Students from Weston-super-Mare and Las Vegas have taken part in what is thought to be a world-first performance: producing a virtually linked transatlantic stage show. Students from Wessex Academy of Performing Arts (WAPA) at Weston College and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) performed their show Time Lapse simultaneously with 5,000 miles and an eight-hour time difference separating the two casts.
Ged Stephenson, Weston College’s HE curriculum co-ordinator for performing arts degrees, said: ‘There were no time delays in the visuals and only a very slight one in sound. The video link was done using ultra-grids, which are really advanced computers that have been created by UNLV.’
The partnership between WAPA and UNLV was established 18 months ago when Weston lecturer Sylvia Lane approached UNLV about forming a relationship between the two organisations. Last year UNLV’s professor of acting and professor of dance visited Weston College to run masterclasses for students, which formed the basis of the Time Lapse joint performance project.
Stephenson explained some of the challenges faced when developing the project: ‘Clearly, there were many technical difficulties/challenges that our technical team had to overcome. On top of this, we had to establish a working pattern that allowed for the fact that half of the company was in Vegas and the other half in Weston. Furthermore, most rehearsals needed to take place after 5pm UK time due to the eight hours Vegas were behind us.’
The practical logistics were not the only challenges to be tackled by the transatlantic group: ‘The UNLV students were not used to devised theatre. It is not something regularly taught in America. Our students use it every day. This meant that tasks we set the cast seemed natural to our cast but unusual, initially, to the UNLV cast. Gradually, we all worked out a way of dealing with this to allow us to develop an intelligent and well-structured piece of devised theatre.’
Time Lapse can be viewed online at http://unlvtv.unlv.edu/live.htm.