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  • Writer's pictureJason Simms

The Bubble: A Project Reborn

Over the summer while quarantining at home in Ithaca NY, I created a hypothetical pandemic-safe performance venue called The Hive. After receiving a generous grant from the Cornell Council for the Arts, this hypothetical project is being reborn as The Bubble, a virtual performance space which will launch on Monday, February 1st, 2021.

As a virtual performance space, performers and audience members will be able to enter The Bubble using a virtual reality chat platform and a VR headset, or using a mobile device with a VR encasement.

While initially The Hive was designed to be a plausible architectural concept; the new re-design The Bubble will give participants the feeling of being in an actual version of the space were it to be built in reality. This experiment virtually prototypes the concept and provides performers and audience members with a performance space as physical gathering spaces remain shuttered.

Presented in a virtual reality platform open to any and all perfomances, The Bubble is a direct response to recent demands for the American performance canvas to become a more equitable space for BIPOC artists and artists with disabilities. Creating a virtual space for The Bubble presents a hypothesis for how American performances can be more equitable through reparative programming methods and re-examining both abstract and literal forms of accessibility. Fueled by WeSeeYouWAT and Ryan J. Haddad's article in American Theatre Magazine, The Bubble's core values are centered around anti-racist and anti-ableist initiatives.

As stated on The Bubble's webpage:

"Western and Euro-centric patriarchal (white) methods of performance and theatre-making have had a monopoly on the professional performance arena in the United States long enough. These methods have utilized a hierarchal gatekeeping structure that have left BIPOC voices, performers, and performances in the margins. Predominately white theatre boards, hierarchal not-for-profit and for-profit theatre staff structures, and wealthy white self-aggrandizing philanthropy have continued to perpetuate systemic racism and oppression on the country's stages. These structures have amplified white entitlement and have encouraged theaters to accommodate white audiences by only presenting work these audiences are "comfortable" with. The Bubble abandons these structures altogether and does not answer to the pocketbook of the elite. The Bubble answers to the community and the public that it serves. By abandoning these socially inequitable structures, The Bubble is free from traditional methodologies of production and performance.

The Bubble exists for everyone.

The experience of disability spans the experience of every demographic. It is estimated that 20% of United States Citizens live with a disability. Yet, people with disabilities are arguably the least represented on our nation's stages. The Bubble seeks to change this disparity through not only physical accessibility for audiences and actors, but also by providing artists with disabilities a performance venue home. The Bubble has been designed with accessibility as a goal from the beginning. Audience members with physical disabilities have access to ground-level front row seating requiring no level changes from vehicle to seating position. A modular ADA compliant ramp system allows performers with wheelchairs onstage access. If The Bubble were realized, assisted listening devices and captioning would be available through TheBubbleApp. ASL interpreted performances would also be available. Performances would also be presented in audio narrative formats with before show touch tours for the low-vision and blind. TheBubbleApp would have ride-share plug-ins to assist in transport and The Bubble Shuttle would provide local door-to-stage transport. Support animals would be more than welcome at The Bubble."

Anyone can reserve a time at The Bubble without having to seek artistic approval. ​

The Bubble is currently seeking to present performances that amplify:

•BIPOC artists and the organization that support them

•Artists with disabilities and the organizations that support them

• LGBTQ+ artists and LGBTQ+ supporting organizations

The Bubble urges those who identify with these minority groups to contact The Bubble so that your virtual performances can be prioritized. The Bubble will begin reviewing requests on 3•1•2021.

All requests will be honored and receive time at The Bubble.

Racial Justice and Social Justice are the core values of The Bubble. The Bubble seeks to honor these values through anti-racism, anti-ableism, and other anti-discriminatory community initiatives. The Bubble commits to transparency, parity, accountability, integrity, harm reduction, accessibility (both in the abstract and physical space), and universal respect."

In addition to Social Justice and Social Equity initiatives, the design concept of The Bubble remains committed to sustainability through building material selection, solar energy & LED lighting, water recycling, and responsible native plant selection to ensure an extension of the surrounding environment.

Thanks to the Cornell Council of the Arts grant, The Bubble team has grown. Additional creators include Mary Ivy Martin, Landspace Designer/Landscape Architect and Plant Artist; Bobby McElver, Sound and Acoustic Expert; Jordan Pagels; Digital Renderer/Digital Artist; & Akmyrat Tuyliyev, VR|AR Expert and Artist.

If you are interested in performing at The Bubble, please visit The Bubble's website.

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