“Gymnasia” – Tribeca Immersive 2019

“Gymnasia” (World Premiere) – Canada
Project Creator: Clyde Henry Productions
Key Collaborators: The National Film Board of Canada and Felix & Paul Studios
Plot: “Step into a dream, where the ghostly ephemera of a lost childhood await you.”
Duration: 6 minutes


“Gymnasia” creeps up on me even before I put my virtual reality (VR) set on, and step into the abandoned school inhabited by ghosts and mechanical puppets.

A puppet with a giant head on top of the projection table floats along the Virtual Arcade and sways her hands gracefully, as if she is conducting an unseen choir to hypnotize passersby. I curiously follow the lady. I step into the booth and there is a small waiting area inside where a puppet boy with green skin keeps me company.


The crumpled note sheets are rustling underneath my feet. Projections of shadowy silhouettes of children racing occasionally flash across the walls of the room. An assistant dressed in a lab coat helps me into the VR set.

I find myself in the middle of an abandoned gym with basketballs scattered around the floor. For some time, I marvel at the detailed textures of decay in this animated world. But soon the space around me starts to come alive with inhabitants both unseen and visible. The familiar doll on top of the projecting table peeks into the room. The green skinned boy emerges next to me as I am suddenly in the middle of the stage, now looking down at the same auditorium. Swaying her hands, the puppet on top of the projector uses the device to display sheets of music. The boy next to me starts singing. I can see the world in 360 degrees but I can’t move. Am I also some kind of puppet in this school, long after the humans have disappeared?


“Gymnasia” has the liquid quality of a surreal dream. The sound design consisting of invisible children playing and the green boy singing creates an eerie horror film atmosphere. Myriads of questions are buzzing inside my head: What is this place? Why is it haunted? Did something horrible happen to the children? How and why do the puppets maintain their autonomy? Hardly any questions are answered during this six-minute experience. I emerge from the VR confused and intrigued, as if experiencing an odd dream.

For now, “Gymnasia” seems like a teaser to a bigger story. I hope that this is the case – and I will be first in line to see how Clyde Henry Productions will further develop the fascinating world that they have created.


The Tribeca Immersive program at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival included the Virtual Arcade lineup, which featured 22 world premiere virtual and augmented exhibits, and  five in-competition Storyscapes.  The program allowed visitors to experience augmented and virtual reality through storytelling and technology.

Photos: “Gymnasia” – 2019 Tribeca Immersive, Tribeca Film Festival
all photos by Asya Gorovits / Meniscus Magazine