Sarah Ellis is an award-winning producer currently working as Director of Digital Development for the Royal Shakespeare Company to explore new artistic initiatives and partnerships.
The latest partnership for the RSC is the Audience of the Future Live Performance Demonstrator funded by Innovate UK - a consortium consisting of arts organisations, research partners and technology companies to explore the future of performances and real-time immersive experiences.
In 2017, she became a fellow of the University of Worcester for her work in the arts and technology. In 2016 she was awarded The Hospital Club & Creatives Industries award for cross industry collaboration for her work on the RSC’s The Tempest in collaboration with Intel and in association with The Imaginarium Studios.
In 2013 she was listed in the top 100 most influential people working in Gaming and Technology by The Hospital Club and Guardian Culture Professionals. In partnership with Google, she produced Midsummer Night’s Dreaming winning two Lovie Awards for Innovation and Experimentation.
In 2012, she produced myShakespeare an online commissioning platform for the World Shakespeare Festival. In 2011, she produced Adelaide Road for the RSC, which mixed live performance with an app and website map.
As a spoken word producer, she has worked with the Old Vic Tunnels, Battersea Arts Centre, Birmingham REP, Contact, Improbable, Southbank Centre, Soho Theatre, and Shunt. She has been Head of Creative Programmes at the Albany Theatre and Programme Manager for Apples & Snakes.
She commits to the development of the arts and technology sector by being a mentor and advisor to programmes such as the Sundance Institute's New Frontier Labs, Creative XR programme supported by Arts Council England and Digital Catapult and CPH:LABS.
She is a regular speaker and commentator on digital arts practice, as well as an Industry Champion for the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, which helps inform academic research on the creative industries to lead to better policies for the sector. She has been appointed Chair of digital agency, The Space, established by Arts Council England and the BBC to help promote digital engagement across the arts.
Jonny is a a specialist in creative arts and media research, with a combined academic and commercial focus on media psychology. From a starting point of fundamental research and methods he generates impact through application of his interdisciplinary approach to work at the intersection of the Creative Industries, Psychology, Design, and Computing. Extensively networked in the collaborative R&D and innovation space, with a focus across the creative industries, he has an externally funded research track of over 25 years. This experience spans the cultural and commercial, and the private and public domains of the Creative Industries (including live performance, immersive, games, social media, location-based entertainment), responsive media, smart homes and cities, and connected retail.
Focusing on user experience, he applies his knowledge to better understand audience impact, and identify opportunities for the Creative Industries across the value chain, with a view towards optimising service delivery and sustainability (monetisation).
He has developed a body of knowledge and methodologies to optimise digital UX, impact and effectiveness, with a key focus on audience experience and on immersive technology. These include the ITC-SOPI (2001) and the Immersive User Experience Toolkit (2018), in use in hundreds of labs around the world. In 2020, his company, i2 media research limited, launched the online self-service Audience Impact Metric, to enable creative organisations to access the methodologies easily and affordably: http://i2mediaresearch.com/i2-metrics. Through 2019-2021, he is leading the audience insight and strategy function of the Royal Shakespeare Company led Audience of the Future Performance Demonstrator, and Innovate UK funded collaborative R&D project. In this role, he has led the development of: a new segmentation of UK audiences for content spanning live performance to digital games, an in-depth study of the needs of different of these audience segments through COVID-19, and the development of easy ways for creative organisations to access the methodologies developed by his team and the project's research partners. Through his wide consultation with the creative industries, he has identified business opportunities for the creative content sector from tech including immersive, personalisation and 5G. He also serves as Professor of Psychology and Academic Lead for Knowledge Exchange at Goldsmiths University of London.
Images by Paul Mumford (c) Dream, 2021/Marshmallow Laser Feast/Paul Mumford & Stuart Martin (c) RSC
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), in collaboration with Manchester International Festival (MIF), Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) and Philharmonia Orchestra staged a live performance of Dream using motion capture as the culmination of a major piece of cutting-edge research and development (R&D). The pioneering collaboration explored how audiences could experience live performance in the future in addition to a regular visit to a performance venue. Dream was due to open in Spring 2020 as an in person and online live performance and was recreated during the pandemic for online audiences whilst theatres remain closed. The project was one of four Audience of the Future Demonstrator projects, supported by the government Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund which is delivered by UK Research and Innovation.
Dream was inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and gave a unique opportunity for audiences to directly influence the live performance from wherever they are in the world. Audiences experienced a new performance environment easily accessed on their mobile, desktop or tablet via the dream.online website. The performance used the latest gaming and theatre technology together with an interactive symphonic score that responds to the actors’ movement during the show.
“The live performance is set in a virtual midsummer forest. Under the shadow of gathering clouds at dusk, lit by the glimmer of fireflies, Puck acts as the guide. Audiences are invited to explore the forest from the canopy of the trees to the roots, meet the sprites, Cobweb, Mustardseed, Peaseblossom and Moth, and take an extraordinary journey into the eye of a cataclysmic storm. Together with Puck they must regrow the forest before the dawn. When day breaks, the spell breaks.”
The 50-minute online event was a shared experience between remote audience members and the seven actors who play Puck and the sprites. Audiences could choose to buy a £10 ticket to take part and at key points in the play directly influence the world of the actors, or to view the performance for free. The ten Dream performances were scheduled so that audiences across the world could join the event.