Thursday, January 19, 2017

Virtual Library and Real World Theatre Company Continue Partnership to Enhance Audience Opportunity

Entrance to "The World of John Steinbeck" from the EXPLORE Welcome Center
The Kitely Grid & Tacoma, WA – On Friday, January 20 the curtain rises on Tacoma Little Theatre's latest production, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.  That same day the pixels click to life for the newest partnership between Tacoma Little Theatre and Seanchai Library with the opening of Explore: The World of John Steinbeck. This is the third collaboration between the 98 year old theatre company and 8 year old online spoken word library, expanding opportunities for audience members and educators to delve into the thoughts behind the play. .

EXPLORE is an online tool designed to add to the play-going experience of audience members by presenting source material and related information to support the production in an engaging, interactive format. The World of John Steinbeck can be accessed online with the download of a free viewing program 24/7.  Patrons can walk through the world of Steinbeck’s novella, exploring freely, using an avatar. Clickable information links guide visitors to a variety of information ranging from biographical, to historical and cultural.  Live presentations of the source text and Steinbeck's letters provide additional opportunities to gain understanding of the playwright and the world in which the play was created.

"This continues to be an exciting and enlightening process," shared Chris Serface, Tacoma Little Theatre Managing Artistic Director, "Being on the ground level of innovation like this means we are learning something new every time we do a project."  The current EXPLORE project was preceded by Anton Chekov and the Absurd  in 2016, and The Great Gatsby Online in 2015.

"There are a lot of very interesting educational approaches being applied in virtual environments and using immersion," said Judy Cullen, former Tacoma Little Theatre Director and current lead of Seanchai Library (aka Caledonia Skytower), "The challenge is getting people to try something new."  Cullen will be available at Of Mice and Men performances at a dedicated computer station in the theatre’s Lobby to answer questions and guide visitors through the project.  "We hope that we can lower the intimidation factor enough that folks will go home and take advantage of Explore on their own."

The waterside camp where readers first meet George Milton and Lennie Small as represented in EXPORE
Of Mice and Men was published in 1937, and was Steinbeck's first attempt at writing in the form of novel-play termed a "play-novelette" by one critic.  It tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in California in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression in the United States.  Steinbeck originally titled it Something That Happened (referring to the events of the book as "something that happened" because nobody can be really blamed for the tragedy that unfolds). However, he changed the title after reading Robert Burns's poem To a Mouse. Burns's poem tells of the regret the narrator feels for having destroyed the home of a mouse while plowing his field.

Of Mice and Men, directed by Niclas Olson, plays January 20 - February 5 in nine public performances. 

Live readings from the novella, and from Steinbeck's letters will take place online in The World of John Steinbeck on January 28th at Noon, January 31st at 7 pm, and February 5th at 11 am. Visitors new to virtual worlds are advised to open accounts and get oriented to how they work well in advance of when live events are scheduled to begin.

Information on EXPLORE The World of John Steinbeck including "Getting Started", an "Avatar Guide", and links to opening a free user account on the Kitely Grid are available at EXPLORE can be found in Kitely on the Open Metaverse at

Tacoma Little Theatre’s production of Of Mice and Men is funded, in part, by a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission.  

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