Windmill Theatre Co. is a world-renowned children’s theatre company based in Adelaide, South Australia, and have produced shows such as the award-winning Girl Asleep and Grug.
Sun Runners, a six-part audio series, is Windmill Theatre Co’s first time producing a virtual show.
They collaborated with Perth-based company Audioplay, which will host the audio story on their purpose-built Audioplay app.
The app creates an immersive, live storytelling experience blending elements of live theatre, gaming and interactive play by having children wear headphones and find a few household objects as props.
Sun Runners was produced in South Australia with a cast of Windmill Theatre Co’s local actors serving as the voice actors, while Audioplay co-founder Zoe Pepper directed the production via zoom from Western Australia.
According to Windmill Theatre Co. marketing and communications executive Anthony Nocera, the goal of Sun Runners was to get children away from screens and allow them to use their imaginations and immerse them in a storytelling experience where they are the actor in a sci-fi adventure.
“When a young person enters a theatre space it’s an active experience for them, they are questioning things, they are unsure, it’s new,” Nocera said.
“Sun Runners and Audioplay gave us the opportunity to really give young people a chance to have an active storytelling experience, where they are up and they are moving and not just looking at a screen.
“You are an active participant in the story who builds, hides, jumps and runs their way through the narrative – audio is the main mode of storytelling but the listeners are always active and moving and immersed in every respect.”
Nocera said Sun Runners is targeted at 6 to 12 year old’s due to them being one of the least served audiences in the theatre space.
“We believe that in schools and the education space some of the audiences that are least served are the ones that fall in-between the early childhood bracket which goes up to ages 6 and 7 and teens,” Nocera said.
“Creating shows and having work for those children to attend can be a bit tricky.
“Sun Runners allows us to engage them and serve them in a way that allows them to work with and engage with theatrical and live storytelling and still have a bit of fun with it.”
Sci-fi was chosen as the genre, due to the lack of science fiction type productions in the theatre industry according to Nocera.
“We don’t get a lot of science fiction in theatre as a genre it is more of a comic book or film or cartoon or animated type of genre,” he said.
“It was a great way for us to engage in a different type of story that we normally wouldn’t present or have the opportunity to present to audiences.”
Windmill was unable to put on any shows in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic and therefore had to look to other alternatives, spending last year investigating what they could do in the digital space.
“COVID kind of taught the whole arts industry a lesson in that we need to be equipped for digital engagement,” Nocera said.
“We did not want to stream our performances [because] we did not think that is a great way for people to experience those things, we wanted to be more novel and experiment with how we presented our work.”
Windmill received funding from the South Australian Department of Education to make Sun Runners free grades 3 to 7 in every South Australian school, and have produced a study guide to facilitate class discussion.
Nocera said Windmill has enjoyed experimenting and trying out a new medium type to deliver their products to children.
“Navigating the waters of apps and user experience has been really exciting and a big challenge for Windmill but a really good one and something that we are really keen to continue to keep doing and continue experimenting with,” he said.
“We’re always trying to have a convergence between tech and live art.”
Sun Runners is currently available through the Audioplay app, with the first of the six episodes free to all users.Jump to next article