Every year Shakespeare Theatre Company remounts a past show and produces it for free for at least two weeks, calling it the Free For All. For 2017, STC remounted their production of Othello and I saw a chance to revive my Undo Othello collaboration with UnMapped Path. While Undo Othello did pretty well the first time I wanted to try something new with the format.
I had been dying to do something legit with a Raspberry Pi instead of the random projects like video game emulators, etc that I had been messing around without real direction. Also, on an audience engagement high from the success of my The School for Lies augmented reality project, I wanted to create something for the theatre’s lobby; particularly since the Free For All has a festival vibe with tons of fresh faces milling about the venue. Sitting through an interminable meeting at work, staring at the humming projector used for a presentation, I had a thought.
I’d mount Undo Othello on a Raspberry Pi and then display it via a projector. I’d hook up a mouse and right there in the lobby while waiting for the show to start, patrons could explore this deep dive into one of the play’s pivotal scenes.
The whole project turned out way better than I had expected. Of course with more time and perhaps an actual budget I would have tweaked a few things differently. That damned 15 year old (seriously) projector was a huge hassle. At the last second the projector suddenly decided that it didn’t like it when the Raspberry Pi turned on after it did, messing up projected image as a result. It ultimately meant that I had to set up my timers to hard cut the power to the Pi each day and cross my fingers that the Pi’s SD card wouldn’t corrupt—thankfully it survived. I should have pressed our IT Department to give me the better projector. It could have meant a bigger projected image too which would have drawn in more people.
With more time I would have also liked to have had some better analytics reporting set up. Since it’s running in kiosk mode as one long session each day I didn’t have hard numbers as to how many people were using it. I would have had the “restart” button log an analytics event so I could keep track of plays. Speaking of, shout out to UnMapped Path who at the last minute added that restart button. It suddenly occurred to me that since Undo Othello wasn’t originally designed for a lobby experience it had no way to reset itself after each use. Asking a user to scroll all the way to the top after the last person finished wasn’t going to happen. As I hinted in one of my Tweets, I stayed in the lobby for a few performances and watched people from afar. My House Management spies let me know how many people used it at each performance and intermission, with a few dozen patrons playing at every showing.
Finally, the wood case I built wasn’t very sexy but again, no budget. Since I was paying out of pocket I wasn’t going to buy the fanciest wood my local hardware store had to offer.
My mind races with the other lobby experiences I can build using a Pi, though I’ll need to learn a lot more about Linux. This project was a big learning experience and thankfully turned out rather well. Now my fingers are crossed that some wealthy patron tried it and thought, “gee, these STC folks keep doing these really cool things, let me give them some money to do even bigger things!”
I can dream.
Undo Othello in action: