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We go behind the scenes of this dazzling VR performance of Hamlet

A team from NYU's MAGNET is combining virtual reality, motion capture and livestreaming to put a new twist on theater. Could this be the future of performance?  

Imagine standing within Elsinore Castle in Denmark behind a 30-foot-tall ghost as he reveals to his son the identity of his killer.

Shakespeare buffs will recognize the setting, from Act I, Scene 5 of Hamlet. A project at NYU’s Media and Games Network (MAGNET) aims to takes us there through a live production of the scene — translated into a virtual-reality setting. On Sunday, I visited MAGNET at 2 MetroTech, where two actors — Zachary Koval as Hamlet and Roger Casey as the ghost of his father — portrayed the scene in a dark room while bedecked in black body suits with small, round markers attached.

Those suits Koval and Casey wore served to track their positions and movements, which were projected onto a screen behind them. And to the left of that projection was the virtual-reality world onto which Koval and Casey’s characters had been transposed. There stood Hamlet, cowering under the Darth Vader-like presence of his dead father, amidst a scape of rocky cliffs and the Øresund. Through an HTC Vive headset, I got the chance to witness this VR production, entitled To Be With Hamlet, live.

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