Stellar Salon Recap: Innovations in Digital Theatre From Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Scarlett Kim

See this thought-provoking discussion about the opportunities that lie at the intersection of tech and theatre.

It’s not too often you hear the title “Director of Innovation & Strategy” in the theatre world. But innovating is exactly what Scarlett Kim at Oregon Shakespeare Festival is doing — and doing it incredibly well.

Scarlett Kim is a Seoul-born, Los Angeles-based director, artist, and producer who creates “overwhelmingly unclassifiable transmedia experiences” on stages real, virtual … and virtually everything in between. We invited Scarlett to discuss her approach to digital theatre in our most recent Stellar Salon, and what followed was a thought-provoking conversation that touched on the value and necessity of innovation and accessibility in the arts, the intersection of theatre and tech, and the potential for technology to increase audiences and engagement.

While we recommend checking out the entire conversation (see the video link below), we’ve pulled together a few key takeaways.

It’s been a boom year for Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s digital offerings

Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s innovative and diverse digital content has been a big hit with audiences in 2022. In fact, if you took every minute of viewing on Stellar and laid it out end to end, OSF totaled a whopping 6.4 months of watchtime this year — and all of it paid content!

On the corner of live performance and immersive tech

Scarlett Kim shared that her role as Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Director of Innovation & Strategy is to “explore and celebrate … the intersection between live performance and immersive technology,” which includes VR, AR, XR, and other newly emerging and developing forms of digital theatre.

One notable example from OSF that Kim shared: The Cymbeline Project, a 10-episode transmedia series in which each episode is presented in a unique medium, with everything from hand-drawn animations, stop-motion puppetry, 360-degree video — and even a “choose-your-own-adventure interactive game” built on a platform the company coded from scratch.

Looking beyond live theatre — and livestreams — to increase audiences

“How can we offer the most different ways of engaging for the same source material or content?” That’s been Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s ethos, Kim shared.

“So for Theatre on Film, last year we primarily showed it as watch parties. … This year, we’re actually thinking of expanding the on-demand aspect to it, because we’re seeing there’s yearning for both and there’s actually no benefit to being essentialist about choosing one or another.”

The theatre world has always been “an innovation leader”

“When video and projection design came into theatre, everyone was like: What is this? But now we don't have any shows in our season without video design — that has become a really important part of how we think about theatre.”

“I think of Shakespeare as a collage artist and as a populist artist who was really interested in engaging the most cutting-edge technology of his time. These assumptions or dominant culture ideas we have about Shakespeare are often rooted in white supremacy or often rooted in making theatre elitist and inaccessible. So actually to do Shakespeare is to break it apart and to be a collage artist, which is what I believe.”

Why digital theatre is “not in competition” with live theatre

When it comes to digital and hybrid theatre, Kim noted, “there is a lot of resistance. I sometimes think of ‘fear of obsolescence’: What if theatre as we know it becomes obsolete?”

“I think it’s important to think of this work not in competition with live theatre but “a different way of making art — it’s just another way of having access to the transformational power of art.”

Online theatre’s potential to provide a “radically inclusive space”

“We actually have an opportunity at the intersection [of theatre and tech] to create a radically accessible and inclusive space.”

And the digital stage makes theatre more accessible to more people, including those who aren’t able to attend OSF’s physical space in Ashland, Oregon: “The idea of traveling to Ashland implies a certain level of economic privilege; not just everyone can travel to Ashland and have this festival experience. How can we acknowledge that and acknowledge a lot of power and inequity that goes into what makes theatre inaccessible and actually thinking about expanding the idea of destination? So it’s not just about coming to Ashland — destination is also your home as a cultural space.”

Ready to grow your reach and audience with digital theatre?

Amir Kenan

Staff Writer

Amir Kenan is a seasoned writer in the live event and entertainment space.