Praxis Theatre is currently on hiatus! Please find co-founders Aislinn Rose and Michael Wheeler at The Theatre Centre and SpiderWebShow, respectively.
December 3, 2010, by

Is xtranormal the new internet theatre?

by Michael Wheeler

A few months ago, as part of a post on the internet and theatre, I concluded with a video made on the online storytelling site xtranormal about the irrational behaviour driving the sales of iPhone 4s. This video has gained a lot of traction, and in particular the sequence where all of the features of a different phone are mentioned while the crazed shopper continues to reply in a robotic even-keeled voice, “I Don’t Care.”

Today xtranormal viral videos made for free on the internet seem to be everywhere. No actors, designers, or live audience to worry about. Just you as writer/director and a cast that isn’t going to give Johnny Depp a run for his money anytime soon, but might run off with Hello Kitty if you don’t keep an eye on em. Below are the two xtranormal videos doing the rounds in the world of North American theatre and Toronto municipal politics – two of our faves in this space.

You should be on Broadway

Rob Ford’s Transit Plan (Note the adoption of the “I don’t care” meme in this video also)

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  1. Jamie says:

    These are fun! …but I don’t think they can be considered internet “theatre.”  I know some avatar-based online realms like Second Life have “theatre” that is “performed” in front of a “live audience,” but this is not that.  Here we have no live audience, no spontaneity, and no uncertainty.  Still, tons of fun.  Love the first one.

  2. Michael says:

    Hey Jamie,

    You’re probably right. I’m glad to provoke a response though. This idea of a “live” audience and its central nature to theatre keeps coming up for me. As performance and online tools become increasingly intertwined I think it will continue to be a big question.

    I am also quite curious about these Second Life online performances that may in fact be “live” because the audience that views them is also virtual. Where can I Iearn more?

  3. Jamie says:

    For sure.  I believe there is a fellow at York writing his thesis on the topic of virtual theatre, though I may have that wrong.

    I remember a year or so ago, I read an article on the London Theatre Blog about Second Life Theatre.  I’ve never been on Second Life, so I am not sure to what extent the “performances” constitute what we consider live theatre, but here is the article:

    The difficult question for me is this: does the audience just have to be LIVE, or is it the relationship between audience/performer that is important?  Ie, if the performer did not know, could not see, and had no knowledge of the audience, how does that change things?  What if the performance (live) was filmed in some back room at the theatre, and projected (still live) onto a screen in the auditorium?  It’s live for the audience, but as far as the performer is concerned, it might as well be a film shoot…  There was a performance of No Exit here in Calgary last year (I believe it was the Electric Company’s baby) in which the majority of the action took place inside a completely enclosed room.  This action was filmed from inside and projected onto the outer wall for the audience to see.  In this case, the Valet was present on stage throughout.  Still, interesting questions.

  4. Jamie says:

    (I assume the actors in Second Life Performances don’t have the ability to play off the audience very well, which is why I bring up the question).

  5. Michael Wheeler says:

    Hey Jamie,

    Thanks for the link. I will check it out and may poke around York. Do any of our readers know the person at York University doing this research?

    I have never been on Second Life either. Maybe this will push me to look into it as well. : Next week director Kim Collier and I (who directed the No Exit you mentioned) are doing having an online conversation to be posted in this space.  I’ll ask her about these issues and the relationship she found the audience had to live vs recorded performance.

    Thanks for writing. Enjoy your Mayor. All the pinkos here are jealous.

  6. Jamie says:

    Thanks!  Fun fact: an artist in town posed a question the other day to her Facebook friends about a show she is creating.  The first person to respond?  Our new mayor.   I love being a Calgarian for a change.

  7. […] the internet invented its own form of theatre? So asks Michael Wheeler on the Praxis theatre blog this week. He is examining the phenomenon of Xtranormal, a website that allows users to generate […]

  8. […] the internet invented its own form of theatre? So asks Michael Wheeler on the Praxis theatre blog this week. He is examining the phenomenon of Xtranormal, a website that allows users to generate […]