We’re taking Judgment Day to the next step: developing the live show in partnership with Double Eye Studios!
Judgment Day has been twenty years in the making. I conceived it in the early 2000’s, finished the libretto and score around 2008, and finally made and released the cast recording in 2021–2023. We also just launched the NFT collection in 2023, and sold out our first drop!
It’s been a journey already, and today we’re taking the next step, announcing Metatron’s partnership with Double Eye Studios to create a new kind of musical theater. Judgment Day is the first-ever musical launched and financed on the blockchain, but that’s not where the innovation ends. Working with this incredibly talented women-led team, we plan to do something completely different with the live show, too!
It Started With a Question…
I’ve known Double Eye’s founder Kiira Benzing for several years. We met at Sundance Film Festival when she was premiering Runnin’, an immersive interactive multiplayer dance piece based on the Reggie Watts song of the same name. We’ve been friends ever since and I have excitedly watched her career develop over the years.
Kiira was the first person I bumped into when I rolled in to this year’s Augmented World Expo. We caught up over a drink and she asked me what was up with Judgment Day. I shared my updates on the project and then she asked me, somewhat innocently I thought, how I was picturing staging the live show. Like, was I thinking traditional (proscenium) theater? This one question would change the course of this project…
I admitted to her that I hadn’t really thought of doing it any other way. When I created the show, I had a pretty clear picture in my mind of a traditional stage and a linear presentation. Also it would have to be a BIG stage; it’s an epic story. Back in the early 2000’s there wasn’t much in the way of live immersive theater like Sleep No More. And though I was a veteran of bleeding edge 3D tech, consumer-grade VR wasn’t even a pipe dream at that point in time. Of course, that last part has changed in the intervening decades. We have affordable VR now. And given my background it would be natural to assume that I was thinking about building some ambitious interactive VR show — which I had barely given any thought to, to be honest. This is a musical, a live show, you know… Broadway.
Kiira’s question caught me off guard, but it really got me thinking. Double Eye are incredible innovators in immersive theater, including the use of advanced technology like VR and AR, where actors and audience can engage with a show in completely different ways. And they are brilliant storytellers. I was intrigued. Maybe she was onto something…
And then she said, “the thing is, Tony… people aren’t going to the theater like they used to.”
And that’s when the lightbulb really went off.
This is a different era. Audiences in their 30’s and under are not going to theaters. Sure, tourists coming through New York queue up for Hamilton and other Broadway blockbusters, most of which are “jukebox musical” rehash productions now. There’s not much new out there, even when it comes to the big shows. But to Kiira’s point, outside of Broadway, it would appear that traditional live theater is not bringing in the audiences the way it used to.
Sleep No More… the gold standard in immersive theater.
On the other hand, immersive theater is on the rise. Assuming that one of the root causes of an exodus from traditional theater is a movement toward online interaction, immersive theater represents a counter-argument. People crave IRL community and interaction more than ever, and live theater is a great place for that. So what we’re talking about here is a change in format: break the rectangle andput the audience in the middle of the action. And add all the cool new tech — VR, AR, AI, IoT and so on, and we have tools that can really change how people experience live stories.
I told Kiira she had really given me some food for thought. We agreed to get together again soon and talk more about the project.
A New Way to Theater
Soon after, I reached out to Kiira with some news: I had decided to quit my day gig and go all-in on my music. First and foremost, it was time for me to get Judgment Day off the ground: promote the album, launch an NFT collection, and kick off development of the live show.
That first chat with Kiira made it clear that her production company, Double Eye Studios, was going to be my top choice for exploring working on a live show. Kiira’s perspective on the changing nature of theater, her amazing talent as a storyteller, and the stellar team she has put together — award-winning actor/producer Erika Barraza joined the Double Eye leadership team earlier this year — seemed to be a perfect mix for trying something new. And it turned out that the Double Eye folks also really love Judgment Day, as well as the other musicals I have in the pipeline (that’s a story for another time).
So here we are! My new content company, Metatron Studio, is working with Double Eye to develop the live production. The libretto and score have been done for ages, the cast recording of the concept album is out, and the NFT project is under way. But all of this is meant to work toward an ultimate goal: getting Judgment Day on stage!
A lot goes into the development of a live show. As we have talked about in the Judgment Day roadmap, we will be using some of the proceeds of the NFT project to fund early development with Double Eye: to pay for creative development, storyboarding, previz, 3D modeling and animation, prototyping VR and AR scenes and interaction, hiring talent (interesting times for that with the ongoing strikes 👀), doing live reads and so on.
While I have a very clear picture in my mind of how the story should flow, it’s time to open up that vision to creative collaborators to really bring my vision to life. Without giving too much away, I will say that Kiira and I have already had a handful of creative meetings, and the sparks are flying! And we have also put together an initial schedule for the first development milestones.
Like the story itself, and the music, and the web3 campaign, the live show of Judgment Day is not going to be like any theater production that has come before. And that is fitting — an apocalyptic story like this needs epic treatment.
I’m so excited! Stay tuned for more details!