Theatre Studies Prof. Reimagines Theatre through Virtual Reality Experience | College of Arts

Theatre Studies Prof. Reimagines Theatre through Virtual Reality Experience

Posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2024

Written by Kate Tschirhart

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. Macbeth VR Experience. Directed by Peter Kuling. Starring André Sills, Julie Lumsden, Virgilia Griffith, Lauren Foster, Kristopher Bowman, Deborah Hay, Jonathan Tan, Jason Cadieux, and featuring Seana McKenna as Hecate. Developed by SimWave and the University of Guelph. Copyright 2023. Trees in the background and three stones with animals on them in the foreground. University of Guelph logo. SimWave - A Calian Company logo.
Macbeth VR Experience Promotional Poster

Can technology cast theatre in a new light? Peter Kuling, assistant professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies in the College of Arts at the University of Guelph, believes so. 

Kuling recently directed the Macbeth VR Experience, which was funded through the Ontario Exchange Network who partnered Kuling, actors from the Shaw and Stratford Festivals, and College of Arts students with SimWave VR to produce it. The experience, used exclusively for educational purposes, offers a new take on Shakespeare’s classic play. Its aim, Kuling notes, is to ignite an interest in theatre among younger generations including high school students by increasing the accessibility of theatre. 

Blending Technology and Experiential Learning to Renew the Appeal of Theatre 

Kuling describes the production as a “living cinematic experience” where the participant becomes the character and has a 360-degree view of their surroundings. The interactive experience, Kuling shares, tells the story of Macbeth from a unique perspective, that of the play’s female witches, and allows the participant to choose the witch they want to embody in a contained environment with helpful prompts.  

Kuling describes Macbeth’s role in the experience as being “less a tragic hero, more a villain,” standing in contrast to his character in the original play. This shift offers a refreshing point of view to both Shakespeare aficionados and those experiencing the play for the first time. Kuling explains how VR experiences change the way stories are told, allowing people to more easily digest and engage with them, especially younger audiences. In 2022, he used similar technology to create the Hamlet VR Experience

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André Sills as Macbeth

The experience incorporates impressive digital effects not possible to execute on a stage, which intensify the immersive user experience. Also, sprinkled within the experience are hidden nods (“Easter eggs”) for all U of G participants to uncover and enjoy. 

Julie Lumsden as First Witch
Virgilia Griffith as Second Witch
Lauren Foster as Third Witch


Connecting Educators and Students with Theatre

The Macbeth VR Experience will be available to registered users on the Ontario Exchange Network as of May 15, 2024 and be available to U of G students at the McLaughlin Library soon. The first playthroughs of the Macbeth VR Experience will happen at the Canadian Conference on Artificial Intelligence taking place at the U of G May 27-31, 2024.

For more information or media interviews, please contact Peter Kuling at