shared their

DN: My first impulse to answer this question

to connect with audiences in meaningful and

limits where it becomes exciting for theatre,

social media engagement to gather input

knowledge in numerous workshops with

is to ask in return: Why do you mean new

innovative ways.

where it starts to surprise our audience, to

and feedback from audiences, or using live

the artists of our 9 PlayOn! Theatres. It was a

audiences? Existing audiences also change

expose them to the unexpected.

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