Proposal for MITH & Theatre Fellowship
for Professor Martha Nell Smith, MITH Director
by Nadja Masura, MITH Fellow
September 2, 2002


I am tremendously excited about this amazing opportunity to study what is at the core of my doctoral interest: the evolving art of digital theatre. Along with my enthusiasm, I bring to the investigation the skills and information of both a digital media practitioner and a theatre scholar. Yet there is a vast amount of information for me to explore.

Theatre and digital media have in common the process of Synthesis - bringing together disparate elements of human expression (art, music, movement, text, etc.) into a new and electrifying communication format before an audience or user. Theatre can offer multimedia/digital technology the tangible immediacy of the human element, while technology holds the key to accessibility (reaching new and larger audiences as well as creating new ideas through global dispersion), and new tools for interaction between the audience and the performer.

As we enter the age of a global economy, we should explore hybrid digital theatre as a possibility for creating a global community. If community is created through communication, perhaps the integration of human-format theatre and tools of digital technology could lend an accessible human element to the global context being created by commercial media.


Through my research within the fellowship I intend to become intimately aware of currently existing digital theatre projects and performances; immersing myself in Internet, print, and media research, as well as experiencing live performances whenever possible.

It is critical to my development familiarize myself with developing theory, performances, practitioners, and component technologies to become fully aware of the existing use of digital technology/theatre mediums. This research will allow me to become versed enough in the new medium and its challenges to begin crucial conversations with digital theatre practitioners.

By interacting with practitioners and technologists, I will look for answers to developing questions fundamental to theatre in its digital form. Questions are likely to arise as to the nature of audience, performer, and medium. I also intend to document specific forms of digitized theatricality that will arise out of my research.

Throughout the research process I will track my findings with a website and collecting notations and additional materials which will lead me through to my doctoral work. I hope to answer some important questions about the intersection of live theatre and technology, venture some theories on its nature and possibilities, and eventually become involved in its practice. I hope to bring something new and exciting in both theory and in practice to the University of Maryland and to a much larger audience.


The following suggested fall and spring activities will intermingle and coexist, their naturally occurring order determined by: my research findings, the pace of my video technology training, and unknown opportunities springing from my contact with both University Resources and colleagues in the field.

1) Initial Work - Fall Semester

Initial research/full immersion
First and foremost my priority is to get up to par in my knowledge of the field. I will continue networking to discover technology resources and find leads to practitioners of digital theatre using University facilities and the Internet. I will discover new developments and new possibilities for the medium as I participate in the following activities.

A)Web research
The initial stage of my fellowship will be comprised of a period of intense research wherein I will gather preliminary readings, find sources of information, and become well informed. This research, occurring primarily at MITH, will mainly focus on Internet materials, but may also include print, media, and live performance where available. With MITH, I intend to spend most of the fall semester researching existing digital theatrical performers and practitioners, identifying uses for digital technology in performances.

As I search the web and performance archives, I will begin creating a web-based resource log of my findings. This comprehensive critical bibliography will be in the form of a website with links to online materials. The website will initially serve as a research tool and will eventually evolve into a site useful to others, featuring links to important sites, definitions, and samples of uses for technology in theatre (live, documented, discussed).

B)Technology familiarization
Rather than concentrating on multimedia training (though upgrading current applications or skills could be beneficial) or creating an interactive project as a goal, my primary concentration for technology training will be learning about video teleconferencing - both technical and usage issues. As other communication technologies present themselves as major components in the production of digital theatre, I will investigate them as well.

At the suggestion of Professor Franklin J. Hildy, I will be utilizing my time at the theatre office and in its CAD lab exploring aspects of video teleconferencing. As I do so, I will come to understand the technologies that facilitate audience expansion and other innovative digital communication possibilities.

I will obtain knowledge of digital video, including the hands-on use of NetMeeting and other video communication tools available at the University of Maryland. In addition to independent research, networking with Lenita Williams and other OIT personnel will allow me to observe or experience existing distance learning facilities and teleconferencing equipment. Dr. Hildy's experience with video conferencing and his association with ViDE and other colleges at the University of Georgia may be helpful in my continued learning of technologies and technique.

C) Guidance
My initial interaction with professors Frank Hildy and Carol Burbank has impressed upon me their enthusiasm for and knowledge of my subject. The research leads they have provided me have so far proved very useful. I look forward to my interactions with Dr. Fugi and professors of other communication technology classes. I am confident in the guidance of these individuals, and in my ability to find sympathetic resources at the University and beyond. It is my intention to learn from the aforementioned faculty (and their interests) and to follow their guidance and refer to them, as well as Martha Nell Smith, in my exploration of my subject.


2) Continuation & Dialogue - Spring Semester

Continuation of Internet/communication tools research will be added to by the following items.

Through my research and networking I hope to gain access to the luminaries of digital theatre and developing communications technology. My increasing knowledge base and persistent inquiry will open the doors to dialogue and discussions with leaders in the field. This will allow me to experience digital theatre as it is today.

As I become comfortable with the technology, I hope to converse with experts at MIT, the University of Georgia, and other telecommunication practitioners. I am especially interested in contacting or working with the team at MIT Media Lab who created amazing interactive technology for L'Universe produced and performed by The Flying Karamazov Brothers. I look forward to the opportunity to meet with the Brothers again, to be introduced to Dr. Hildy's colleagues at Georgia, to perhaps get in contact with George Coates Performance Works, and to meet through technology seminars, conferences, or other routes, people or companies developing new communications technology.

B) Identifying trends
Through firsthand interaction with digital theatre practitioners and technicians, I hope to identify major or reoccurring uses for technology in staging and communicating theatrical performance. It will be exciting work to identify current and budding aspects of digital theatre and new modes of human/computer interaction and interactively.

Areas of discovery in the theatrical application of digital technology might include: audience expansion, scenic/costume elements, computer as art or music, interactive effects, holograms, even technology as character or plot. This information can only be gained by identifying and cataloging elements of performed pieces over a period of time.

C)Exploration of evolving questions
I will be examining questions that arise from research as the project matures. The exploration of questions evolving from research into digital theatre may include inquires into the nature of the digital performer or audience such as: what are the new meanings of . . .

Inquiries into the success of perceived seamlessness between the actor and technology, levels of interaction/interactivity, as well as questions of actual and perceived accessibility may also become relevant. Hypothesizing about directions in which performance technology could develop and identifying current technological limitations will occur naturally in the later stages of inquiry.

D)Refine website
Continued work on the website will steer it from a resource log to a usable website as I will dedicate some time to interface design, appearance, and organization. I would expect to continue this work over time.

Ongoing Work:

Some of these questions can not be answered in a year's time, as these are doctoral goals. Ultimately the digital as well as paper trail I create for my doctoral research this year will exist beyond the Fall/Spring semester as my ongoing passion for discovery leads me to the very doorstep of my dissertation. Ultimately I would like to bring digital theatre here to the University of Maryland as part of my doctorate. I am excited by this opportunity and would like to meet any expectations that might contribute to the continued support of this work.

I hope to make contact with the MIT team and to inquire about possible Summer or seminar involvement with MIT, as well as explore options with other performance technologists, performance groups, or seminars.

Areas of Inquiry (Doctoral Work)

In addition to the essential questions of the audience, the performer, and the nature of live interactivity in a digital theatre, possible areas of inquiry for doctoral work include the following.


I am eager to begin my exploration into existing and potential theatrical digital mediums and to embark upon envisioning the creation of a new medium; prototypical digitized global theatre, in theory and/or performance.


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