The brief for this project was to build both a CDROM and a website for FEST, the Festival of Europen Student Theatre, which takes place annually in the region of Salerno, Italy. FEST is an week-long international, inter-university event, with representatives of theatre groups from across Europe participating in the festival. With the invitation of the Hochshule des Medien Stuttgart and the London Institute to the first annual edition, consideration has been given to the way theatre could be combined with other forms of media to its advantage. The first edition of FEST has been planned so as to include not only the festival itself, but also a package resulting from the festival; and given the openness to other forms of media which was shown throughout the festival, it is only natural that the resulting package should follow suite.
The role of the package with regards to the event is dual: first of all, as documentation or witnessing, to show who was involved during the festival, which theatre plays were produced, or how the workshops were conducted for instance; secondly, to act as a representative of FEST, to express its aims, what it set out to do, its philosophy for instance. This approach is the one that has been taken to the development of the site and CDROM. However, the media used here to convey this has the particularity of being interactive, which both extends its capacities to convey information, but also which also carries with it a different set of rules as to the way it is structured in order for information to be transmitted efficiently.
Thus, the aim of the site and CDROM can be said to be dual: on one hand to provide information on the event, and which can be extended to providing information not only about about the event itself, but also background information regarding the participants, the plays they performed, the authors of those plays, or their universities, so as to become something of a ressource for this information; but also to involve the user in the experience of FEST, to understand what its aims were, what the experience of the people involved was, what learning was created by the event, and what its implications were for its participants in particular and possibly theatre in general, thereby also providing the basis for a more reflected, academic appreciation of the importance of the festival.
Once this was established, the structure of the site was decided on by looking at the key components of the festival. This consists of several key elements:
Europe: representatives from each country carry with them a particular cultural background; yet at the same time these different groups interact, thereby providing the basis for cultural exchange.
Theatre: the basis for the festival, this consists of the workshops in which students from different countries work together, and plays, which are presented by the theatre troupes.
Students: the main participants in the festival are the students. This carries with it connotations of learning, of exchange and creation of knowledge;
the Festival: the event itself, and particularly the location in which it takes places, in the region of Giffoni sei Casale, which with its strong local culture itself provides the basis for learning, as well as an environment which helped shape the theatre that was taking place.
As such, the site is to present a comparative study of each f the participants' experience of the these elements, placing emphasis on what they brought to the festival and what they took away from it. At the same time, it is to provide information about the region, the festival, and a sufficiently far-reaching information to lend it the characteristics of a ressource on what the festival helped create. The experience of the candidates was divided into three sections, "before", "during" and "after", corresponding to the three stages of experience brought by the festival: what the participants brought to the festival, their experience of the festival, and what they learnt from it. The material collected by both the HdM Stuttgart video team and the London Institute photographic team were used as assets in the production of the site, as was material provided by the participants themselves.
The navigation of each participants' experience is to be simultaneous, thereby encouraging a global view of the festival, which itself added up to be greater than the sum of parts. By making the experience interactive, the viewer is to be involved in the experience, encouraged to compare both the similarities and the differences in both the approach and the learning gained from the festival by each team. The viewer experiences the benefits of the festival from a first-hand point of view, with the combinations of different points of view enabling him to understand the festival not only from the point of view of each group, but on the whole, affording him with perspective over the event. Thus, the user himself is able to experience the festival for himself, albeit in an indirect manner, and to gather the knowledge the festival garnered both by the participants and from an academic perspective. And in allowing for such an experience, it can be said that the web site and CD-ROM not only document the festival, but themselves become an inextricable part of it.
Because of the short amount of time available to build the site, it was decided both the CDROM and the website were two have a common interface. As such, to afford cross- platform functionnality, the interface was designed using HTML and Flash MX, incoporating video, images and text. The information for the Flash sections of the site is stored in XML format, and dynamically retrieved by the interface. The main difficulty in the project lied in the variety of sources the content was due to be provided by, as can be seen in the project website. The final product can be viewed here.