The Story of How a Classic Theatrical Play Went Virtual

Yeoh Siew Hoon, Founder of WiT, events and media platform, once again returned to Virtual Experience Makers, this time to interview Hossan Leong and Derrick Chew of the famous theatrical, The Curious Case of the Missing Peranakan Treasure.

Virtual and hybrid events have been the new normal. The Virtual Experience Makers is one of a kind show where we have conversations with people who have made it big in the virtual world using the GEVME virtual event platform

It can be overwhelming to switch to virtual or hybrid mode if you have been conducting events the conventional way for a long time now. However, in reality, it is not that hard. With platforms like GEVME, which virtually offer you a plug-and-play event management platform, you can use the virtual option to open up a new dimension to your event or art. The sky’s the limit when it comes to putting creativity into organizing virtual events. 

In this episode, we talk to Hossan Leong and Derrick Chew, who have directed and produced, respectively, the famous play that is taking the world by the storm – The Curious Case of the Missing Peranakan Treasure. They talk about how an art form like theatre can open up to something never imagined through virtual elements. They take us through your journey of theatre, the challenges and positives of virtual events, and bring with them some insights future event organizers must know. 

Key Takeaways from Hossan and Derrick’s experiences

Market A Digital Play Differently 

A still from the virtual interactive play

With the virtual digital experience, the marketing strategies have to change. It is no longer the physical play, where the audience books a show for a specific date and time at a particular venue and shows up at that time. In the virtual format, you are targeting a much bigger audience and even those audiences who are curious to know about the play. Therefore, you are marketing for a longer time. You need to factor in the frequency of shouting out your play, and it must be ideal so that people must not become tired of seeing the ad everywhere online. 

Think of different approaches that can entice the audience or perhaps reward them, such as giveaways or contests. Every time you launch your play, think of something different and keep the audience wondering. Marketing virtually is scalable and is highly flexible when it comes to customization and cost. 

Open Up a New Audience

Yeoh Siew Hoon interviewing the speakers, Hossan and Derrick

One of the biggest advantages Hossan and Derrick have mentioned is that their play has opened up to a new audience they had never imagined before. This is the general truth for any kind of virtual event. The audience can access the event through just a link and a good broadband connection. Since a lot of people became curious about their theatre set-up, the team of The Curious Case of the Missing Peranakan Treasure did see a lot of new audiences watching their show. 

Differ from Normal Filming 

The key difference between the two is that a virtual film must have an enhanced immersive experience. You can achieve this by using video-based or augmented reality experiences, making the audience observe in detail the characters, involving them in the thrill of the storyline, and surprising or shocking them with the twists and turns in the story. The more technology you use in a virtual film to hook the audience, the more they are going to enjoy it. 

Online Production has its Challenges 

One of the biggest challenges of online play or film production is that there is an addition of a lot more elements. These are mainly technical, in the form of new technologies, components, etc., which need to be integrated well into the conventional workflow of a typical film render process. You must give this extra time while post-producing a play or a film so that you can incorporate the digital technology and components effectively. 

Overcoming Online Production Challenges 

You can take the leaf out of the book from the Curious Case of the Missing Peranakan Treasure team. In their process, initially, the creative part happened where they came up with the synopsis, the drafts, and approached Raffles to shoot this, etc. Following this, they created a mind-map and structure for post-production, and everyone followed the structure and mind-map. It was overall a completely collaborative effort involving different skill sets and experiences. It was a bunch of different people coming together, adapting to the situation, and creating a new process and a workflow. 

Trackability and Gamification is Vital 

If you want to make a virtual event or experience immersive, it is important to have gamification elements. The more interactive the whole piece becomes the audience, the more they are going to be hooked to it. Use links that the audience is familiar with, making them choose options, and reward them for choosing certain options. The audience is the most important component of your play. 

Understand Your Audience Well 

There is nothing more important than knowing what your audience needs or wants. When producing a digital play or a film, you need to have a clear picture of what your audience likes, what excites and intrigues them. Answer all these questions and match the market accordingly. The more effectively you do this, the higher will be the adoption rate of your film or play. 

Digital Theatre is Financially Viable 

Hossan and Derrick taking the audience through the production and operations

Of course, you need to do your numbers. But according to Hossan and Derrick, the advantage of virtual theatre is that once the base cost is covered, the profit becomes exponentially high. In many cases, you can scale up virtual events without any extra-base cost. On the other hand, for live theatre, if you want to scale up the experience, the cost with it also increases. 

Feasibility of Digital Theatre to Be a New Vertical 

According to Hossan and Derrick, digital theatre is indeed a potential vertical, and they have been one of the first players in this vertical through their virtual interactive plays. They believe that virtual theatre can sit next to a company that produces physical plays and provide an audience with uncompromised or even more enhanced entertainment. 

Importance of The Human Component in Virtual Shows 

Hossan spoke about his difficulties and experiences in creating the play

Hossan talked about the difficulty of talking to a camera with no feedback in these stand-up comedy sets. However, virtual theatre is the one that brings the best of both the physical and digital worlds. Here, the audience act with each other, and they have limited scope to screw up their scene. But they were adding that human component to the show becomes more vital to make the experience organic to the audience. The human element can be in the form of bringing all the audience at the same time to watch them play together, or introducing a chat room where they can comment as they watch the show, etc. 

This human component helps people form a bond with each other and the play. This is extremely important to retain them and bring them for future shows as well. 

Hidden Secret of Stand up Comedy 

One tip if you want to be a successful stand-up comedian is that you need to have the intention of going up the stage and wanting to entertain the audience. The stage is not the place for you to show your frustrations or other emotions apart from your comedy set. 

One Learning From A Good Virtual Event 

To summarize, the human component in virtual events is really important. Also, the bandwidth needs to be good, both for the host as well as the audience watching the show!

Summary of Creating a Good Digital Play/Theatrical Drama 

Here are key summary points that you must know if you want to take your event digital: 

– Introduce the human component in some form 

– Market your event to a larger audience and for a longer period of time through exciting methods such as giveaways, contests etc. 

– Bring in interactivity and gamification elements. 

The more the audience is involved in the storyline, the more they will be curious about it. Note that it is really easy to get distracted in the virtual world. 

– Take feedback from the audience and continuously improve your show and the marketing around it 

– Bring in people specifically skilled in rendering digital events, manage your workflow to adapt to these new elements and create the show as a collaborative effort of different people along with their skill sets. 

Virtual event platform
GEVME’s Virtual Venue Editor

Conclusion 

Virtual events have managed to integrate all forms of events, this one being an example of live theatre. With the flexibility it offers, the sky’s the limit to put in your creativity to engage your audience. This has not been possible with live events. If you are an event organizer and want to scale up, this is the right time to do it through virtual and/or hybrid event models. Even if the pandemic subsides and things return to where they were, virtual or hybrid events are here to stay. 

Watch the full episode 4 of the Virtual Experience Makers by registering here.