New tickets and a way to take action: designing with the Royal Danish Theatre

During spring 2014, two student groups from the Malmö University interaction design masters program worked closely with the Royal Danish Theatre. The design brief was to explore how to expand the relationship between the Royal Danish Theatre and gymnasium students.

Museum-like labels used by one of the student groups

Museum-like labels used by one of the student groups

One student group explored how theatre tickets may serve as discussion starters, this through having news stories that are thematically related to the theme of the performance printed on them – alongside museum-like labels displayed at “unexpected” spots. The second group developed a Take Action program where students performed parts of plays before the professional performances.

Group 1: Cultural Encoding (or, “Royal Danish Museum”)
The first group proposed a new way to think about communication in the theatre context. Their project consisted of two parts: redefining tickets and an installation.

The group believed that tickets were an underdeveloped medium, therefore they decided to propose a different use for it. Here, the tickets are printed with news stories from the recent past which are thematically related to the theme of the performance (for example, violence, poverty, distrust). The main aim of this intervention was to connect the real – for the theatre, “the outside” – world with the performance to encourage discussion. The second part of the project was an installation with museum-like labels, which were placed in unexpected spots and which mention themes from various performances.

By this project, they aimed to encourage reflection on performances, their connection to the “real” world, as well as questioning the value of the theatre experience itself.

An introduction to the concept may be seen in the video embedded below (or here on Vimeo).

Students: Paul Heinicker, Kamil Nikel, and Tim von Oldenburg.

Group 2: Take Action
The second group, taking on the same design challenge, identified two issues – both related to communication – that are preventing the theatre from achieving deeper engagement with young people today.

First, teenagers perceive the theatre as old ­fashioned, expensive, and irrelevant to them. They regard the theatre as a place for their parents and grandparents. As a result, young people do not feel invited to the theatre. It is, however, not the content (that is, the performances) itself that prevents them from coming, but that they perceive the Royal Theatre as a brand and institution as something that is not part of their world.

Second, the departments of the theatre has diverging visions of which content should be produced, performed, and communicated, and how. For example, showing a naked person during most of the trailer of the show “Metamorfoser” raised the discussion of how representative the trailer was for the actual play. Outreach and audience engagement is challenging for cultural institutions to work with in a cross-departmental manner, which would be required to be able to execute them consistently.

The students’ concept focuses on bringing students and professionals at the theatre together, enabling them to learn from each other and, in the process, shape the future of the Royal Theatre. Additionally, they aspire to establish role models for both teenagers and professionals and tell their stories to reach and engage with outsiders. The concept expands on the existing Royal Theatre program of “Acting out” where teenagers are invited to perform at the theatre. With the student group’s “Take action” program, they aspire to open it up to a broader audience by having the student performances before regular plays during the course of five weeks. During this time, students get advice by a professional actor. The process of the participants is shown in the form of a weekly video published on YouTube. The student group created a documentary (embedded below) to illustrate the concept. By using online media, they aimed to attract the interest of people not directly involved in the project.

In addition, they kept all stakeholders involved up-to-date by documenting findings on the Tumblr blog The New Scene.

Students: Nils Ehrenberg, Laura Schipien, and Stephen Fortelny

Further reading
The design brief
Designing for Mass Interaction at the Royal Danish Theatre