Playground Studios is a Canadian design firm dedicated to creating playful, beautiful, imaginative and engaging live experiences. Our work crosses boundaries from the performing arts to private parties to major corporate events.
Beth Kates (Creative Director) is an award-winning lighting, set, costume, and projection designer and digital dramaturg for live performance, who started her career in rock and roll at 14. Her work has been seen across Canada and internationally. With Ben Chaisson she formed Playground Studios and developed several interactive installations, including The ToyBox. She has worked with acclaimed directors Jillian Keiley, Peter Hinton, Paul Thompson, Jonathan Christenson, Daniel Brooks, Kim Collier, Jackie Maxwell, Ravi Jain, Brian Quirt, Gil Garratt, and others.
Career highlights include Bury The Wren: a Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Carbon Reality Experience (co-created with Neil Christensen); Between Breaths Orchestral (Artistic Fraud Newfoundland), Silence (The Grand Theatre – London); Vigilante (Catalyst); Bigger Than Jesus (Wyrd), Same Same But Different (Nightswimming); I, Claudia(Crows Theatre); Love Me Forever, Billy H Tender (Jesse LaVercombe); Brimful of Asha (WhyNot / Tarragon); SEEDS, Mr. New Years Eve, 1837: a Farmers Revolt(The Blyth Festival), Alice in Wonderland, Ragtime, Pygmalion (Shaw).
In 2017, she was the first ever Digital Dramaturg hired at The Blyth Festival (or likely anywhere in Canadian Theatre) for Mr. New Years Eve. There are several projects in development, including a collaboration with Kelly McIntosh, Emma Marcy, and Gil Garratt about trailblazing pilot Lorna deBlicquy (commissioned by the Blyth Festival), a VR performance co-creation based on a work by artist / scholar / IFOT therapist Karlee Fellner (Cree/Metis) focusing on Indigenous Wellness with an eye towards it being shared in-person and digitally with various Indigenous communities, and an adaptation of Peter Brown’s My Teacher is a Monster.
A leader in new forms of performance creation with emerging digital tools, Beth and Neil Christensen co-created Bury The Wren, an Augmented/Virtual Reality/live (Carbon Reality) performance. She is a member of DoubleEyeStudio, and was the virtual lighting designer for their groundbreaking live VR production Finding PandoraX, and is currently working on another groundbreaking project with them. In 2021, Beth will lead Canada’s first artist residency for VR Performance Creation at Canadian Stage, continue the development of Blyth Festival’s Digital Lab, and an XR collaboration with Cara Ricketts for the Stratford Festival. She is also co-leading the Blyth Festival’s Young Company to create a full-length VR performance work, and is the Co-Curator of the ‘Multiple Realities’ section of World Stage Design 2022.
Beth’s co- creation with Neil Christensen, Bury The Wren, premiered in March 2019. Starring Val Campbell, Bury The Wren an intimate performance about Annie Donnelly, examining the legenday story of the massacred Donnelly family from the 1880’s, it uses Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Carbon Reality to exhume from the grave a voice lost to history.
Her research involves looking at the future of the creation of performance, and the nature of performance itself as it intersects with technology. Beth holds an MFA from the University of Calgary where she worked interdisciplinarily between Drama and Computer Science (Lindsay Lab, Christian Jacob director).
As an early adopter of digital technology into her design practice, Beth is a trailblazing female projection designer and has been an invited presenter at the Prague Quadriennial, the Mid America Theatre Conference, PACT, FoldA, and the Wee Festival. She has taught at several Canadian academic institutions including York University, The University of Calgary and the National Theatre School. She is a four-time nominee for the Siminovitch Prize in theatre (2009, 2012, 2018, 2021), as well as over 30 other nominations for her design work. Beth is a proud member of the Associated Designers of Canada, and a charter member of ADC IATSE 659.
Beth proudly serves on the board of Tara Beagan & Andy Moro’s Article 11, and on the steering committee of the PXR conference (Performance and XR). The recipient of two large Digital Strategy Fund Grants, in 2022 Beth will begin work on a massive scale VR Theatre project that will begin the formation of a National VR Theatre Company. Founder of Playground Studios and Digital Alchemy Creation Lab, she has been an invited presenter at the Prague Quadrennial, Laval VR, and many others. Beth is a four-time nominee for the Siminovitch Prize, and she holds an MFA from the University of Calgary in Drama (with a focus on Computer Science). Her best production to date is her son, Aaron—who is often in the theatre and at University with her.