| 03.19.2018

Reworking ‘A Christmas Carol’ — Theatre and VTD departments work together to give a holiday classic a new addition


What would Charles Dickens say about his classic story, “A Christmas Carol”, if he was in the present and saw his story produced  in a theater?

The University of Idaho Theatre Department and the Virtual Technology and Design program are making this  possible by introducing a virtual Dickens to the show this December.

Brian Cleveley,  senior instructor of the VTD program, said he and the director of the show, David Lee-Painter, are collaborating  to get technology involved in the show. Originally, Cleveley said, VTD was going to make the ghosts for the show, but it was decided that the production would be completely old-school, to add to the experience and set the era of the show.

A life-sized Dickens  will be projected in the theater’s foyer, giving an introduction to the patrons.

“When audience members enter the theater, we plan on having a projected figure of Charles Dickens sitting in the corner of the lobby, talking to the audience, welcoming them to the show, telling them to turn off their cell phones, etc,” said Robert Caisley, the professor and head of the Dramatic Writing program. “All the stuff we normally do in a pre-show announcement, but you’ll see Dickens instead.”

Cleveley said the decision was made for no technology to come into the theatre because they are trying to stay true to the production and the era and keep technology out.

“It’s literally, as you go through the door, like moving back in time, to where there were only lights and actors,” he said.

Not only is VTD creating the Dickens character but also an interactive animation on the UI Theatre Department’s website.

The idea of the interaction is to get interested people involved with the set design and get a sense of what really takes place in preparation for a production, Cleveley said. People can create a personal character of themselves and, through the animation, move props and set pieces around the stage. There is even a control for lighting–one can add lighting colors and adjust the intensity and several other features.

Cleveley said the environment was created by one of the Senior Capstone teams, using the Unity Game Engine. The involved students are on their fourth year with the VTD program and taking the Senior Design Studio class. They are required to do a project every semester, and Cleveley said this is a very involved project.

They started working on the project at the very beginning of the semester, so nearly eight weeks, and there is still much to do with the project, he said.

“The team will now have to take the script and embed that as the character moving realistically, so people watching will feel completely immersed,” Cleveley said.

Alexia Neal can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu

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