Virtue of Reality

Open world immersive theater show about mass consumption and protection of the environment

Client:

Thesis Project, Experience Desing MFA, CU Boulder

My Responsibilities:

Experience Designer, Theater Director, Scriptwriter, Costume Coordinator.

Why

Virtue of Reality characters and topics developed after months of talking about our wants, needs, fears, and concerns about the current situation in our world and society. We provided a space for the guests to think about their consumption and the way they participate in society. We wanted to offer a perspective, not a solution, to inspire guests to be more responsible with their actions.

How

A Sci-fi inspired open-world experience, where every room had a different feel, with distinctive aesthetics, topics, soundtracks, costumes and smells to completely immerse our visitors in the story. We built four distinctly different worlds. Our characters had intricate storylines, games, or tasks to keep our audience's sense of discovery alive. The experience was designed for a 45-minutes duration and about fifty people could play in the space at once.

Where

CU Carlson Gym at University of Colorado Boulder, became a completely explorable world.

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The Narrative

 

Vera Rev is a massive conglomerate corporation looking for stakeholders' support (the audience) for their vision of the future. Virtue of Reality is the rebel group that is in opposition to Vera Rev; using sophisticated time traveling technology they transported guests into the year 2060 to show them the consequences of Vera Rev's actions through the lens of three distinct societies feeling these effects, Binary Hills, District 7, and The Nest. Don't let VeraRev catch you snooping around their districts!

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Images from Binary Hill's World

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Gamifying the Narrative

 

One of my biggest challenges for this show was to create a compelling script that showed all of the messages we wanted to transmit which at the same time led the audience into different quests throughout the show. It was my first time writing and directing an open-world experience, I had to make sure that the storylines were understood no matter the order in which people experienced the show. Together with the cohort, we wrote the overarching story of the experience, but I had to move the audience through the four different words writing a fun but meaningful script as my tool! As research, I studied months of documentaries, ted-talks, scientific pannels, sci-fi movies, and articles on indigenous tribes, technology, the future of medicine, and nutrition, globalization, and the pros and cons of pharmaceutical companies.

Directing the actors was my second biggest responsibility in this project. None of the college students had done immersive theater before. I gave workshops on viewpoints, improv theater, and sensory theater to prepare them for their roles, as well as guide them to find ways to build empathy and trust with the audience. They had to lure and hook the audience into doing different tasks while keeping in character and delivering a compelling narrative. They did a fantastic job! Each actor had to know everyone's role so they could react to any information given by the other character to the audience. It was so much fun!

Directing

World Build

  • Guests would fill out a questioner about their consuming behavior while we played this video in the background of the waiting room! 

  • We created VeraRev's brand which was really important for world-building, there were branded products and marketing everywhere in the space.

  • There were ipads with videos and notes hidden all over the space with part of the story so the audience could find it!

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Set Dressing

  • For me, it was really important to use as many natural fabrics and real plants and soil as possible. The audience should feel immersed in an all-natural world. Smell plays a big part when reaching the audiences' subconscious minds, I paid a lot of attention to these details.

  • Erin Carlson designed all of our interactive design elements.  The fireplace was my personal favorite, it would create different light effects in the fire when people sat in the different tree stumps. 

 

Audience Feedback 

Click on notes to enlarge

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​                                                               Key Takeaways

  • Some people love to be involved in the stories; next time I will introduce more tasks for people to discover. It could be great if people had the choice to get the overarching story of the show, just by following one character of their preference.

  • Always be mindful of the culture of the people you are designing for and your collaborator.

  • Have activities for people who are introverted or don't feel like they want to interact with the actors. Tell the story in many different ways.

  • Marketing and branding are key for world-building when designing an experience.

  • Be careful how you market an experience; don't focus your marketing strategy on one element because if you have to change your creative choice; patrons' expectations could be hard to meet.