〇A balmy spring evening in the wasteland theater The company gathered for a rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet. Jonathan “Bram” Thomas was playing Romeo. A self-professed Shakespearean geek, he graduated with a BA in theater, and this wasn’t the first time he’d played half of his star-crossed lovers. But it wasn’t the first time a jeep-sized mutant, his scorpion, rampaged onto his stage.
The panicked show crew rained bullets into the blackened shell, but not before Juliet was stabbed. .
“It’s just one of them,” Bram shrugs, showing the refreshing nonchalantism of an actor now accustomed to this kind of problem. You come to expect them when you’re playing inside a video game.
The Wasteland Theater Company is not your average theater company.Dotted around the world, they gather behind keyboards and perform indoors fall out 76 is a video game set in a post-apocalyptic America after a nuclear war. The Fallout series is one of his most popular series in gaming, famous for encouraging players to role-play survivors in the strangely beautiful ruins of an alternate history Earth. As you explore the crumbling shell of a town hollowed out by an atomic bomb, tumbleweed scrapes away charred sand, rusty signs advertising Nuka-Cola creak in the breeze, and are irradiated to hurt you. I am always on the lookout for things.
Fallout 76 is an online open world. Players can travel anywhere they want and run into real-life strangers. With “Area Chat” enabled, you can even talk to passers-by on dusty roads and talk to each other via microphones. This opens up endless opportunities for user-generated serendipity. The Wasteland Theater Company is his one such experience. A delightful surprise that players stumble across in the desolation.
“Imagine a 17th-century wandering troupe traveling from town to town, giving very few performances,” says company director Northern_Harvest. “This is not a new idea. We’re just doing it in a whole new medium: video games.”
The company was founded almost by accident when North befriended a group of players in the Wasteland.While adventuring together, the Fallout game Sprinkled with references to Shakespeare’s worksA yellow sign in the school hallway advertises auditions for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The character shouts, “Again to the Cleft, dear friend!” Before venturing out from the safety of your home. In one quest, you meet a survivor who tries to keep Super Mutants off the path of violence by attacking them with Shakespeare recitations.
“The world of Fallout fits Shakespeare so well. It’s so bleak, so grotesque, so tragic,” says North. In this world, Shakespeare existed before the atomic bomb fell, so it seemed only natural that North and his friends could roleplay a company that keeps culture alive in the ruins of civilization. Like Emily St. John Mandel’s troupe of post-apocalyptic dystopian actors. station eleven.
It takes months to put the show together. First, North chooses a play and adapts it. Hundreds of pages of scripts have been shared with the crew so they can begin designing and rehearsing sets. “It’s like a real theater company. We start with an idea and then some people sit down together and figure out what our season is going to be like,” he says.
Between shows, the actors scour the Fallout wastelands for costume parts. “We have this workbench where you can craft gear,” he says North. “So, backstage during rehearsals, I’m like, ‘Kachin! Kachin! Kachin!’ And North, learning from the Scorpion incident, has hired security guards to protect the production. He threatens to blow up the stage with a rocket launcher in the middle of his performance, but most of the time he ends up watching half of Midsommar instead. Look, the audience sits in front of a computer screen and sees the cast in the play being the players, playing the players, and playing the players.)
There are no ticketed seats and the company makes no money. The majority of viewers just happen to stumble upon a performance in the barren land and either sit down and watch the show for free or watch it on his Twitch where the company broadcasts all performances live. Characters walk through a stage that is cantilevered together from objects in the game. Lighting cues provide ambiance. The soliloquy is delivered passionately. “You get nervous before a show,” she says North. “You get jitters just like in real theater. The emotions are very real and that’s what makes everything so real.”
2022 Fallout 76 claims to have over 13.5 million playersNorth believes some people “may not have seen a Shakespearean play. 99% of the people who find us will sit down and watch the show quietly… in their own area” It’s really inspiring to put on a performance for people who don’t go to the theater or who haven’t thought about Shakespeare since high school. It is ridiculously tickling to know that it might (re)introduce people to Some high school English teachers use us as an example to show students how Shakespeare can and should be performed in new spaces. I know you are using it.”
North emphasizes that his troupe’s plays are never intended to replace real-world magic. Instead, they’re what Blum calls “gateway drugs” for staging storytelling. After enjoying Macbeth in the wastelands, players may seek out a play at The Globe or support a local theater.Their video game performance could be a way to drive support The creative industry hit hard by the pandemic and now facing a cost of living crisis.
“What we are doing is really new, and we are expanding the possibilities of using video games as a digital performance space. We have Shakespeare Audio Podcasts, a Shakespeare troupe that helps people in the criminal justice system explore the arts, and here we bring Shakespeare into the vast game world.”
North says he found the whole experience of being on these shows life-changing. He now spends almost every night in Fallout, working on the troupe’s next play, this time he’s performing Alice in Wonderland. “In our annual article, we ask, ‘Do video games make people more violent?'” he says. “We think it’s a perfect example of how video games can inspire creativity and celebrate theater, culture and the arts. I hope other gamers will know that it’s very competitive.”
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