We’re about to embark on an ambitious two year transmedia storytelling experiment that will take us across Europe and see us work with 4 supremely talented theatre makers, a whole bunch of teenagers and young adults and three of the most innovative and inspiring theatre organisations we know. Our newly announced Creative Europe funded project, Extended Universe has been born. As we start to wrap our heads around the timeline, hugely ambitious creative commissions and prepare for our first meeting in Athens this November, I wanted to introduce some of the ideas and inspiration behind the project and why it comes at the most important time.
Extended Universe was born out of a conversation in Copenhagen with Jesper Pederson when I visited the CPH Stage Festival. Jesper is an artist who inspires me to ask big questions and we started to provoke each other to think about audiences, art making, culture and how technology and digital storytelling might be put to better use when trying to work with and for a young adult audience.
I also got to have this conversation with Victor at Sala Beckett and Marilli at Entropia in Athens and what we all realised very quickly is that there is a great untapped audience of teenagers and young adults across Europe and specifically in the cities where we make work who feel part of a global generation. This generation of peers in Athens, Barcelona, Copenhagen and London are also living through great cultural, social and political change, with referendums, revolutions. economic meltdowns and the rise of far right sympathies characterising recent years in the UK, Spain, Denmark and Greece.
Simply put, Extended Universe will see us produce several new works in May 2020 with the express aim of finding a large audience physically and online across Europe. To do this we are experimenting with how we tell transmedia stories, which means we’ll be telling a story across as many platforms as possible including live on stage and across digital spaces, online. Our hunch is that if we collaborate across a diverse set of channels with artists of different perspectives and are led by the audience we’re trying to reach then we’ll have the best chance possible in learning how to make more relevant work for a new teenage and young adult audience.
We are all susceptible to the pull of viral ideas. Like mass hysteria. Or a tune that gets into your head that you keep on humming all day until you spread it to someone else. Jokes. Urban Legends. Crackpot religions. Marxism. No matter how smart we get, there is always this deep irrational part that makes us potential hosts for self-replicating information.
(Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash, 1992, p.399)
A massive inspiration for us is the Norwegian show, SKAM which was a bold experiment in TV that developed an online and more traditional broadcast audience of superfans. This global community of fans translated, shared and built community (needless to say a whole tonne of fanfiction/art) around the characters and storylines of the show. Taking to Tumblr and social media primarily to share and discuss with their fellow fans across language and cultural divides and now spawning an American adaptation with Facebook onboard as a Producer.
We’re going to start off by exploring Power, Utopia and Youth Culture but from there we’re just going to see what happens and how the artists and advisors of 15-25 year olds get on and come up with. Along the way we’re going to be sharing our progress and need to test ideas so please do follow #ExtendedUniverse or subscribe to the Boundless mailing list for updates.
We can’t wait to share this experiment with you.