Romeo + Juliet in Second Life: The Year in Review

Harvey and me - Artistic and Technical Directors of Romeo + Juliet - Photo by Strawberry Singh
Harvey and me – Artistic and Technical Directors of Romeo + Juliet – Photo by Strawberry Singh

This Saturday, December 14th at 1pm SLT, we’ll be performing Romeo + Juliet for the last time in 2013. As is customary at this time of year, I’m looking back to share some of Company’s and Production’s achievements in its first year.

Note: I’ve tried to include as many pictures in this post from guests that have supported us along the way; so, this post isn’t only long, it’s image heavy! So sit back, grab a warm one, and relax as we take you on our theatrical journey of 2013!

Photo by Alexa Maravilla
Alexa Maravilla watching Romeo + Juliet. Photo by Alexa Maravilla

28 weekly performances and hundreds of guests

The performance we have scheduled for this Saturday at 1pm SLT will be the 28th weekly performance of the show that premiered on April 27th, 2013. Over the ten months it’s been running, hundreds of guests have joined our live performances and we now have a subscriber list of over 1,200 Second Life residents.

Our brand new seats donated by a generous patron.
Our brand new seats donated by a generous patron.

February – April: We create Romeo + Juliet in just over two months

In collaboration with Purdie Silkamour, who wrote much of the voice-over verse with Harvey and I, we first wrote the treatment and chose the 20 songs used in the production soundtrack. I led casting and choreography while we built the sets and specified the costumes in March. I recorded all the voice-overs prior to final dress rehearsals in April. While we were at it, we built the Playhouse, featured here in a photograph by Whiskey Monday.

"The Cheap Seats" by Whiskey Monday
“The Cheap Seats” by Whiskey Monday

March: We create new technology for the production

Apart from having real creative input, Harvey met and exceeded the technical challenges of staging what we still consider one of the most technically advanced productions in Second Life. Simply put, this production, as it looks and works today, would not be possible without Harvey’s relentless drive for technical can-do-it-ness.

The meticulous Harvey Crabsticks at the controls.
The meticulous Harvey Crabsticks at the controls. (Photo by Nearly Doune)

Unsatisfied with the technology then available, Harvey created lighting systems, rezzers and set changers to switch our sets, a custom dance HUD for the performers.

Introducing the all-new Basilique Performing Arts Company Dance HUD. The ideal high-performance dance HUD built especially for dance performers. The HUD was scripted by Harvey Crabsticks. I designed the user interface.
Introducing the all-new Basilique Performing Arts Company Dance HUD. The ideal high-performance dance HUD built especially for dance performers. The HUD was scripted by Harvey Crabsticks. I designed the user interface.

He later put this HUD on the marketplace using an interface I designed. He then rewired the  stage so that we could both manage it with HUDs instead of an in world control panel only he could run, providing considerably more flexibility, reliability and redundancy while performing.

April: The Opening Company premiers the production to a full house

The Opening Company
The Opening Company (photo by Strawberry Singh)

Nine players have played five parts in Romeo + Juliet including Cloe Nyn (Paris), Belice Benoir (Tybalt) and Amethyst Dovgal (Mercutio), Juliet Ford (Juliet) and me (Romeo) forming the Opening Company until September 8th. Even Harvey has jumped in to play Mercutio when Syn couldn’t make it due to an emergency. Every member of the Opening Company had creative input into choreography and blocking.

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As the show became more popular than even we imagined (we only planned 4 performances), the demands on the player’s schedules became larger. So, in June we decided to put out a casting call to make sure we could continue performing the show on a weekly basis – for as long as the crowds keep coming.

Romeo + Juliet - Company B - (Left to Right) Gwen Cosgrove as Paris, Trixi Violet as Tybalt, Harvey Crabsticks (Stage Manager), Canary Beck as Romeo and Syn Wytchwood as Mercutio
Romeo + Juliet – Company B – (Left to Right) Gwen Cosgrove as Paris, Trixi Violet as Tybalt, Harvey Crabsticks (Stage Manager), Canary Beck as Romeo and Syn Wytchwood as Mercutio – Photo by Strawberry Singh

Gwen Cosgrove (Paris), Trixi Violet (Tybalt) and Syn Wytchwood joined the cast on June 29th as a Second Company, and have assumed full-time leading roles since September. Most recently, we’ve been joined by Sonia Yeu (Tybalt) on August 31st. These players have shown up week in and week out for months, and their commitment and reliability has been legendary. In my experience, this level of pride in one’s work is extremely rare in Second Life. I’m proud of each one of them, and look forward to a healthy, creative and productive relationship for years to come.

June: Our poster is featured in New World Notes

Romeo + Juliet FINAL POSTER

We were honoured to have our “very clever” poster featured by Hamlet Au in New World Notes. One of Strawberry Singh’s Monday Memes, to “put your avatar into a movie poster“, inspired me to do the same for our production. Hamlet picked it up, and it generated a lot of attention for our show.

August: We raise L$67,428 for charity

Happy.
Happy.

On Sunday, August 11th, the performers donated all their tips for that performance to the Love Donna Flora cause, a personal fundraiser for raising funds to finance alternative therapies and home nursing care for the creator behind Donna Flora – Squinternet Larnia – who eventually succumbed to breast cancer. Harvey and I each matched the tips received, to raise a total of $L67,428.

August: Sim owners invite us to perform offsite

R+J 3 Bears
Our travelling stage at the 3Bears

The show has been so well received, sim owners have invited us to perform scenes of it elsewhere on the grid, a highlight of which was the 3Bears Foundation Arts Show on August 17th. In November, Monica Outlander of MiaMai saw the show and invited us to perform at her Black Label launch event “The Golden Thread”, which stimulated us to start planning our 2014 production.

August: Avenue calls Romeo + Juliet a “powerfully stunning work of art”

Page 235
Page 235 of AVENUE – Photo by Ziki Questi

On August 25th, AVENUE Magazine featured the production as the August Arts Feature, praising it as “a labor of love” full of “heart, soul and passion” with a “breathtaking set” and a performance that is a “powerfully stunning work of art” climaxing with Juliet’s death scene which is “hauntingly beautiful and almost painful to watch”.

September: We create a new preview video, present the show out of world and get listed on Wikipedia

Now having much more photography to work with, Harvey and I created a new preview video, which he presented at a technology and innovation conference in Canada.

As a side note, we are featured in Wikipedia under the entry for Romeo and Juliet under “Modern social media and virtual world productions“.

December: Audiences donated L$200,000 in player and house tips in 2013

Apart from the time, which everyone involved provided voluntarily, we spent roughly L$25,000 to produce the production (spent on sets, animations, and costumes). To date, audiences tipped L$122,602 to the players and L$78,310 to the house. We received 965 tips in total. The average tip amount an audience member gave was L$127.

Photo by Quan Lavender
Photo by Quan Lavender

December: We reduced running time by 42% in 2013

Photo by River Pearl
Photo by River Pearl

We are constantly updating and improving the production. One of our aims has been to cut the amount and length of fillers we use when changing sets and outfits between scenes. Fillers, whilst necessary in some cases, detract from the immersive feel we are trying to create. As a result of practice and efficiency, we have reduced our run time from the original 120 minutes to roughly 70 minutes – resulting in a noticeably faster paced show with fewer and quicker breaks between scenes.

Photo by Patrick Vitali
Photo by Patrick Vitali

December: Over a two dozen bloggers wrote 27 blog posts about Romeo + Juliet in 2013

Photo by Huckleberry Hax - who wrote our first review
Photo by Huckleberry Hax – who wrote the first review of Romeo + Juliet

Since opening, 27 blog posts about Romeo + Juliet were written by over two dozen bloggers (that we know of) from every corner of Second Life. Some high-profile bloggers have even mentioned participating in a production like it on their Second Life bucket lists.

The imagery in the show has inspired hundreds of photographs by amateur and professional Second Life photographers and machinimists alike.

Today: We’ve learned enough to completely revolutionise the way we plan and perform productions today

Another important result, we now have the knowledge and ambition to push things further for our next production, given the experience gained in pushing this one to its limits. The new production will premier in Spring 2014 – but more on that in a future blog post – this one has already been long enough!

Photo by Caitlin Tobias
Photo by Caitlin Tobias

The Future: What’s next for Romeo + Juliet?

We have scheduled seven more performances of Romeo + Juliet in 2014. The show will finish its winter run on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2014. We have several ideas on extending the themes and performances of the production to involve more audience participation, and will announce events around this as we confirm them.

Laurie 9
Photo by Laurie Murphy

Kudos and thank yous

In closing, I’d like to thank Harvey, my talented, tireless and supportive partner, in doing his very best in the many things he is very capable of doing.

Thank you too to all the performers, ushers and helpful hands, who are both no longer with us, and to those who continue to play their part with professionalism, punctuality and commitment every single week.

Photo by Caitlin Tobias
Photo by Caitlin Tobias

Lastly, thank you to the audience. Your attention and kind words of encouragement and praise are the fuel that keeps us going. I am consistently warmed by those of you who take a moment to comment to us either in public or private. I’m touched that so many of you have shared our emotion for this material and how we have interpreted it.

I’m proud that many of our audience members, who have come again and again to support our efforts, told their friends to join us, offered and provided free set pieces and advice, and have photographed and written about us to share on their blogs and social media accounts.

Photo by Bine Rodenberger
Photo by Bine Rodenberger

Without your continued support over 10 months, we would have stuck to our originally planned four-performance run (Imagine that!).

Photo by KinkyPixie Cheri
Photo by KinkyPixie Cheri

We see you, we respect you, and we urge you to follow us as we continue to better ourselves whilst providing the very best entertainment we are capable of offering.

Thank you all so much for your kind attention, and on with the show!

Photo by Caitlin Tobias
Photo by Caitlin Tobias

7 thoughts on “Romeo + Juliet in Second Life: The Year in Review

  1. I’d like to echo your comments, Becky, thanking cast new and old, the audience who joins us every week, and everybody that has been involved in some way with the production, no matter how small.

    Also Becky, your energy and enthusiasm for the project is infectious – you’re the heart and soul of the production, so thank you too!

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  2. I don’t go back to SL too often anymore but this certainly is a great reason to return. I’d love to see this. And in case you missed it, a few months ago I um… rewrote part of Romeo and Juliet… for SL. So… yeah. Ruined Shakespeare. 😉 But some of the actual meanings are translated to SL concepts… so it’s a fun read for anyone who likes R&J: http://jim.tarber.net/?p=302

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