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Performances in A Virtual Square Box

Nicole Decsey on the behind-the-scenes of virtual performances. Read to the end for her tips on creating your own digital show...

It has been a long time since any of us have been able to see a live performance and I know we are all missing it. But thank the Dance Gods, because we have some amazing digital theatre experiences popping up!


Zoom is a great way to create an interactive theatre experience online, while also forming a sense of community. This platform allows the audience to be immersed in an atmosphere that fosters participation, as they can turn on their cameras and microphones to become a part of the performance.

Cast and crew of Seeking Everyday Magicians pictured L to R – Marisha Ismailova, Hailey Christie-Hoyle, Nicole Decsey, Anna Choulova, Merey Ismailova, Drew Chale

Ismailova Theatre of Dance, a physical theatre company based in Toronto has transferred their performance work from the theatre stage to the Zoom stage with Seeking Everyday Magicians.

As part of this cast, it was amazing for me to see how a script could be presented digitally in a way that could not be accomplished on stage. Flipping between the feeds from each performer, we created an experience in which we could all be connected while being in different parts of the world, from Russia to Vancouver to Toronto. Even our audience came from all over the globe.

Turning Your Home into A Stage

Developing a live theatre performance on a digital platform requires each performer to be responsible for transforming their space into a stage. I have learned that the hardest part of this process is creating theatrical lighting. Furniture can be moved, and the house can be silent, but it can be extremely difficult to light your space without creating shadows on the performers face. To combat this issue, get as many LED lights as you can. It may feel like you are on the surface of the sun, but the audience will finally be able to see you. Think about how many industrial sized lights are used to brighten a stage!

Live Performance on a Digital Platform

Unlike some digital platforms, Zoom allows the artists to perform LIVE as they react to the audience and the slight changes in the performances of their fellow cast members. A Zoom experience brings a little bit of that unknown element we love so much about stage performances to the computer screen.

Upcoming Opportunity

Seeking Everyday Magicians is back for one day only on Sunday Oct 4th.


Theatre Oculus blew me away with their ingenuity in using this platform. Now, I have to admit that I thought a Facebook performance was going to be pretty limited with what could be done, however there was so much dimension and nuance to their virtual show Reverb. It was a beautiful interwoven network of live and filmed performance that I didn’t know was possible on this medium.

Making a two-dimensional Space Feel Like three-dimensional Theatre

Welcome to the broadcast centre! Theatre Oculus powered their show through StreamYard, a broadcasting digital performance platform that links up to other digital platforms to present your show. StreamYard makes it possible to create a virtual backstage space for the cast and crew of a show whilst the audience only sees the clean cut, curtained off stage. Imagine being in a virtual world where you can still have those backstage butterflies and where people type “good job” or “that was great”. It must be an ASM’s dream to have all the performers absolutely silent backstage.

Film Creation Combined with Live performance

Taking advantage of the limitless possibilities of film editing, Theatre Oculus was able to fulfill their desire for depth while at the same time fulfilling their desire for live performance through Q+A sessions with the performers. After each film, the performers came on screen to talk about their creation process, allowing the audience to get a behind the scenes look at digital creation.

Upcoming Opportunity

Didn’t catch Reverb live? No problem, the show is still up for viewing on the Theatre Oculus Facebook page. Click here to watch.


A YouTube show is like a film festival you can watch from the comfort of your bed or cast onto your TV for a more theatrical experience (don’t forget the popcorn). With the possibilities of different camera angles, editing techniques, music and transitions, film has the ability to transport you out into the world and away from the cubed dimension in which we have been living for the past six months (yes, I mean your computer). And once your show is on YouTube it can be there forever or taken down in a determined period of time.

The National Ballet of Canada’s Virtual Season

The National Ballet of Canada (NBC) is kicking off their 2020/2021 season with virtual YouTube performances. Their first offering is Expansive Dances which includes three short dance films to be released throughout September. These are Lake Maligne choreographed by Robert Binet, Lulu choreographed by Guillaume Côté and In Between choreographed by Alysa Pires. NBC is also presenting the Spotlight Series, which is set to begin this fall and features new works by Kevin A. Ormsby and Jera Wolfe.

Dance : Corps’ Flash Show

Available from 12am Saturday October 3rd to 12am Monday October 5th,

Dance : Corps will be running their second Flash Show titled Our Stories. Featuring seven brand new dance films by six different artists, you won’t want to miss this YouTube film festival! This selection also features my new work, The Departed, as well as two new pieces by A Dance Way of Life editor Rachel Levitt. Link will be available on their website and Instagram, however you can email to get it sent straight to your inbox!

Posters for some of the dance films being shown at Our Stories – Flash Show."Normal People" by Rachel Levitt/Dance : Corps, Quiet Night Thoughts by Jasmine Huang, The Departed by Nicole Decsey, Fine(?) by Sabina Schaffer, Something Different by Rachel Levitt/Dance : Corps, Imagine... by Emma Clandon.



Know the type of show you want to create. It may seem straight forward but there are so many different ways to create a virtual show that it can be overwhelming. Are you doing a theater performance where you need the actors to be able to interact with one another? Do you want to perform in a space that is not your living room while your parents sit quietly in your kitchen? When you know the answers to these types of questions you can make your decision and then move on to the more exciting creation period.

Lighting, lighting, lighting! No matter what digital platform you are using, no matter if you are filming or performing live, no matter if you are using indoor lighting or natural lighting. You have to make sure your audience can see you. Scroll up to “Turning Your Home into A Stage” for more info on how.

Powerful promotion. Don’t underestimate the benefits of getting the word out there. If people don’t know about your show, no one is going to see it. Get on social media, Facebook, Instagram, post as often as you can, add events to your stories and most importantly, reach out to people. The personal touch makes a huge difference. It might also be useful to put your show on a platform where people can watch it after the fact. This way, more people will have the chance to see the show and word will get around. Word of mouth is the life blood of the performance community.

Know the technology you are using. This digital world has added another layer onto the creation process. Technology is now part of our artistic voice. Remember you are curating what your audience will see. Explore the possibilities this digital age has to offer. Go online, checkout the Zoom website or SteamYard’s website, Google “how to” and find all the help you need. Knowledge is just a mouse click away. Literally.

Have fun!! In the end we are in this industry because it is what we love. Don’t lose that. Present what inspires you and I guarantee you it will inspire someone else.



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