This year at the Sundance Film Festival we presented a sneak peek of an interactive theater experience called The Under Presents, an otherworldly deep-dive into the magical ship called “The Under.” This narrative experience was created by Tender Claws, creators of the hit game Virtual Virtual Reality, and it will be coming to Oculus Quest* later this year.
The Under Presents blends immersive theater and virtual reality, allowing you to step into a world in VR where you'll interact with characters and other participants. It merges live actors and scripted performances with a narrative arc that centers on themes of time, fate and free will.
In “The Under,” you enter a vaudeville stage that exists in a special dimension outside time and space, where you are guided by a mysterious proprietor. “The Under” operates on a loop with different live and recorded acts coming and going — and the main act “The Aickman” is the story within the story.
For this level of interactive storytelling to work, developer Tender Claws collaborated with NYC-based theater collective Piehole, an outfit specializing in experimental performance, to draw from their perspective on including both motion-captured characters and live actors throughout the story. And the experience is designed to take advantage of the untethered Oculus Quest, allowing the actors to join the experience in Oculus Quest too and conduct performances from different physical locations.
“There is a lot of interest in exploring the overlap of immersive theater and VR,” says Samantha Gorman, co-founder of Tender Claws. “The project's narrative revolves around fate and free will and as part of that we're interested in playing with the change of feeling of interacting with both pre-recorded and live characters. As well as other players and past recorded versions of themselves.”
With The Under Presents, the result is a unique slice of interactive cinema that’s social, free-flowing, and purposefully unpredictable. And since it doesn’t require a dedicated physical space, like traditional theater, it means people can join regardless of their physical location.
If you’re still not convinced, just know The Under Presents weaves in line-dancing cats, dandelion goddesses, and a dolphin named Gerald. We can't wait for you to explore “The Under” later this year.
What happens when a traditional documentary filmmaker and theater troupe dip their toes in VR for the first time? We’ll be diving into the future of immersive entertainment in the Oculus-sponsored panel ‘Innovating through Tradition: What VR can learn from Theater and Film’ with Academy Award Winning Director Roger Ross Williams, Piehole Theater director Tara Ahmadinejad, plus developers Sam Gorman (Tender Claws) and Paul Raphael (Felix & Paul Studios).
You can learn more about the panel here, which is taking place Friday, January 25 at 3:00 p.m. at The Box at The Ray (1768 Park Ave.)
*Oculus Quest has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. Oculus Quest is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained.
— The Oculus Team