Creating Worlds: How to Make Immersive Theatre (Making Theatre) by Jason Warren
Genre: Non-fiction; Theatre & Performing Arts
For everyone wanting to get into making immersive performance art and not ‘just’ theatre, this is a book that will guide you through Warren’s own experiences, categorized by different ways of making immersive art and different aims for outcomes.
Warren introduces the book by telling the reader that it is not a rulebook or necessarily a “how-to” book, but rather provides insight into several different processes and aspects of planning and executing immersive performances. Warren tells us about failures and aha-moments, what worked and what crashed.
This is what really sets this book apart for me, as not just being scholarly oriented but actually being from the perspective of a practitioner, which makes it so much more accessible for those who haven’t studied performance art for years.
The book centers around a few chosen performance pieces and takes us through the different stages of planning, executing and afterthoughts for each type of performance. Warren splits the book into different sections;
- Starting out
- Living Spaces
- Living Choices
- Living Rehearsals
- Living Beyond the Performance
Each of them takes the reader into another level of understanding what makes immersive theatre and performances. Like Warren states “Creating Worlds [How to make immersive theatre] is concerned with the additional requirements and unique challenges that immersive theatre adds to the theatre-making process.” p. XV.
So you should not expect to be taught the basics of theatre making, but rather an extended version, where you get valuable insights into the processes of creating different forms of immersive experiences.
The Spaces, Choices and Rehearsals
These are the chapters that explain the mechanisms and the gameplay that needs to be in place for the immersive experience to happen. Warren uses these to inform us of how the audiences are likely to respond to various settings, rooms and interior design in terms of how they will be able to move through spaces and from one room to another.
Warren also makes it very clear, that a lot of choices will have to be made during the development phase and these choices will have a major impact on the piece and the audiences’ experiences. What I especially enjoyed about all these chapters, were the images and illustrations provided, to emphasize the text, which made it possible for me to develop my own ideas while reading, but also reach a greater level of understanding the challenges in making immersive experiences, because I could see what Warren was talking about, without having seen the performances referred to in the book.
The chapter about the rehearsals, mostly evolves around how to rehearse with various forms of material that is more or less immersive/influenced by the audiences, and thus serves to make you reflect on which parts of the performances to rehearse when and how. Specific examples are provided and it is a useful guideline and reminder, that no process will be the same, nor should the rehearsals be alike.
Living Beyond the Performance
Finally, Warren gives us tremendous insights into some experiences following the pieces used as examples in the books. How the audience relate to the performance before and after the actual showing/performance is just as important as it contributes to the whole immersive illusion of the existence of a world that you created.
Here it is laid out with examples and details, how extra materials either in the form of flyers, programs, toolkits, websites and YouTube accounts, can act as an extra (p)layer in the experience, linking the performance itself to the audiences ‘civil life’ before and after the performance. Warren stresses how it helps build an anticipation and set the mood as well as help explain some of the rules and boundaries, of the world the audience is about to enter.
So is it worth it?
If you’ve made it this far in my review, congrats and thank you for reading! With that said, I must say this book is definitely informing, informal and inspiring as well as easy to get into – I read most of it on the plane from New York to Denmark in the middle of the night, and I was brimming with ideas for new projects. It felt to me like Warren was being very earnest and real about the experiences and thus had collected some thoughts for the rest of us to start from, with our own projects.
I can absolutely recommend this, to anyone interested in the subject, as it gives tremendous insights into the process of creating worlds for performances, which you might be able to use in other areas of your work and life as well, especially including how to make the experience live beyond the set time frame of a performance, and build anticipation, including maintaining the hype and relationship with the audience afterwards.
It’s a well-written, hands-on kind of book, that made me want to dive head first into creating a ton of new universes.
Do you have any thoughts on immersive experiences or Warrens book? Let me know in the comments!