The Virtual Stage embraces cutting-edge technologies

August 3, 2005
Vancouver, B.C. (For immediate release)

"Some people are afraid of what this means," says Andy Thompson, the man behind The Virtual Stage. "Putting emerging technologies up there on the stage in a play with live actors is tantamount to an invasion," he says with a forgiving smile.

He's discussing the purpose of his nascent theatre company and how they use the latest tools in digital video projection, computer animation and other emerging technologies to enhance the live theatre experience and engage a new and younger audience.

As part of its community outreach program the Playhouse Theatre Company is mentoring The Virtual Stage through a critical phase of its development. The young company has progressed from a loose group of like-minded individuals investing their time and effort at their own cost, to indie producer in a few short years and is now looking to make the next leap with its upcoming production of Thompson's new play Spank!

As Thompson describes it, the play is an "absurdist comedy" and is slated to go into workshop in May of next year and be mounted as a fully-fledged production at the Roundhouse in October 2006. That means he has months of work ahead investigating how emerging technologies will be used in the play in a way that enhances the storytelling, as opposed to dominating it.

"I've always thought that it would make the telling of some stories even more powerful", says Thompson. "My graduation project at Studio 58 in 1993 was my first virtual stage experiment, and it worked surprisingly well. Ever since then I've been excited about challenging the traditional boundary between film and theatre. It's largely an undiscovered country."

To help The Virtual Stage make that leap the Playhouse Theatre Company is providing guidance in areas such as logistics planning, arts administration, technical materials and opening up its vast store of props and on-site rehearsal space to the producers of Spank!

Says Glynis Leyshon, Artistic Director of the Playhouse Theatre Company, "We have established a strong tradition of mentoring promising groups at crucial stages in their development, including NeWorld Theatre, Boca del Lupo and The Electric Company. Working with Andy and The Virtual Stage fits in well with our contemporary mandate, because they are committed to developing and producing both new and established works that illuminate and educate their audiences on issues of contemporary relevance. Frankly, they couldn't be more up our alley!"

In the story, a lonely, renegade genetic researcher injects himself with a DNA-altering prototype intended to make him enlightened, only to learn that his life is not what it appears. As his genetic composition unravels, so too does this light-hearted romp to the heavens. Spank! is a meditation on the unlimited power of an underdeveloped mind: for the angel (and devil) in all of us.

The Playhouse Theatre Company, Western Canada's largest theatre company dedicated exclusively to producing works of the contemporary repertoire, was founded in 1962 with a mandate to provide the finest possible drama to audiences in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and provide education and outreach programs within the community. For more information, visit!