Cyberformance uses online chat technologies to bring together remote
performers in live
real-time theatrical performance. Helen Varley Jamieson coined the term
in 2000 to describe live performance in graphical chat rooms on the
internet, and the use
of the internet to bring remote performers into theatre performances.
UpStage (Website: http://www.upstage.org.nz)
Launched in January 2004, UpStage is a web-based platform for
means everything happens in a web browser. Online audiences can
participate in live
performances simply by following a link with their browser - no
additional software is
required. Performers also do not need any additional software (unless
using web cams).
Performances are created in real time by multiple players, who combine
backdrops, avatars and props, text, text-to-speech audio, pre-recorded
MP3 audio files,
live web cam streams and live drawing. The audience interacts via a text
chat tool. UpStage is easy to use - children and adults can quickly learn the
basics and discover a
new form of creativity that is fun and engaging; and yet despite this
simplicity, it is also
possible to develop your skills to create sophisticated and imaginative
Introductory Workshop will give participants:
- an introduction to cyberformance, the historical context of the use of
the internet in live performance, and examples of work by contemporary artists;
- an introduction to UpStage and its functionality, including how to
on the virtual stage; how to make an avatar move and speak; how to use
tools; and basic concepts for creating a live performance in UpStage;
- tools and skills to continue exploring the medium beyond the workshop.
Extended Workshop begins with the introduction and then participants
Who should do the workshop?
- learn how to create and upload their own media (graphic and audio);
- reate short cyberformances (in groups of 2-4);
- perform their cyberformance to the rest of the group
- discuss this experience.
Extended workshops can be tailored to a particular groups' needs or to
The workshop will have particular appeal to theatre and visual artists,
new media artists,
digital story-tellers, students, and anyone with an interest in the
social and cultural use of
the internet. Participants do not need to have any specific skills,
however a level of
familiarity with computers and basic keyboard skills are desirable.
Participants do not need any specific computer skills; some basic
knowledge and typing
skills are an advantage, but UpStage has been used successfully with
young children who
cannot type. For the extended workshop, it is helpful if some
participants are familiar
with graphics and audio media creation, so that groups can create their
Previous participants have described it as fun, inspiring, addictive and
- introductory workshop: 3 hours;
- extended workshop: 2-5 days with half-day sessions, depending on how
group wants to achieve; it is good to have time off between sessions when
participants can prepare graphics and research and develop their story
Content - 3 hour introductory workshop:
- historical background to the use of the internet for performance;
- introduction to the technologies and concepts behind cyberformance;
- introduction to a number of artists and groups working in cyberformance;
- hands-on introduction to the UpStage environment and its tools
to use avatars,
backdrops, props and audio; drawing; other functionality of the software;
- how to create a cyberformance.
The extended workshop workshop begins with the introductory workshop outlined
Once comfortable with the basic operations of the software, the
participants will be
divided into groups of two to four people, and each group will work on a
within UpStage. Their task will be to devise a 5-10 minute
cyberformance, to be
presented at the end of the workshop. Depending on the situation, they
may be given a
specific theme to work to, such as the theme of a festival, a piece of
interest or local issue. The members of each group are not seated next
to each other, so
that as much as possible the work takes place online, in UpStage.
Research and development
Outside of the workshop hours, participants will be expected to spend
some time working
on their cyberformances; this could include researching an idea,
creating graphics and
audio files, or discussing ideas with others in their group. This is
important time, as the
workshop hours in front of the computer can be draining and the
performance ideas need
time to marinate and percolate.
Each group will perform their piece for the other participants, who will
watch it on their
computers and interact as audience members. The performances will also
be projected on
the screen, and - if participants are willing - advertised to an online
the presentations, there will be a discussion about the experience.
The workshop will finish with time for questions and answers, and
participants will be
given a list of URLs where they can learn more about UpStage and
Biography: Helen Varley Jamieson
Helen Varley Jamieson is a writer, theatre practitioner and digital
artist. She has recently completed a Master of Arts (research) at
Queensland University of Technology, investigating her practice of
A theatre practitioner since childhood, Helen has written, directed and
produced many stage plays. During the mid-1990s she began to work professionally in
the internet industry and this led to her exploration of live online performance. Helen
coined the term "cyberformance" in 2000 to describe this form of networked performance
that approaches the internet as a site for collaborative performance by remote performers.
In 2001, she initiated the[abc]experiment - a research project that explored the interface
of theatre and the internet and culminated in a live performance involving performers in
New Zealand, the USA, UK and Europe. This project spawned the globally-dispersed
cyberformance troupe Avatar Body Collision, of which Helen is a founding member.
Since then, Helen has given performances, presentations and workshops on
cyberformance at festivals, universities and arts organisations internationally. With
Avatar Body Collision she has devised and performed ten shows, and developed the
purpose-built online performance software, UpStage. The launch of UpStage V2 in June
2007 included a two-week interactive exhibition at the New Zealand Film Archive and
070707, a one-day festival of live performance in UpStage featuring 13 performances
created by artists from all over the world, which Helen curated and produced.
An active involvement with the Magdalena Project, an international network for women
in contemporary theatre, since 1997 has brought Helen into direct contact with the work
of many contemporary women theatre practitioners from diverse cultures. She has
worked with director Jill Greenhalgh (founder of the Magdalena Project) on her series
Water[war]s and is currently collaborating with a group of senior Magdalena artists on
Women With Big Eyes.
As an arts writer, Helen covered the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for three years (1998-
2000) and is a regular contributor to print publications and online arts communities.