UW–Madison researchers write chapter on augmented reality in live theatrical performance

A team of UW–Madison researchers, including the School of Education’s Daniel Lisowski and Caleb Probst, are co-authors of a chapter in the “Springer Handbook of Augmented Reality” that is titled, “Augmented Reality (AR) into Live Theatrical Performance.”


Lisowski is an associate professor with the School’s Department of Theatre and Drama, while Probst is a PhD student within the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Shuxing Fan, who formerly was a faculty member in the Department of Theatre and Drama, is also among the co-authors, along with Kevin Ponto and Bryce Sprecher. 

According to the chapter’s abstract: “The authors discuss recent inclusions of AR in live performance, present helpful insights for those looking to include AR into productions, and explore the future of AR live theatrical performance.”

Among the examples of AR’s use in theatrical performance the co-authors discuss is a project that was funded by School of Education’s Grand Challenges initiative, titled “What the Moon Saw.”

This play, based on a story by Hans Christian Anderson, was “an excellent source of material for the creative team to adapt into a nonlinear story. … The playwright designed the script in such a way to provide significant audience agency over the narrative. The resulting play combined augmented reality (AR) technologies with more traditional theatrical conventions,” write the co-authors.

“AR provided young audience members a chance to join actors in the performance space and express agency over the narrative outcome.”

“In conclusion,” they write, “by combining the virtual and physical worlds, the described approach enables play writing to be more innovative and imaginative as many of the limitations of creating physical sets and props can be overcome. The work described here demonstrates the possibilities for industry and performance advancements by setting aside prevailing notions of what can and cannot be done.”

The chapter has been selected by the publishers to be one of three used in promotion of the handbook. It is free to download, here.

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