LL Zane: Second Life News by Lora Constantine

The World’s First Complete Reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Historic Blackfriars Theatre

Posted in Uncategorized by Lora Constantine on March 17, 2009

March 17, 2009
Contact: Lora Constantine

The World’s First Complete Reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Historic Blackfriars Theatre

Shakespeare, Second Life—On Saturday, Ina Centaur unveiled to a small gathering of SL Shakespeare Company patrons the most complete rendition of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre in the world. Built to see if “there are any insights to be gained from performing in a fully historicaly accurate ‘lost playhouse,’” Centaur’s reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Theatre is due to grand open to the public the weekend of March 21st.

This re-construction of the Blackfriars Theatre in Second Life is one of two working models in the world. But, Centaur notes that the “Blackfriars Playhouse” re-constructed in RL in Staunton, Virginia is just one interpretation of the interior, without taking into account the actual building the playhouse was built into, “Blackfriars, as the name implies, has quite a lot to do with friars. In fact, the original playhouse was ‘built’ inside a building in a centuries-old stone friary… Nowadays, we would consider [the playhouse] just interior decoration or remodeling.” Centaur explains that from the perspective of a reconstruction historian, “The interesting part in re-creating this would be figuring out how to fit a (presumably) largely wooden interior into a stone chapel or even cathedral-like structure.”

Centaur briefly outlines the research behind the meticulous construction, “I started researching for this project several years ago as a low-time budget hobby as an undergrad. I began by ransacking the books from several UC libraries and binging on interlibrary loans. I was disappointed then, as I am now, by the dearth of published materials specifically on the Blackfriars Theatre itself. But, it gave me a good excuse to read up on a whole lot more seemingly off-tangent stuff… The construction is largely based on Irwin Smith’s interpretation published in the 1960’s, though I’ve taken a somewhat obsessive care to finetune the details—the original structure no longer exists at all, so you can decipher only so little from foundations found in digs, the interior construction can really look like anything. Aside from the usual ‘guessimation’ from period structures that were actually sketched or described, there are letters and written accounts of expenses and other ‘everyday information’ about the Blackfriars that can aid in answering questions as specific as what kind of wood might have been used… It’s a very involved process, conceiving this construction… I will probably publish a paper on [the Blackfriars Theatre].”

Centaur hopes to stage theatrical performances in the virtual reconstruction of the Blackfriars Theatre. When asked what she thought of the significance of this historic theatre being built inside a building of religion, Centaur states, “Theatre is ultimately a very profoundly religious endeavor. I don’t mean this in the sense of any pre-ordained religion, but rather the general idea that there’s some sort of greater good or greater being that exists beyond what’s seen. Each performance is temporal and ephemeral; an actor might play out his best show and not realize it until he reaches the end of his mortal coil—and no one ‘real’ might even get to see it. But, the actor would have experienced it, and if they’re religious: they would believe that God saw it—and that it was good, and that’s all that matters… And, it’s not just symbolism… I think that the fact that this theatre is built inside the remains of a religious building basically makes the relation between actor and venue and back to actor again totally go full circle!”

Centaur, who is also the artistic director of the SL Shakespeare Company, has created several models of the Globe Theatre, as well as a meticulous rendition of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London—which is known as the SL Globe Theatre in Second Life. While Centaur is known for much more, she pays high respect to this endeavor, “Aside from the totally remodeled Skin City sim to be unveiled this summer, I think this is my favorite build on SL thus far. It’s brand new and unique.”

About the SL Shakespeare Company

Set in the virtual world of Second Life (SL), the SL Shakespeare Company (SLSC) is the flagship project of sLiterary’s Virtual Reality Shakespeare Initiative (VRSI). SLSC is a resident-funded and resident-supported professional theatre company that embraces the best of what Second Life (SL) has to offer. While it is primarily known to provide quality live Shakespearean theatre available to anyone in any location, SLSC is also the curator of Second Life’s most historically accurate theatres and architecture relating to William Shakespeare.

About sLiterary

sLiterary, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering literary and artistic endeavors in Second Life and other virtual worlds.

About Second Life

Second Life is a free online virtual world imagined and created by its residents.

Neither the SL Shakespeare Company nor sLiterary is affiliated with Linden Lab. Second Life is a trademark of Linden Lab. No infringement is intended.


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