DRA 3907HF: Theatre and Emerging Technologies
CSC 2524: Topics in Interactive Computing: Graphics, Interaction and Performance in Immersive Environments (AR/VR/XR)


David Rokeby: Director BMO LAB, Media Artist (Email:, Office Hours: Wednesday, from 2 to 3 pm or by appointment.)   

Pia Kleber: Helen and Paul Phelan Chair in Drama, (Tel: 416.978.7483, Email:, Office Hours: Monday and Tuesday from 9 to 10am Wednesday, from 2 to 3pm pm or by appointment. Office: UC, A302)   

Karan Singh: Professor, Computer Science (   

Xavier Snelgrove, Research assistant, Email:
Cole Zemel, Work study Student

Time: Wednesday 3-5pm (mandatory for CSC 2524 students) 4-7 pm (mandatory for DRA 3907HF students).
Location: BMO LAB, Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies Koffler Building, 214 College St. (Entrance from St George St.), 3rd floor.


Students for this course should be enrolled for credit as either Computer Science CSC2524 or Drama DRA3907. For Computer Science students, some background in computer graphics, HCI and an artistic sense will be helpful. Students from the two disciplines however, will interact significantly and be evaluated on individual work, as well as and their contribution to a collaborative performance that will combine music, theater and immersive computing technology.

A guiding artistic theme this term is the use of rain in theatrical performance. This encompasses the computer generation and interactive control of rain in its various forms, its projection or rendering in the environment, reactive elements to rain such as splashes and puddles, thunder and lightning, and the analysis of physical rain to create an interplay with virtual rain. The projects for the course will be art+technology collaborations to be directed by Brendan Healy (Artistic Director of Canadian Stage) and Alan Dilworth (Artistic Director of Necessary Angel).

This interdisciplinary graduate course brings together scholars, artists, and students from Drama/Theatre, Visual Studies, Music, Comparative Literature, Engineering and Computer Science who are interested in the intersection between theatre and emerging technologies. The course will be taught by three instructors: David Rokeby (media artist and Director of the BMO LAB) and Professors Pia Kleber (Drama/Theatre/Comparative Literature) and Karan Singh (Computer Science). To accommodate interdisciplinarity while allowing some more focussed domain-specific instruction and discussion, the course is organized in two overlapping sessions. Students focussed on the computer science side will convene with Karan Singh at 3 pm for computer science-focussed material. From 4 pm to 5 pm there will be a communal session involving all students. The class will continue for those students not in the computer science section from 5 until 6 or 7 as needed. This part of the session will be more specifically focussed on theatre and arts practise. Students from any discipline who wish to participate in the full arc of the class, from 3 right through to the end are welcome to do so.

For students coming from an arts background the course offers direct experience working with immersive and emerging technologies and a chance to explore their applications to their research. For students with a technology background, the course provides instruction into interactive graphics techniques in immersive environments and the opportunity to integrate their research into an art-based, publicly presented project. The course exposes all of the students to rigorous interdisciplinary practices and their conceptual, practical and theoretical challenges through group discussions, concept generation, practical experimentation and research, and engagement with visiting artists. The course will culminate in a collaborative performance of various scenes incorporating the production aspect of rain on stage.

FINAL PROJECTS (well done all!)



Classes in this course will include a mixture of seminar-based and group discussion of the required reading, practical experimentation with relevant technologies and discussions about their potential applications and pitfalls, review of documentation of historical and contemporary uses of technologies in theatre, and within this framing context, brainstorming and workshopping approaches to the presentation of specific scenes of selected plays. The intention is to provoke a productive dialogue between technological research, cultural history, and contemporary creative practise.

The overall theme of the production aspect of the course will be 'rain'. The end of term production project will involve two scenes in which rain plays an important part. The proposed scenes for production are from the following plays:

Storm, by August Strindberg
Come Good Rain, by George Seremba
Flight over the Ocean, by Bertolt Brecht

The stagings of these scenes producing various rain-related weather conditions through technology on stage are not intended to be finished productions, but rather to draw us through theoretical and practical explorations of the potential uses of new technologies. The course is designed with an understanding that courses involving students of multiple distinct disciplines will require flexibility in terms of course requirements, expectations and grading strategies. At the same time, a willingness to engage across traditional disciplinary boundaries is a key factor in student evaluation in this course.


Instruction in class will be a mix of lectures by the instructors and accomplished visitors, class discussions, and student presentations.

The deliverables in this course are an exploratory prototype/presentation 25%, a research paper presentation 25%, and the collaborative performance project 50%:


Week Topic and Reading
1. Sept. 11 CS Introduction to XR
General Introduction to Course
Introduction of Faculty and Students
Discussion of the Structure of the Course, the Assignments and process of Evaluation
2. Sept. 18 CS Design and Prototyping for XR
Introduction to historical and contemporary ways of representing rain on stage.
An initial tutorial on the MaxMSP software that we use for a lot of our interaction design
reading: David Chapman - How should we evaluate progress in AI?
2. Sept. 19 12:00-2:00: presentation by Friedrich Kirschner, director of puppetry and software developer at the Ernst Busch University of Performing Arts, Berlin
3. Sept. 25 Introduction to the work and methodologies of theatre director Robert Wilson
Class trip to the production of Puccini's 'Turandot' directed by Robert Wilson at the Canadian Opera Company
3. Sept. 26 12:00-2:00: Conversation between Alexander Neef (Director of COC) and Robert Wilson with reception following (at BMO Lab)
4. Oct. 2 CS Sensing and control for Immersive Presence
Augmented and Virtual Reality
presentation of documentation of existing performance work using AR and VR
experiential presentation of AR and VR
discussion of applications of AR and VR to our production
An initial tutorial on the Unity software for 3D world design for VR.
reading: Steve Dickson: 'A History of virtual reality in performance'
5. Oct. 9 CS XR Optics
Projection Mapping
Documentation of relevant existing performance work using Projection Mapping
experiential presentation of Projection Mapping technology
discussion of applications of Projection Mapping to our production
reading: Steve Dickson: 'Multimedia Theater 1911-1959'
6. Oct. 16 CS XR Interaction Interfaces
Interaction and Immersive Environments
Documentation of existing works
experiential presentation of example immersive technologies discussion of applications of interaction and immersion to our production reading: Robert Wechsler: 'Artistic Considerations in the Use of Motion Tracking'
7. Oct. 23 Sound Technologies
Documentation of existing works using sound in performance
experiential presentation of example sound technologies
discussion of applications of sound to our production
8. Oct. 30 Motion Capture
Documentation of existing works using motion capture in performance
experiential presentation of example motion capture technologies
discussion of applications of motion capture to our production
reading: Kaisu Koski - Performing an Avatar
9. Nov. 6 Reading Week
Students are encouraged to continue developing their ideas and implementations for productions in their groups during Reading Week.
10. Nov. 13 Production Refinement and Rehearsal
11. Nov. 20 Production Refinement and Rehearsal
12. Nov. 27 Production Refinement and Rehearsal
13. Dec. 4 Public presentation of Production of the Chosen Scenes

karan singh aug. 2019