Part of my list of 2008 education resolutions is to try out some of the more educational uses of virtual worlds and stop being so curmudgeonly about all of it. (Ken doth protest too much, methinks.)
Mary Zedeck at Seton Hall University keeps me posted about SL projects, particularly Shakespeare stuff. (See, when you teach Romeo & Juliet to a kid in 7th grade and it works, they remember!)
Inside a virtual replica of the Globe Theater, a professional theater troupe called the SL Shakespeare Company is prepping plays for second Life. They are starting with Hamlet.
Though they will use this virtual stage, the acting will be live. I watched some samples on the site and they are using photorealistic recreations of the actors that the thespians control. Unfortunately, this real-time motion capture technology creeps me out a bit (as it did in movies like The Polar Express). You take a look at the current production "trailer" and decide.
I am glad that even though this medium offers all kinds of tech toys, they say that they:
"...will tend to the classical ideals of elegance, order, and balance. Our productions will be minimal in sets and prop usage, akin to black box theatre, focusing on story and acting. We will, however, take care to outfit our actor avatars with the most historically accurate and most professional clothing, skin, eyes, shape, and hair possibleâ€”to complement their performance. To take on the potential for an arbitrary number of simultaneous performancesâ€”what Second Life can offerâ€”we will be using cutting-edge bot technology. But, above all this, we will uphold the core of live theatre: ad lib and audience interaction will be fully possible."
"Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't." (II,ii).
Funding? Each production is to be financed by a private producer who pays a share (very Elizabethan) and then gains access to the company's assets. What assets? Wardrobe, Animation, Technology, Stagecraft. All of those look very good, so there may be a business in producing [period-style] clothing, props, hair, skins and such. Their tech department can produce avatar motions and so on.
Teachers need to recognize, like Horatio, that there are more things on the Net than are dreamt of in their philosophy.
The company opens their first season with Hamlet. How will we judge them? The play is still the thing, so we must wait to see. All you high school English teachers - plan a virtual field trip. No bus reservations or permission slips, and we'll hold this virtual mirror up to nature.