There’s roleplaying in MMORPGs, and then there is playing a role! We’re talking pixelated actors performing live theater within a virtual world. Yes, it’s a thing — an awesome thing! And it has been happening in Final Fantasy XIV for years.
One special group that brings live theater in the virtual realm to life is A Stage Reborn. This nonprofit organization focuses on making the arts experience more accessible, most notably by performing inside FFXIV. We aren’t talking short blurbs of dialogue or scripted RP sessions: These plays are full on productions with auditions, sets, props, costumes, and lighting to create complete shows performed on stage before a live audience. You may not be able to see a play at a real life theater for some reason, but you can experience them right in game – or you could be a part of creating one!
If you’ve missed past performances (though you can still watch recordings!), you have the chance to catch this year’s, which has just been cast. Be on the lookout for A Midsummer Night’s Dream!
What is A Stage Reborn?
The idea of participating in the performing arts in video games is not new. As far back as Ultima Online (and most assuredly in the MUDS and proto-MMOs before it), there have been player plays and concerts. A Stage Reborn, however, goes beyond a small event in a virtual world. Without dismissing anything from other games over the years, I can say that this organization aims to make the full opportunity of the arts accessible to a wider audience – and not just the attending part, either, but the creating part as well. The main site emphasizes the mission of the group:
We continuously review the opportunities transformative works and new approaches to the arts experience bring. We work with our staff to provide experiential learning so those who don’t have the means to step on the digital stage can still gain valuable experience in the arts. We work closely with professionals in the real world to work towards offering digital programs that actually teach the skills, terminology and expectations you use in the real world. We may even break out of the screen every once in a while to do something in real life!
In other words, in these performances, all the parts of creating a production are represented, from actors to stagehands. You can be an actor, you can work on set creation, you can work on lighting, you can create costumes, you can focus on special effects, you can guide people to their seats — there are many opportunities. And A Stage Reborn teaches and utilizes the skills inherent in doing each of these, making this a unique opportunity to gain this experience without a brick-and-mortar theater. One goal of the group is that experience can even help you transition to a live live theater!
These productions are run how you would see a professional real world performing arts group plan and perform a show. Our ushers learn about ushering in just as much detail as our actors learn about acting. Many performers that participate with us are able to apply what they learn in real-world opportunities, and we encourage that!
The organization took to the stage in FFXIV for the first time in I Want to be Your Canary in December 2016. This production was based on a play from the game itself. In 2017, the group expanded into a real theatrical piece written by Walter Wykes, a dark comedy called The Worker. That same year, the organization did another adaptation from FFXIV, this time an opera. The Story of Maria & Draco was an in-game text-based production.
Come 2018, the troupe went back to its roots and did a reprise of I want to Be Your Canary. This show was also livestreamed before an even wider audience than could just attend in game. You can watch the cinematic version below and see how much the organization had grown and refined its performances.
I am not saying that the previous productions were in any way small endeavors. But the play that the group is tackling this year is a hefty one: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Personally, I am extra excited for this and plan to tune in (if livestreamed) or even pay an attendance fee of one month of reupping my sub to see this! I am a huge Shakespeare fan.
The production just finished casting the parts after its auditions, so there is no date given for the actual performance yet. I would expect that to be a few months out from now. There is still time to get in on other parts of the production; crew are still needed for lighting operator, sound design, sound operator, stage manager and usher positions. Interested parties can follow the instructions in this guide to learn how to get involved.
As I’ve mentioned, A Stage Reborn is about much more than just the actual performance. The organization wants very much to provide tutelage and support. To that ends, it also also provides a livestream show called A Stage Reborn Live! A recent episode was entitled Roleplay Reborn. It covered RP, performance, literature, writing and Menphina Madness: Score for a Cause. Other episodes, which included contests and special guests, were focused on talent and language and cultural exchange.
More theater troupes means more theater
A Stage Reborn is a special nonprofit with a specific goal. It is not, however, the only group that performs in Final Fantasy XIV or brings the flair of the arts into game. If you want to try to catch even more performing arts, be on the lookout for Shroudrose Teahouse, The Wonderfaire, and Stellazzio Virtual Theatre (which has a performance of The Little Prince last month!). Listen to a a roleplay podcast with MuseCast XIV. You can also read an in-game-inspired tabloid called The Crucible. Perhaps you’ll catch some dirt on your favorite FFXIV actors in it!
Have you ever attended an in-game performance? Have you ever been in one? Perhaps this ignites your inner thespian. Or many it gets those writers fires burning. Would one of these troupes be willing to put on a completely original play? Would you want to write or organize one yourself? If so, have at it! And please let me know: I so love to catch a performance.