‘The Under Presents’ Redefines Immersive Theater in Live VR Retelling of ‘The Tempest’

Tickets available for Rift & Quest users. Show runs through September


The Under Presents is hosting a limited time immersive theater show to Oculus Quest and Rift-owning audiences soon that takes William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest and puts you into the story like never before.

The Under Presents is a different kind of VR experience altogether. In the base version of the game you explore the world by recursively spawning and sort of being your own AI throughout the narrative. Live actors also pop in every so often to puppeteer characters though, leaving you unsure of where the game fits on the real-to-virtual continuum. You truly have to experience it to understand it, but a much more lengthy explanation may help you grok where this unique flight-of-fancy is coming from.

Image courtesy Tender Claws

Now, developers Tender Claws have announced a new interactive experience starting on July 9th that explores a different set of social gameplay elements, all the while set to the backdrop of a retelling of The Tempest, Shakespeare’s 17th century tale of a Duke Prospero of Milan and his banishment by King Alonso of Naples. It’s a story of magic, love, redemption, loss, retrieval, exile and reunion—normally told on-stage and in full iambic pentameter.

The Under Presents: Tempest is however a group activity of sorts. You pay $15 for your ticket, show up at the the cinema lobby at your appointed time, and begin the show with an assortment of between six to eight participants.

Image captured by Road to VR

Walking around the lobby and waiting for the show to start, one person showed me how to conjure a magical onion by pulling the mask from my face, and snapping my fingers in succession. Another showed me how to see an alternate universe by picking up a glass jug and looking through it. These were mostly toys for the sake of fun distraction, but the cinema lobby, which was flooded with errant sand dunes, also set the tone of the evening . We would all need to express ourselves physically to communicate since we were muted.

Once the show begins, you’re transported to a campfire where you meet a live actor, who in the show’s meta-narrative was due to play Prospero in a proper stage show. Of course, the ever-so-topical lockdown put an end to the live performance, and you end up joining their imagination as a spirit of what things could have been.

Image courtesy Tender Claws

In the show, you’re run through interesting, dreamlike set pieces, and made to act out parts in the story, all of which are voiced-over by your guide.

To make things even more immersive, costume accessories are summoned to your expressionless avatars. I played Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, who falls in love with Ferdinand (17th century spoiler alert), the son of King Alonso. I got married in VR, but don’t tell my wife that.

Image courtesy Tender Claws

All of it reminded me of a high school drama class exercise, of course setting aside the fact that we were all spirits doing magic, and teleporting throughout discrete parts of the tale, lovingly rendered in a smart, low-poly art style.

All the while our guide would play bigger parts and lead us through the action, and control the environments without a hitch. Our guide, Kelley Pierre, was affable and kept everyone involved as she slipped in and out of characters with apparent ease.

And you may be asking: is it worth the entry price? Each performance lasts about 40 minutes, and is priced at $15. I think if you’re looking for something novel, professionally produced, and are the sort of person who likes the idea of going on walking tours, or immersive whodunits, you’ll really enjoy The Under Presents: Tempest.

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Paid performances will run from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM PT on weekdays and 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM PT on weekends, with showtimes beginning on the hour. Tickets will be available in advance as in-app purchases for $15. Shows run from July 9th to the end of September.

The Steam version of the game isn’t supporting The Tempest, as it’s exclusive to the Oculus platform, available only on Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift.

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  • John G

    Darn it! I was really interested in that, but have Vive, Vive Pro, and WMR. Oculus, you’re doing more to kill VR than I would have imagined.

  • siskita

    This sounds intriguing. Question: are the actor contracts union or non-union? SAG-AFTRA?

    • Ad

      Dear Lord, thank you! I completely forgot about that! VR is infected with that tech attitude that ethics isn’t relevant and gets in the way. We are so screwed if VR performances are non union and then grow bigger and bigger. I want VR to make the world a better place, not be a loophole into everything getting worse with a shiny tech gloss on top.

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      Also, facebook doesn’t love unions so I’m a little concerned:https://theintercept.com/2020/06/11/facebook-workplace-unionize/

      • brandon9271

        No employer loves unions and any that say they do are lying. lol

        • Ad

          Yes but this tool is pretty evil.

  • TechPassion

    Facebook is a typical corporation. We must profit, others die. Terrible company. This should be released on SteamVR, not only on damn and retarded Oculus platform…

  • Ad

    As someone who loves theater and has worked in it, I really don’t like this being exclusive to Facebook. That’s not a great sign, it indicates that this was paid for by them on their terms and isn’t about getting an audience by actually being open to everyone, and they better be union actors, even though Facebook is anti union.

    I have slightly mixed feelings about The Under. The performances are very high quality and clearly show that VR could benefit from regular actors being rigged up in headsets and vive trackers and used to make animations/voice work. I also find it very unsettling and surreal (and you can’t talk to anyone else which makes sense but also feels too limiting) which is obviously part of the point but made it harder to imagine that this could be a future for VR.

    What we need is a hyper open platform non profit app that has a 3D dome protections of live performances from struggling venues within photogramatic environments of the entire theater building. 3doF and 2D viewers are just stuck on their seats (a dozen to choose from), and VR viewers can actually be at the place, get up and walk around, be in chat groups the same way as Museum of Other Realities, and so on.

    I love theater and I really don’t want VR to somehow ruin it by connecting Silicon Valley and it’s tentacles to the already complicated art world.

    • Trekkie

      Why does everything in this world have to viewed through the political lens? Why is it all anti-capitalistic left wing drivel?

      Facebook should be applauded for investing into the nascent industry and creating VR devices that we can actually use at home. They took the risk. They have every right to reap some returns and control their platform.

      If you feel that everything should be non-profit then start one and lets see if that organisation can create a VR headset. I am sure it cant (apart from marching up and down the road chanting slogans).

      Has Cuba made a VR headset ? NO. These are highly risky businesses to get into and the Silicon Valley that you denounce are the only kind of people who take that risk. Not you arm chair theorists and marxist nurtcases.

      Yes, I do want everyone to play fair and actors and others to get their fair share. But denouncing “Silicon Valley and it’s tentacles” is stupidity.

      • Ad

        You know Star Trek is very political, right?

        My concern is about how one set of business models, tech and facebook, will affect another, theater and the arts. It would be blind to have no concerns about that, they’re probably imcompatible and you’d run into as many issues as you do when a newspaper gets bought out.
        I want an open source non profit handling the arts in XR because that has a lot more room to grow and will be much better for art institutions rather than them having to share a large cut with any large company with all the leverage.
        And if you love competition so much as a good capitalist, then you should be way more concerned about a monopoly emerging in XR that is exacerbated by platforms being locked down.

        • brandon9271

          What’s stopping a non-profit from doing something similar? Literally nothing. I’m no fan of FB by any stretch of the imagination but I guess they can do whatever they want with their money, even if it is sleazy. The minute you force people to share they just “take their ball and go home.”

          • Ad

            What is stopping non profits from creating a central hub for theater in XR? They’re clearly less able to and a few steps behind the largest producer of XR software and hardware. That’s like saying why don’t vegetarians just make their own multinational fast food chain.

        • Trekkie

          Star Trek had this socialist utopia which looked very good on screen (the bad guys like the Ferengi were profit hungry capitalists) but they still didnt have “one world government” which controlled all thought – infact they fought against that. Instead they had a Federation of Planets, each with its own unique ecosystem, tech, laws, rules etc and one could choose to live in any of them as long as you respected the local culture.

          I think FB, Google etc are now planets in themselves. You can choose to live on their platform or you can opt out. Remember It was Yahoo which was THE social network till FB/Whatsapp came and displaced it. There is no reason why something else cannot displace FB. Android/ARM has displaced Intel/Microsoft/Windows – its really a free world out there.

          But I think if you say that non-profits are inherently better and will allow “more room to grow”. Even they have to bear the same costs and risks as FB if they decide to get into VR. Making a headset is no joke. But you are free to start a non-profit and create a new headset! Will you sell your house and throw your money into one ?

          I am worried about monopolies too. But am a software engineer and I know what it takes to build FB or Google. They require billions of VC money and decades of development. Please dont generalize – these are large massive undertakings. But remember all these started as a2-3 member team in a garage. So what prevents someone else from doing the same ?

          I am not sure what your concern exactly is. I know this is a “complex world”… it has always been one. The current trend is to conflate and mix up a list of issues and make things more complex than they need to be. So for example you are mixing up Monopolies, Security/privacy, wealth redistribution, worker’s rights etc into one giant problem which causes all of us to scream in terror. Not helpful.

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            I want a non profit program for streaming theatrical performances. That’s all I said.

            As for everything you’re saying, they clearly stated that all the FoP were socialist but whatever. I think you’re underestimating how powerful monopolies are, romanticizing their stories, ignoring how they just buy out competition, etc. As for VR, it is no longer a risk and facebook is taking no risk. They’re using it as a staging ground for AR, which will be massive and a huge prize for whoever makes a viable set of AR glasses. Either way I have no gratitude whatsoever for facebook, I will wait another two years for VR if it meant Facebook leaving VR and AR. And I am not mixing up anything, this is how systems work, either you consider all of the factors or you’re blind.

          • Trekkie

            OK now you are on to AR. Well you sai I underestimate monopolies. That may be true. But you underestimate VR and AR and evething around it. Activists dont make headsets. Neither does Cuba. And I am yet to see a non profit innovate and make anything in tech other than do mundane stuff like run shops, cafes etc. See you in a few decades once we invent the warp drive. End of story.

          • Ad

            The Soviets started the space race and the federation created warp drives. Either way your random nonsense about Cuba is irrational and weird. I don’t care if activists can’t make headsets. Do it right or don’t do it at all. I don’t sell out the future, and you’re being weird about a concern for competition because you believe the garage startup myth.

          • Marcus

            As for VR, it is no longer a risk and facebook is taking no risk. They’re using it as a staging ground for AR, which will be massive and a huge prize for whoever makes a viable set of AR glasses.

            I’m not so sure if Facebook would go on spending all that big money on this if Zuckerberg steps down. VR or AR may grow huge or may stay tiny, because people just don’t want to wear glasses. This is still a risk and not a small one.

          • Ad

            No? Everyone knows AR is coming, its a race between apple and facebook. AR glasses are clearly viable, it’s just that waiting allows for more power under the hood and more use cases.

  • knuckles625

    Aww, I absolutely love The Under Presents! I went to as many of the live actor May shows as I could. It even pushed me to get Eschaton tickets. So bummed that this show isn’t coming to the Steam version. Hopefully there’ll be a run of it in Steam eventually. Keep up the awesome antics folks.

  • Beautiful idea, really. Bring theater in VR in this way is something magical… Tender Claws is doing an amazing job!