Essentials: Optional:
óMac or PC Computer with internet access óSpeakers
óFree Palace User software (registered) ó Free speech plug-in or Macintalk enabled
óCreative spirit ó Imaging software (if you want to make your own sets, props and costumes)
óCo-conspirators ó Scanner
  ó Word processing app 
(if you plan to script your activity)

Making a compelling theatrical intervention or engaging group activity in a virtual public space is an adventure. Here, live theater has new parameters: gestures, emotions and speech are compressed into 2 dimensions and computer speech. How can we work within these boundaries to hold peopleís attention long enough to ask some questions? And why should we even want to?

In this area we share with you the bare essentials of Desktop Theater. Though our specific practice has primarily made use of the Palace chat space, we encourage you to take what weíve learned and extend the practice into your own preferred online venue (and then let us know what youíve done!).


The Palace, a 2D visual chat application available as a free download, is, at present, our public theatrical space. We use this arena for our activities because it is free, cross-platform, widely accessible, requires no special hardware and a minimal modem connection speed to operate. In addition it is extremely easy to learn, has a wonderful set of tools and even more important, an ongoing (though ever-changing) population.Some of the rest of this material might not make complete sense until you download the software and enter into the space, so you may want to go ahead and do that now.PALACE UPDATE! pulls support of Palace software. In September 2000, announced it would no longer continue support of its graphical chat environment, the Palace. The Palace community, as a network of developers who create their spaces on their own servers, will continue.You can still download the FREE client software at

Do a search for "Palace" and a link to download the client software will come up. Unfortunately, as of this posting, registration codes that unlock some of the truly wonderful features of this software are no longer being released, however, you may still visit & chat in the myriad palaces as a guest. Some of the customizable elements of the software detailed below, are only available to members.

For an update on Palace activities (and info on the Palace solidarity movement forming on the heels of this announcement) go to:

3D visual chat environments:

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There are many hundreds, perhaps even thousands of palaces (networked graphical spaces) that are used for a variety of purposes: social, promotional, conferencing, fan-based, etc. During the course of our Desktop Theater performances we inhabit several high-trafficked social palaces, as well as performing other activities in our own publicly accessible customized palace: the Genetically Enhanced Palace (GEP).

After you have installed the Palace application on your computer, launch the application and connect to a palace by choosing File > Connect. You can use the Connect feature to log on to the Mansion by entering its IP address ( port 9998) or you could enter the IP address of another Palace, for example the GEP ( port 9998) or another palace you are interested in exploring. Some popular ones are already included under Bookmarks in the top menubar.

You can search for a specific palace or get a list of palaces by population or subject (adult, prop sites, teen, etc.) by going to the index on the Palace developers site (  ) and connecting directly to that site. If you like a Palace ó remember to bookmark it!

Youíll want to check out the online User manuals available on the Palace site for more specific info (Mac & PC vary slightly).

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Regardless of what palace you enter, itís likely youíll first encounter a black screen because the Palace software needs to download the room graphics before you can see them, just like a web browser. Once you download the .gif of the room you visit it will stay in a file in your Palace > Media > Pictures folder, so you wonít need to download it again. On slower modems this can take some time, and is best done beforehand if youíve arranged to meet someone.

Clicking your cursor in the window causes your avatar to move. You can also move more slowly and precisely by using your arrow keys (though this is limited on the PC).

At the bottom of each room window you will see two numbers. The left number corresponds to the number of people in the room you are in, while the right number represents the number of people connected at that time. Once you are connected to a palace you can move from room to room within it in several ways.

    there are hotspots in many rooms (identified by a change in cursor when passed over spot) which, when clicked on, transport you to another linked room or can choose Options > Go to Room to see a list of rooms with the number of people in attendance in each indicated.Another way to move around is to follow another party. Choose Options > Find User and a list of current residents will appear. Double-clicking on a particular name will transport you to the room where that person is currently located.
If you accidentally "fall" through a hotspot and find yourself in another room (it happens!), press Ctrl-B (Command-B on the Mac) to return to the room you just exited.

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Your default avatar is a roundhead. You can change the color and expression by clicking on the roundhead icon in the toolbar. If you have a Mac and an extended keyboard, you can also change expressions quickly by using your numbers pad. The software comes with a Prop Bag (click on the briefcase icon next to the Trash Can to open it). You can wear the props displayed (double click on them in the Prop Window to take on and off), edit them, or make your own props (more info on this below). We play a lot with props in our plays and activities.

If you feel "naked" (roundheads used to be more ubiquitous, now they are telltale the sign of the newbie, and as such hold a lower status in most venues) you can visit one of the many prop/avatar sites linked from the Palace developers site.

A common practice in most palaces is the swapping of avatars, so ask someone with an AV you like if you can have it. As in life, some Palacians are more generous than others. Donít be offended if you are rebuffed. Keep asking. Alternatively, you can find selected avatars available in several AV and prop rooms on the GEP (Options > Go to Room > av room).

TIP: If you find a prop you like in a room, proper etiquette suggests that you copy rather than remove the prop. To copy a prop from a room, right-click (Option-click on Mac) and drag the prop to your Prop Bag icon, then return to screen for others.

More information on making your own props can be found at:

Prop and Av FAQ

Making props on PC

Making props on Mac

Some of our favorite prop and AV sites:
Avatar Palace
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The text box at the bottom of the application allows you to input text. Once you press Return, your text is sent, and appears as a cartoon balloon over your AV. If you want to use a thought balloon, type an ":" (colon) before your text. If you want to shout, type an "!" before your text.

Like this:

: Hmmmm.....Iím thinking.

! Hey! Iím shouting!

A lot of people in the Palace spend a lot of time there, but probably just as many are wandering around more or less as lost as you are - trying to figure out how to interact and move about the space.

The interaction in each room/palace is often specific to that place, so it is useful to observe the activity already occurring there.

Often people will appear to be completely ignoring you, or others will be present but silent. This may be because they have left their computer temporarily, or in the case of the two people, they may be "whispering" to each other. This is a private conversation achieved through clicking once on the avatar of the person you are interested in "whispering" to. You can even "whisper" to people in other rooms by finding their username (Options > Find User) and clicking once on it, then typing a message. Try it out!

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The theatrical experience was completely enlivened for us when we discovered that the Palace works with Macintalk (and now a new PC Beta text-speech plug-in!)

PC users: youíll need to download and install the free Beta plug-in at

It is more limited than the Mac version and hogs the single sound channel (overriding Palace sound effects), but gives the effect of speech, which adds a lot to the experience.

Mac users: in order for the balloon words to be "spoken" by your computer, you need to make sure your Speech extension is active and Macintalk is enabled. Youíll need to reboot and then the Options > Speak AsÖ menu will be available. Once you choose the voice you want to speak with, it will begin speaking the text you type. Note: There is also a speech plug-in for Macs that lets us assign unique voices to different characters in performances; thatís why we use Macs for performance & documentation.

PC Speech Plug-in

Mac Speech Control plug-in

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The basic user software download includes a folder of basic sound effects. These are triggered in different ways on the Mac and PC.

On the Mac, one can type the name of the effect, preceded by an ")" (i.e. ")applause", press return and viola! On the PC there is a toolbar (visible through Options > Toolbar). One of the toolbar options is an icon of a speaker. Clicking on this icon will yield a list of sound effects, which when clicked will activate the sound.

These sounds are all in .wav format. You may add your own sound effects to this folder on your computer, but they will only play for other users who have that same .wav file stored on their Palace folder. Unfortunately, new sound effects donít automatically download to your computer like new props do.

MIDI files may also be triggered within rooms via entrance or hotspots.

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An amazing tool available in the Palace is the Paint tool. We use painting quite extensively as an expressive communicative tool. To access the Paint palette, click on the small palette icon (near the Prop Bag on the Mac, on the toolbar for the PC). The Paint palette enables you to choose a color, line size, orientation, and to erase your painting. Try it out!

TIP: As long as the Paint Palette is open, you will be able to paint, but you wonít be able to move your AV on the screen until you close the Paint palette - by clicking on the Close box or by clicking again on the Paint tool icon.

Note: painting takes a lot of server power, and for this reason is disabled in many palaces with large populations.

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Another wonderful layer of possibility in the Palace software can be found in its scripting language IPTSCRAE. While it is not in standard programming syntax (uses a syntax called reverse Polish notation), it does extend the expressive power of the tools available into the realm of "magic." Scripts can be attached to your own avatar, to a room, or to a spot in a room.

Most scripts are little more than cool tricks users play on one another (a popular command script is "mosh" which sends users bouncing all over a room). However, the possibilities in a theatrical context for extending powerful meanings are rich. If you are good at this kind of thing & like what we are doing, please join us. We are interested in doing more with this in our plays.

In the mean time here are some resource links on IPTSCRAE for you to check out.


House o' Bots
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Kaitlin's palace
Palace Sites
Genetically Enhanced Palace site

Foreign Language Palaces

Japanese Palaces

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