Virtual theatre (enacted dramatic narrative performed live online) is an emerging form of theatrical mediation. One of the biggest challenges faced by this growing media practice is the management of audience experience. This thesis attempts to address the uncertainty around virtual theatre audiences by focusing on the framing of performances that take place in virtual worlds. Strategic approaches to framing and audience preparation are suggested based on literature-based research, case studies and experimental approaches to understanding the role of context and information to audience experience. The core research of the thesis involves a mixed-methods approach to understanding the impact of framing on virtual theatre. The first phase is theoretical, using existing theories of framing drawn from many disciplines in order to create analytical framework to establish the functional features of audience preparation. This framework is then used to analyse the audience preparation strategies of three Vancouver-based live art companies using both interviews and document analysis. Finally, framing strategies from both stage theatre and commercial cinema are used to create framing conditions that are tested using a controlled experiment on a virtual theatre production. The research findings are the basis of a series of recommendations for theatrical events presented in various media. The consequences for virtual theatre are emphasised in an attempt to expand the scope of this emerging form of theatrical expression.
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Thesis advisor: Schiphorst, Thecla
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