Shakespeare meets Stargate in global partnership
Monday 12 December 2016
When Coventry University drama lecturers teamed up with Finnish actors to bring English language Shakespeare experts to the global stage they came up with a collaborative sci-fi solution to bridge a 1,600 mile gap.
Experts at Coventry University and the Finnish University of Tampere created a giant ‘Stargate’-style digital window to allow two groups of students to act and learn together just as if they shared the same stage – an idea so successful it has now been crowned one of the best new education ideas of the year.
The wall-size ‘Shakespeare portal’ now brings performing arts students from Coventry and Finland into a shared acting space eliminating the costs global travel and doubling the size of the virtual theatre.
The pioneering technology developed between both universities has already made a major impact and won a Reimagine Education Award on December 6 after being shortlisted three times alongside innovative projects across the globe.
First tested through the Coriolanus Online project, the virtual rehearsal room made use of a mix of stage and skype technologies mirrored on both sides of the North Sea which allowed the students to make eye contact, match up voices from around the room, and see and speak with virtually no delays.
It is now hoped that the technology can be made fully portable to address the costs and environmental impact of global travel and bring any two institutions together to share expertise and teaching methods regardless of where they are in the world.
Tom Gorman, coordinator of the project at Coventry University said:
To win this award is absolutely incredible, we are delighted that all of our work in Coventry and with the University of Tampere over the past year has been recognised.
“In Finland they were looking at the teaching of Shakespeare and we were looking at online learning which is where the collaboration started. We wanted to find a way to work together without having to travel which is very costly and not environmentally friendly at all.
“The team in Tampere are expert at teaching acting through foreign language so they taught us a scene in Finish. And for us Shakespeare is so far removed from modern English it presented the same challenges for both sides in terms linguistically.
“This all started with video conferencing and exploded, what we needed didn’t really exist yet and we were told it wasn’t possible so we started experimenting and we ended up creating this virtual theatre in real space and real time. It’s very exciting.
“We merged video conferencing with theatre design and lighting all in one space. The sound is directional for each person and you can make eye contact so lots of people can all be interacting at one time. The time delay is minimal, barely noticeable so we really could do everything we could have done in a normal rehearsal space.
“It really is like walking into any room and the other side happens to be one thousand miles away. I thought there was anything new to discover in theatre, but this could be a real game changer.”
Mikko Kanninen senior lecturer in theatre at the University of Tampere, said:
Coventry University was interested in developing online teaching and they could offer us their expertise in Shakespeare so of course we were very interested.
“For us it was like these British students and teachers were actually visiting Tampere without flights costs. Everyone had normal work hours and the budget was minimal but we had a real international workshop on Shakespeare.”
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