On June 11, the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Baltimore, in partnership with the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect USA in New York, made a gift of eight Oculus, Inc. virtual reality headsets to the Jewish Museum of Maryland. JMM will use the headsets to host virtual tours of the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam.
The same tours were offered by CSC during its production of the play “The Diary of Anne Frank,” between April 26 and May 26. Oculus, Inc. donated the equipment to CSC, stipulating that once the “Anne Frank” production wrapped, the virtual reality headsets be donated to a museum.
“With every play we perform, we develop community outreach and education programming. We’re quite intentional about exploring the themes and issues in the plays we perform,” said Jean Thompson, director of communication at CSC. “It was important to us to ensure that our audiences understood and respected the context for the play, not just the world on the stage: In other words, we wanted them to comprehend the history and reality, not just the play.”
Thompson initially envisioned the theatre hosting a live-stream tour of the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, but was connected to Oculus through a contact at AFCMR. For Thompson, this enhanced the patron’s experience.
“Sometimes, it was very emotional. A few people cried,” Thompson said. “I think the tour helped patrons understand the cramped space of the [Anne Frank house].”
When it came time to choose a permanent home for the virtual reality headsets, JMM was an easy choice, according to Thompson.
“For us, this opportunity has been about so much more than producing a play,” Thompson said. “The Jewish Museum of Maryland preserves and amplifies the stories of Maryland families, including those whose lives were touched by the Holocaust.”