In the current times, with physical distancing measures in place all around the world, we miss going out and having fun with our friends and family. A big part of our normal life-style are cultural events, like going to the theater and watching live-performances of plays, musicians, dancers, comedians, singers, etc. With theaters probably being among the last places to re-open, we would like to bring the fun of going to the theater into our homes. SIA - the online theater - gives you as close as possible the experience of going to the theater together with friends or family. In contrast to a normal theatre visit, you can even do it if you don't live in the same place!
To artists who often don't have a job at the moment, due to the closure of theaters world-wide and theaters themselves SIA gives back a paying audience, eager to enjoy theater in a new dimension.
What it does
SIA - the online theater - provides live-streaming of performances to watch at home, broadcasted by theater and a number of extras which are part of the experience of a theater visit. Before the performance, during the intermission and after the performance you can chat with your friends who decided to go to the show together with you, a chat with the artist is possible after the show (if offered by the theater), etc., etc. Tickets to the online shows can be bought as for a normal theater visit and ensure that the live-performing artist actually still has a job. SIA - the online theater - keeps the theater scene alive and provides a means for a social interaction - a collective experience with friends and family, while we participate in physical distancing. With SIA, theater can be re-thought.
Our progress during the EUvsVirus Hackathon 24.-27. April
The problem our project solves
Arts and Entertainment are among the most affected during these challenging times. As theatres have (temporarily) closed their doors to the public, performers, directors and crew members whose livelihoods depend on performances taking place on stage face detrimental consequences. At the same time, audiences rely on very limited forms of entertainment from their homes, with live performing arts being a pastime of better days. SIA, the online theater, emerged in this space between venues, performers of different kinds and theatre goers. Bringing together the theater world and audiences across Europe, SIA is a digital platform curating plays into a diverse program for users who can book performances that will take place in real time, to be enjoyed from their homes. It seeks to ensure that collective experience remains at the core of both art making and art consumption, supporting artists and art lovers alike.
The solution we bring to the table (including technical details, architecture, tools used)
We have put together the basic concept and first implementation for SIA - the online theater. It consists of two main views for the user. The marketplace and the theater view. The marketplace offers to look around what plays are on or search for theaters around Europe. It also provides functionality for theaters to submit plays that they want to stream live through SIA. The theater view allows you to actually enjoy the show. The design for these views was done with Adobe Xd and a mockup in particular for the marketplace is ready. The webpage implementation of SIA currently focuses mainly on the theater view which is at the core of the experience. The project was coded from scratch using Vue.js on the frontend and Node.js on the backend. On the server, we implemented web sockets for real-time communication (synchronization of events like the start of the show, the movement of the curtains and the applause). The code is placed on Github and deployed on Heroku from which the first demonstrator runs.
What we have done during the weekend
We have basically started this project from scratch. Based on an idea which is around 2 weeks old, SIA - the online theater - came to life over the weekend. Starting from the name, over the design, to the first frontend and backend implementation, even the recording of scenes of the play with an actress, everything was done over the hackathon weekend.
The solution’s impact to the crisis
Offering theaters the possibility to have their programs running allows even this section of the arts and culture industry to ‘work from home’. At the same time, publics are introduced with a completely new dimension of experiencing theater, an additional means for them to create meaning and feel part of the community even if only from their homes.
The necessities in order to continue the project
Having started from scratch, the project requires a lot of development work on both frontend and backend to underpin it with user handling, a payment system, but also lots of additional details that can further improve the theater experience online. Additional (honorary) developers would be essential to bring a first version to the market. Given sufficient third party-funding SIA is meant to be provided as a free service to theaters in Europe and with a fee to theaters worldwide or for commercial use. The ticket price would, except for such fees, fully go to the theaters.
The value of our solution after the crisis
As we will start to enjoy physically going to our favorite theaters again, and as actors get back on stage in front of an in-person present audience, SIA can continue running in parallel. SIA can provide the theater experience to those among us - who for health or mobility or time or any reason - cannot enjoy a theater visit physically in the theater, to those who want to visit a theater somewhere else in Europe, to those who would like to connect with friends or family living in a different part of the world or to those who simply like to enjoy a theater play in their own home. SIA can help to transform theater and offer new means of expressions that will remain exciting also after the crisis.
We interconnected our solution to the DIGITAL STAGE project:
To extend the concept of SIA from single performers to full orchestras or an entire ballet company, our solution will go hand-in-hand with the low-latency combination of several livestreams developed by the DIGITAL stage project by Martin Burr et al.: https://devpost.com/software/id0265-auffuhrung-ohne-versammlung-025-kultur-air-z206
Members of the Team SIA - the online theater - at the EUvsVirus Hackathon:
Valerie Lang - Team lead and Backend // Alessia Menegolli - Design and Video editing // Manana Jaworska - Frontend and Backend developer // Paola Iljazi - Texting and Storytelling // Vero Schürr - Texting and Storytelling // Guillermo Pisani - Artist interaction and directing