Performance and Virtuality

After a frst phase dedicated to the study of Virtual Theatre (; the project has focused more precisely on the following:

1) an in-depth interdisciplinary exploration of the relation between subjectivity, conscience and its expression in first-person discourse in relation to the real/virtual dimensions. The project will carry out an investigation of the construction/deconstruction of subjectivity through language and in the context of theatrical performance. This part of the project involves and interdisciplinary approach cutting across the fields of performance studies, cognitive linguistics and narratology, computer science and intermediality.

2) to identify specific fields of application of the acquired knowledge and new research areas at the intersection of cultural heritage preservation and performance and reception experimentation.

Subproject 1

VST: Virtual Shakespeare Theatre Project

What if famous stage designs for Shakespeare plays were to be used on stage today? What impression did audiences gain then and how would they react now? What can VR do for Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s audiences? And in turn, how can Shakespeare’s works inspire new ways of using virtual reality, offering fresh meaning-making opportunities? The project raises such questions, involving the collaboration of humanists and computer science researchers on the study and virtual re-working of sketches and descriptions of famous stage designs, with a view to producing 3D reconstructions of landmark scenographies re-usable as virtual settings for present-day performances situated in a space of performative dialogicity with the past and projected into the future.

VST emphasises the interaction between the real and the virtual in performance spaces in order to explore how, “[r]ather than ‘immersing’ a participant in a hermetic illusion, VR highlights and generates meaning from the disjunctions between the virtual illusion and the participant’s irreproducible, contingent sense of their own body and surroundings” (Roberts-Smith 2021, 19). It focuses on the effects virtually created scenographies may have on actors and audiences alike. Following Roberts-Smith, it explores representational fidelity, interactivity, as well as identity construction. It experiments on creative interactions between virtually recreated stage settings, actors, spectators, as well as augmented reality within the actual architecture of the performance space and through different types of meaning-making strategies. It chooses the model as spaces for performance research as the main tool, or more precisely “virtual environments mapped through VR technology to physical space [in theatres]” (Tompkins, Holledge, Bollen and Xia 2022, 7). modello degli spazi per la ricerca sulla performance, o più precisamente “ambienti virtuali mappati attraverso la tecnologia VR nello spazio fisico [dei teatri]” (Tompkins, Holledge, Bollen e Xia 2022, 7).  

Step 1: starting off

The project’s initial stage includes the selection and cataloguing of relevant nineteenth- and twentieth-century productions. It will then carry out a first test on the famous stage design drafts of Hamlet by Edward Gordon Craig and Joseph Svoboda. The research will explore the different possibilities offered by a realistic reconstruction of the stage and, alternatively, by re-elaborations inspired by the available visual or descriptive information. It will also use motion capture techniques to elaborate 3D models of moving bodies with a view to allowing actors to interact with avactors (or virtual actors) within the performance space, either realistically or symbolically. In all cases, it will creatively bring together the past and the present, the real and the virtual, history and the future.


Prof. Silvia Bigliazzi (PI)

Prof. Stefano Aloe

Dott. Petra Bjelica

Prof. Umberto Castellani

Prof. Sidia Fiorato

Dott. Cristiano Ragni

Dott. Emanuel Stelzer

Selected References

Carver, G., and C. White. 2003. Computer Visualization for the Theatre: 3D modelling for designers. London and New York: Routledge.

Tompkins J., J. Holledge, J. Bollen, and L. Xia eds. 2022. Visualising Lost Theatres: Virtual Praxis and the Recovery of Performance Spaces. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Werier, C., and Budra, P. 2023. The Routledge Handbook of Shakespeare and Interface. New York and London: Routledge.

Wittek, S., and D. McInnis. 2021. Shakespeare and Virtual Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.