‘One’ Episode 10: Paige Hann explores VR to lessen physical distance, increase accessibility in theater
In episode #10 of the Yale Schwarzman Center web series, One, Theater Studies major Paige Hann YC’20 talks with Alex McGrath YC’21 about her virtual reality production, A Midsummer Night’s VR, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hann discusses the relationship between movement and communication, as well as the use of virtual reality as a storytelling medium in physically distant environments.
Hann, a lifelong theater performer and technician, transferred into Yale as a junior from a Raritan Valley Community College in North Branch, New Jersey, where she majored in Theater and English. At Yale she majored in Theater Studies while building on many of the same interests. Hann also studied American Sign Language (ASL), a visual form in which she remarks, “You communicate entirely through your body and movement.”
In addition to her work with Yale Undergraduate Production, curricular productions, Creative and Performing Arts shows, the Yale Dramat, and the Yale Cabaret, Hann expressed interest in virtual reality as a theatrical medium for individuals who might be unable to attend live performances or share a physical space.
For her senior project, Hann wrote and produced a virtual reality short based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hann used the Leeds Studio, a motion capture studio in Yale’s Center for Collaborative Arts and Media (CCAM), to film live action scenes prior to physical distancing.
When we’re not able to go to theaters physically because they’re shutdown, virtual reality gives us the opportunity to experience a little bit of that value of theater – that "presentness."
Hann noted that virtual reality is highly unusual in theater in part because of its relative newness. However, her work is especially relevant in the current age of physical distancing.
“When we’re not able to go to theaters physically because they’re shutdown, virtual reality gives us the opportunity to experience a little bit of that value of theater – that ‘presentness,’” Hann states.
McGrath, the host of episode #10, is a junior in Branford College. At the Schwarzman Center, McGrath works on stakeholder engagement, helping to ensure effective communication with all the constituencies that the Schwarzman Center serves. He conducted the interview remotely over Zoom.
One, a web series produced by the Schwarzman Center, highlights interdisciplinary approaches to the arts in relation to the Center’s values of collaboration, wellness and belonging. The inaugural season illuminates the creative and academic merits of student works impacted by social distance and explores perspectives on community-building among dispersed groups. The series title, One, is a nod to the Schwarzman Center’s aspiration to advance a sense of “One Yale” and create an interconnected community that builds new traditions of student engagement around the campus and into the world.