Audience participation at The Safety Show. Photo: Michael Boatright Photography.

Posted February 27, 2019

Last week the Georgia Tech’s DramaTech Theatre performed The Safety Show; a performance that blended virtual and augmented reality with theater. The show was a collaborative effort between the Office of the Arts and TSRB’s Augmented Environments Lab. Students were given cards with the prompt, “I feel safe when_____” which served as a springboard. The actors began developing the show without a script, relying solely on the responses they received from the prompts. Over the course of about a month, they devised the stories and personal narratives that where included in the show. The concept of the show is rooted in 2016’s “I Feel Safe When” campaign, which sought to increase the number of people and perspectives in campus conversations about safety by reaching out to students, faculty, and staff. Augmented and virtual reality were implemented into the show when Josh Fisher from TSRB’s Augmented Environments Lab and Melissa Foulger, the artistic director of The Safety Show, connected.

“Our vision was to include technology because it is a place where we hide to feel safe, or it becomes a place where we are not safe at all. As we move through the performance, the idea was to start extremely integrated in technology but to have it lessen as you dig further into the stories of safety — because the reality is that we usually need connection and community to feel safe,” Foulger said.

The Safety Show is improvisational, which means audience participation is involved. Because of the technological nature of the show, audiences where limited to about 20-30 for each performance.

“The AR used in the performance was slightly different than what has been done before,” said Fisher. “It was a shared augmented reality experience where every member of the audience saw the same media at the same time. Other performances have used AR, but what each audience member saw through their phones was unique to them.”

With its first performance in 1947, DramaTech Theatre is the oldest continually running theater in Atlanta.