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  • Writer's pictureTim Kashani

5 Unexpected Factors When Casting Your Show in the Metaverse

What to expect when putting together a cast for a Metaverse production

So, you wanna be a metaverse producer, huh?

Thanks to the projects we developed over the last two years (for these purposes, using our musical Winter Lights as a case study) we have experience and knowledge to share. But putting on a show cannot be distilled down to one video, or two blogs. There are many pieces to the puzzle, and today we discuss casting!

Of course standard elements still remain when choosing someone to bring your character to life. They have to feel right when reading the lines, singing the songs. They must mesh well with the other performers, chemistry must be there—undoubtably of the highest importance. You naturally want someone amiable and easy to work with (we’ve all heard those stories, right?), and these days, it wouldn’t hurt if they came with at least a medium-sized social presence to ensure some kind of an audience for your piece.

Just as you would need expert tap dancers if you were putting on a revival of Anything Goes, shows in the metaverse require yet additional skills. That said, we learned very quickly, teaching someone the ins and outs of the technology you’re utilizing takes much less work than teaching them how to act. More on that later.

Actors, performers in general, transform themselves on stage nightly. They work as chameleons, embodying the life of another, perhaps controlling a puppet, flying through the air, or bursting out into song at a moment when it would seem odd in the real world. We talk of new realities here at BroadVersity all the time, but each play or musical houses its own reality, in a way.

With the knowledge that most actors will be able to learn the nuance of the new medium, let’s jump right into 5 unexpected factors to look for in an actor when casting your virtual reality production:

1. They’re Not a Technophobe

Even in 2022 people exist who fear technology. It may surprise you to learn there are swaths of folks across the country, especially in more rural areas, who don’t yet have Wi-Fi (and trust us, the definition of rural goes far beyond that of our Broadway dreams). Some of them by choice!

Amongst those who consider themselves theatre folk, just like any other sample of people, tech knowledge and ability runs the gamut. While you need not have an expert at the ready, someone who doesn’t fear the prospect of dancing in a headset and acting within a body that is not their own will be key.

They need not be an expert, but they must at least be willing to take this leap with you.

2. They have a Strong Wi-Fi Connection

Hard to believe this even comes up when casting, but it proves more of a barrier than you’d imagine.

We, as a community, learned quickly in 2020 that having a stable connection was paramount to putting on a virtual show, but the consequences of unstable connection in virtual reality are much greater.

When Wi-Fi is unstable for a VR actor, they will often completely miss lines from other actors, as well as crucial cues for them to enter, exit and speak. Their own lines will be unclear and static for not only the other actors on stage, but audience members as well.

If the performer completely loses connection, their avatar will be removed from the world.

Ensuring a stable connection for each performer should give the creative team more of a piece of mind that the show will be able to run smoothly.

3. They Have SPACE

Unlike a traditional production where you, the producer, show runner, etc, would provide the space in which the actors do their thing, in virtual reality everyone (for now anyway) performs from their own home.

For better or worse, at the moment, the technology requires performers be in separate spaces, or at least in different rooms. You get to be together in that other reality, but in our world, having two virtual performers in the same room would cause a number of tech issues that prove more problematic than helpful.

So, for now, we separate physically. The performer you hire must have enough space to move their arms and legs, to walk forward and backward without hitting a wall, or tripping over their cat. (Thankfully, we’re past the age of everything being wired, so getting yanked back like when you called your friend on the wall-phone in the 80s is unlikely!)

4. You’re Not Limited Geographically

This one’s a positive!

Because the show your show now exists in an alternate reality, in the metaverse, you’re not limited by who can get to the theatre! This should feel freeing! They can perform from afar, why not cast from afar as well?

With the amount of theatre people localized in New York City, shows going on in the tri-state area are lucky, you’ve got tons to choose from. But in the past regional and community productions were limited by who remained in their vicinity, or worse, they traveled to NYC just for casting (or perhaps hired a NYC casting director). The metaverse removes that hurdle in every direction.

We’ve even experienced this with our educational programs. If we were limited to who could get to Los Angeles when putting on THEatre Accelerator (link to previous videos??), we would continue to miss out on brilliant artists whose work deserves to be seen, heard, and as far as VR goes—experienced.

5. Authenticity and Diversity Still Matters

Your actors will be performing as avatars, true. The audience won’t really know who is behind the digital skin you’ve put on each performer. But authenticity still holds paramount.

If ethnicity, ability, or any other factor comes in to play in the script or character description, just because you can overshadow that with an avatar, doesn’t mean you should.

When casting Winter Lights, we took a look at what would be true and authentic for the piece and made sure the cast reflected those ideals.

Check back next week and beyond for more information on how to produce your show in the metaverse. For now, you can check out clips from some of our shows via our social @BroadVersity on Instagram and TikTok. We’d love to hear from you here, or on either of those platforms, about your experiences in VR, or with any questions you have!

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