The School of Transformation Correspondence - Interview with director Steinunn Knútsdóttir

08. May 2013

mouth of transformation

The School of Transformation Correspondence is a new interactive web performance where the audience enters the role of the actor in a private online performance, by enrolling as a student. The School of Transformation Correspondence is produced by WebTheatre company Room 408.
For more info and enrollment please click here

Room 408 is an online theatre venue based in Reykjavik and is one of the first theatre´s worldwide that focuses on digital performance and has specialized on exploring the web as a place for performance and performance making. Room 408 was established in 2009 by Steinunn Knútsdóttir and Hrafnhildur Hagalín. More info on Room 408 available here

Performing Arts Iceland interviewed its producer Steinunn Knútsdóttir about the School of Transformation Correspondence as well as on the future of the WebTheatre...

The School of Transformation is your third major online theatre performance. It is set up as an online self improvement program that promises a transformation of your inner self . The piece is based on a live performance performed by actors with the participation of a live audience in a theatre. How do you define this online interactive piece as a theatre?

School of Transformation was originally a live performance in a physical theatre space where we were looking at how identity and consumerism unfold online. We invited the audience to enter a classroom situation where they enrolled as students and went to class. We wanted to teach our students to become more responsible and realize the concequences of their actions, with a focus on the escalating insanity in the virtual world of the internet. In the performance you followed the progression of the characters in the physical world and online, from being innocent into being dangerous to them selfs and to the world. In the correspondence school, the online version, we have turned the audience into the main actor, he has replaces the actor and is now the hero of the play. The physical space of the theatre is substituted by the virtual space, the characters substituded by cartoon figures and the main acts are performed by the audience. The online piece is a fictive reality where we have set the rules according to our purpose of telling a certain “story” a view or an opinion and the student/audience move within this reality. Already in the transition from taking the piece from the physical space online the whole presentation alters and the form changes drastically but we still call it theatre. The core questions are the same but the focus in the online piece is on the audience and his inner journey to transformation.


Where do you see webtheatre in relation to the more traditional theatre?

Webtheatre is an extention to what theatre already has to offer, an alternative to the mainstream. I do not think that webtheatre will or can replace our theatres or threaten the existence of live performance, it may even strenghen it. We hope that by entering our webtheatre, people, that do not usally go to the theatre, might become curious about the artform and actually turn up in the flesh to the next live performance.

Room 408 investigates human behavior online and with The School of Transformation you keep this investigation ongoing when at the same time it is an innovative webtheatre, where do you see Room 408 going with this continous research both in relation to previous works and to the School of Transformation?

We have been playing with different ideas since we started. Originally we got funding to make online radio drama but when we started to work with the internet a whole new world opened up with endless possibilities. We could tell the story from different angels at the same time using the implicit interactivity of the internet. Already in the first piece we started working with live webcast and connecting distant performance spaces through skype. In Glaciers our second big production we had performances going on in four different corners of Iceland together telling one story, based on online activities and communication through the internet; facebook, skype, google chat, mail and so on. There we had live broadcast from all the places through the internet to a cinema and of course to our webtheatrespace
In all our pieces we have been true to the live aspect of the theatre, we perform with both online audience and physical audience on site. But it has been equally important for us to create an interactive webpiece exctending the live performance where the audience can roam freely through the multilayered presentation. It makes the piece last longer. Then liveness lies in the encounter of the audience with the piece when entering the world of the webtheatre. It becomes what we call participational theatre.


Is this investigation important for the development of the performing arts?

Digital media has affected our world in a fundamental manner in the last decades and is intertwined into our lives. The computers and smartdevised have become prolongations of our identity, our Self. It is evident that this development will affect how we make art as it affects all other aspects of our lives. It is inevitable that digital media enters with full force into the theatre. It already has. So yes, it is important that we are open to what the digital media and the internet can add to the performing arts. I would like to see our scenic language become richer.

Do you see you current project develope any further, perhaps into something more or different?

Our research and interest has been on different levels and is a never ending story. We want to trace the stories that unfold on the web and follow how human nature and behavior take shape in the virtual world of the internet . At the same time we are playing with the web as a performance space and a channel into and between physical spaces. We are interested in how our behavior changes when planted in front of the screen with mouse in hand, always one click away from a new opening. So the topics are endless and the project can take us anywhere. We are still discovering the wonders of the world wide web. The only restrictions are time and money.

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