Kick-off workshop and prototype development

An interdisciplinary kick-off workshop entitled “IM/MATERIAL THEATRE SPACES” took place in spring 2019 at the TU Berlin under the direction of Franziska Ritter and Pablo Dornhege.
the mediation of the immaterial theatre heritage was explored with the help of digital technologies such as virtual and augmented reality and several prototypical application scenarios were developed.

The DTHG project “Theatre Landscape” under the direction of Wesko Rohde and Hubert Eckart has made a sustainable contribution to the appreciation of the immaterial cultural heritage, to the construction and renovation of the theatre buildings in 2018/2019 in a series of symposia and a published guide. Within this framework, in cooperation with the Beuth Hochschule Berlin (Prof. Dr. Bri Newesely), the potentials of new technologies for historical and future theatre architecture were tested in several workshops – all in the spirit of the European Cultural Heritage Year “Sharing Heritage”.

Across universities, disciplines and countries, 20 participants from the fields of architecture, stage design, archaeology, computer science, art, design and art and cultural studies developed various conceptual ideas and prototypical realisations in six creative teams.

The detailed documentation of the workshop can be downloaded here.

Hereafter, the results are presented in a short version:
On the occasion of the European Cultural Heritage Year, according to the motto “Sharing Heritage”, we dedicate ourselves to the question of what potentials digital tools such as Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR) can generate in a museum and theatrical context and how accessibility to im/material “theatre objects” can be improved. We took two different perspectives on “theatre” and examined them using two selected theatre buildings as examples: the Komische Oper Berlin and the no longer existing Großes Schauspielhaus Berlin.

KOMISCHE OPER BERLIN: In order to grant a realistic application scenario, the Komische Oper Berlin could be won as a cooperation partner – a house  with a building history rich in traditional and events. It will undergo an extensive reconstruction and renovation process in the coming years.

Theatre as a space for discussion
By Alexander Walmsley, Johanna Rummel, Lotus Lien und Janik Albrecht
This project uses augmented reality to design a virtual social media interface for employees, the public, politics and specialist planners. The focal point is a
simplified architectural model of the Komische Oper, including the proposed designs for the extension, which is prominently placed in the foyer area. Visitors are invited before, between and after the performances to reply to the question using tablets provided at the table or to read contributions already entered in the app and assigned to the various areas of the theatre. The special feature of this virtual »guestbook« is that the comments on the AR technology are made visible not only in the model, but also in the physical space of the theatre rooms.

preSTAGE – Theatre as process
by Oliver Burkhardt, Jan Müller and Magdalena Dimanski
This project sees itself as a tool for improved communication in the work process in theatre venues. “preSTAGE” is an Augmented Reality Tool that improves the different steps of stage design planning. Using a tablet or holographic glasses, the user can virtually edit and comment on the first  versions of the 3D stage design models and take different perspectives on it. A comprehensive interface helps to identify potential problems and make quick changes.

FUTURE OF …LA BOHÈME – theatre as a Gesamtkunstwerk
By Takayoshi Goto, Maria Kobylenko and Maria Emilie Bürger
Using the example of Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Bohème”, the visitor puts together his very own mise-en-scène, using the example of Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Bohème” and thus gains insight into the complex world of the theatre with all its possibilities. As in a kaleidoscope with infinite combination possibilities, the parameters of stage design, sound, light and architecture can be put together in virtual space as desired. With a wink of the eye, anyone can become a director and stage designer themselves.

KOSMOS KOMISCHE OPER – theatre as a place to be discovered
By Claus-Peter Gabriel
This application enables a virtual tour through different rooms inside and outside of Komische Oper Berlin. It mainly takes viewpoints that are normally not accessible to theatre visitors, such as the area under the revolving stage, the props warehouse or the gable of the roof. Supplemented by text, audio and video contributions, as well as comments and anecdotes from the staff* the tour provides insights into the cosmos of the Komische Oper Berlin. For this project,  over 100 high-resolution 360-degree panoramas were recorded inside and outside the opera building.

GROSSES SCHAUSPIELHAUS BERLIN: The no longer existing icon of architectural history, which was designed in 1919 by the theatremaker Max Reinhardt and his architect Hans Poelzig in an expressionist formal language, celebrated its centenary in 2019. The following projects aim to make theatre heritage visible, enable participation, create historical awareness and improve accessibility to im/material theatre objects in archives and museums.

SKETCHING HERITAGE – Theatre and Architecture
By Mercedes Lozano and Anan Yoon Lee
The installation “Sketching Heritage” gives us an insight into the architectural history(s) at the site of the Großes Schauspielhaus Berlin. The focus here is on the medium of architectural drawing – sketches, floor plans and sections – which are made visible and tangible with the help of augmented reality. A surface that is modeled on the original building contours serves as a trigger for the augmented reality application. Three tablets allow a view into three striking time phases of the building.

ONE SHOW, TEN PERSPECTIVES – theatre as a place for stories and people
By Rebecca Eisele, Elena Kunau, Dominique Lauvernier and Lea Schorling
Shifting perspectives is the aim of this project. Visitors are whisked away to the Berlin of the “Golden Twenties” and experience a dazzling premiere evening at the Großes Schauspielhaus Berlin. The house can be experienced from different perspectives – such as the stage star or the theatre technician. During the ten-minute VR experience, the visitors meet in the virtual world in their various roles and can then exchange experiences in the analogue room. The project combines archive materials, such as posters, sketches or sound recordings, to form interwoven narrative strands.

DREAM ON – theatre as a space of illusion
By Jana Rohrsen and Sandra Fox
The VR staging allows the viewer to immerse into an unreal dream world with surrealistic images and absurd scenes. The mixed reality concept consists of three acts: At the beginning a classical exhibition scenario, then an emotionalizing VR dream journey and finally an exhibition room with a more in-depth scientific presentation. The combination of auratic original exhibits on the one hand and their contextualization through a VR experience on the other hand allows for a particularly strong identification with the exhibited objects.

Based on these prototypical ideas, findings and positive experiences, a new application for funding was submitted to the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and approved in September 2019. The research project “Im/material Theatre Spaces – Augmented and Virtual Reality for Theatre” funded in this way started on October 1, 2019 for a period of two years.

Special thanks go to the initiators and supporters of this workshop:
Prof. Zlatan Filipović, American University Sharjah
Sascha Sigl, Invisible Room Berlin with Markus Schmitz und Carl White
Marcel Karnapke, Cyberräuber
Max Kullmann, Stille als Luxus
Frank Köckritz, Komische Oper Berlin
Bärbel Reissmann, Theatersammlung Stadtmuseum Berlin
Annette Thoma und Albrecht Sensch, Virtuelles Konzerthaus Berlin