Once upon a time, the grinch lost his calendar and accidentally took March to be December. Since it was still months to Christmas, no one was ready to deal with him and his grinchy ways. He took over and stayed till after Christmas, while the world fought and fought and is still trying to save the next one.
In looking closely at how we dealt with the grinch, the Covid-19 outbreak, in the publishing industry, there is the story of ‘The Cherry Coloured Coat‘ by Filament productions. When the world had lost its ways in the 2D screens in different parts of our houses, they came up with an interactive dimension with their theatrical production just in time for Christmas. While the consumer book sales increased by seven per cent by the end of 2020, the theatres and schools were still closed due to lockdown; neither the publishers/actors nor the readers/audience could reach a mutual space to interact.
The Bookseller Children’s Conference 2021, held digitally from September 20-23, gave Sarah Richardson, co-director of Filament projects, the opportunity to share the means required for theatrical storytelling through digital mediums. She explained how Filament productions brought the theatre to the homes of its audience and created a new market for themselves – whilst still justifying the intends of theatre. While tweaking the binaries of physical, live and immersive theatrical performances to virtual, digital and interactive, they created a sensory experience that could eventually situate itself in the ‘new normal’. They achieved it through creating physical story packs, digital illustrations for the audio storytelling and personalising linguistic aspects of the script.
The story packs were the key to unlock the immersive experience the play expected to create. Each personalised story pack included:
- An invitation with clues to find the weblink and the password to see the online audio play.
- A jigsaw puzzle to reveal a shadow character from the play.
- A sheet with cut-out illustrations of puppets to create a shadow play at home.
- The play had an illustrated visual appearance with the storytelling.
- The illustrations were designed around shadow puppetry which symbolically justifies and aligns with the virtual nature of the play. (digital screens – transparent screen in front of the shadow puppets)
- The colour palette was black and white with hints of gold and red- a symmetry that appeared in the physical story packs.
- The play used an active voice and directly addressed the viewers to create a direct connection with them.
- The play presented dilemmas to the audience after each scene to involve the children in the story.
- The play attempts to break the (only) digital wall between the characters and the audience with constant questioning and direct interaction.
The co-existence of sensory and digital mediums may birth a new genre to consume literature altogether. Could it be a translation between mediums through- book playlists, a background score for a book, or book trailers accompanying blurbs?
I guess it would require mixing various odd components to find new and more apt mediums. But only to realise later if we have made ‘Powerpuff-girls-like-superheroes’- who will save our invested money in the process, or if just a fictional, warm tomato soup- to soothe the temporary ill it will cause us.