Katie Magician performing Cabaret Elektronica :: Alice Travels Beyond Wonderland

In Brief

The Telematic Theater is an artistic concept, a work-in-progress design and realization of a fully functional online theater space uniting remote performers and audiences in an immersive virtual environment.


The Telematic Theater is created by media artist and composer Randall Packer. The project is the culmination of over ten years of research and production in online performance and streaming audio-visual art, resulting in works for theater, performance art, dance, and music. The broad goal of the Telematic Theater is to pioneer the first fully functional online theatrical space that unites performers and audiences in virtual environments. This includes: a visual design for compositing green-screened actors, dancers, and musicians in 3D stage sets; mixing, processing, and distributing live audio and composed music via the network; a notational system that coordinates scripting, scoring, cuing, and scene automation; “backstage” studio-based engineering system for running live productions; and integrated chat space and discussion forum for audience interaction, prompting, and other forms of social engagement. Unlike conventional Zoom meetings, in which participants are confined within the grid, the Telematic Theater aims to situate performers in a playing area that frees them to explore and move in a co-existent “third space.” Thus the intimacies of body movements, facial expression, hand gestures, spoken word, and other elements of physical theater become intrinsic components of the virtual Telematic Theater. 

The concept of a theatrical venue in the cloud that replicates the functionality and dynamics of physical theater is an idea original to the Telematic Theater. This is possible due to the unique integration of networked technologies that enable the performer to experience the proximity of their body in the same virtual space as that of other geographically dispersed performers: thus invoking the experience of telepresence, that is, interaction and presence at a distance. This experience provides performers with the ability to communicate to audiences a powerful sense of intimacy, emotion and feeling, enabling a theatrical form that conveys the catharsis required of theater, despite geographical separation. The aim is to create an approach to online performance that is not a substitute for physical theater, but rather, it is its own genuine medium to be fully exploited for artistic purposes.

The Telematic Theater emerges from a long history of the relationship between electronic media, interdisciplinary art and live performance. A seminal influence is the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (Total Artwork), an innovation of 19th century opera composer Richard Wagner, who expressed the idea of the synthesis of the arts through the integration of music, drama, poetry, and stagecraft. Other artists who been influential include such avant-garde theater practitioners as Antonin Artaud, Oskar Schlemmer, Walter Gropius, and Allan Kaprow, whose unconventional approaches shifted the boundaries of the “4th wall” dividing performer and audience. Other more contemporary influences include practitioners of online performance, including: Name June Paik, Kit Galloway & Sherrie Rabinowitz, Paul Sermon, and Annie Abrahams. I have expanded on their ideas to conceive a socially-engaged and distributed theatrical space on the Internet, an online experience that is perhaps best described by Joseph Beuys concept of “social sculpture.” 

Charles Lane performing Black | White