Training and Visits

Much of my training in Digital Theatre/Performance has come from experience (see experiments. Through University of Maryland courses and independent study I've picked up some skills in Final Cut Pro, Maya, and Jitter/Max. Additional Training has come through summer workshops with Troika Ranch. This summer I look forward to learning additional skills in Dance Technology at University of Arizona and UC Irvine as well as presenting a conference paper on Intercultural Digital Collaboration at ATHE in Toronto.

Read more about my discussions, interviews and impressions in my visit notes.

Troika Ranch Workshop

New York production of Alladeen
Builders Association/motoiroti

In December I was able to attend the New York staging of Builders Association and motoroti's digital theatre production Alladeen. This intercultural work combined spectacular digital video manipulation effects on the fly with themes of globalization and virtual place. The story weaves together documentary footage of the workers at global call centers in India and the Aladdin myth. The workers are trained to impersonate American or British citizens when assisting callers and must adopt Western names, accents, and knowledge for which they are paid well for Indian standards. The piece raises questions about the effects of globalization on individuals, consumerism and instant gratification, and variable identity. The show uses the metaphor of technology as well as the digital staging technology to cast both the call center workers as Aladdin characters, friends personas, wish granters and temporarily into First World citizens. The work has been a key feature of several of my recent papers and presentations.

To find out more about the web site, music video, or stage show go to

I also checked in with GSRT about their process and Troika Ranch saw some great slow motion footage from Dawn & Mark's work in progress "Surfaces."

University of Kansas -VR Lab

Very recently, I was thrilled to attend the opening night of The Magic Flute at the University of Kansas, which featured animated characters and scenic projections by technologist Mark Reaney. It was a splendid production that surpassed my expectations. The sparse set, was in fact a bare stage back to the brick walls, with the exception of the two rectangular and one circular rear-projection screens (and the creatures of light and digital landscapes that inhabited them) which at times made entrances and exits as grand as any of the characters. They flew off the stage with the Queen of the Night burst onto the stage with her circular screen illuminated with electric sparks and fractal spirals of intense hues. They danced across the stage with the feet of the pages which held make-shift screens by poles, allowing the dragon to chase Prince Tamino through the space, or as small hand carried structures allowing the round little blue-bird to furtively mock Papagano and avoid his net. These screens (and the magic of Mark Reaney and his skill with programs such as 3D Max) showed the audience the magic of the flute as we crossed through flames and water, the sun's rays, brought us into a continually rotating Escher-like castle, a forest glade, the mysterious realm of cyberspace, and even set us inside an ever-changing world visually representing sound itself.

Before the matinee Mr. Reaney was kind enough to give me a quick tour of backstage. The technical crew, which remains visible in the background during production, has control of real-time video recording, and computer animation controls for both front and rear-screen projected elements. A controller sitting in the orchestra pit can manipulate the humorous movements of the whimsical and all too brief dragon. During the matinee, I noticed several small changes from the night before in the sound visuals and the dragon especially, demonstrating the ability of the technicians to improvise and create real-time reactions to the audience and the actors. The technicians became digital puppet masters. The cast and crew did a marvelous job in bringing this story to life, and all of them- both human and computer-generated, artists of sound or light, deserved a curtain call and a standing ovation.

The following day, Mr. Reaney got some well-deserved rest and I watched archival tapes of previous productions such as Midsummer Night's Dream (also an excellent production incorporating live actors and digital projections). image/link

Gertrude Stein Repertory Theatre

In March I had a chance to meet with Cheryl Favor and her staff/crew of both Gertrude Stein Repertory Theatre and their for-profit company Learning Worlds. The dedicated group works together during the day and makes time for their driving passion for theatre after hours. This group has been busy with the Glow Pack theater database a collaboration with scholars at Cornell University and in St. Petersburg. I was fascinated with their descriptions of previous works the Crucible Project and Ubu Roi, both multi-site projects, and by the stunning images created in earlier works which layered projected performers on top of present performers draped in sheets or holding fans. Their current project Making of Americans, is an insightful exploration of Stein's examination of perception and character.


The visit to University of Georgia was a wonderful experience. In brief, Georgia and Dr. David Saltz and Allen Partridge have very impressive facilities (and staff) "behind the glass door" which include motion capture facilities several labs and staff dedicated to creating 3D animations for the Virtual Vaudeville project. In addition to their past work on digital theatre incorporating live actors and 3D character (Tempest), live actors and interactive sensor-triggering environments (Kaspar) and semi-live actors and media in interactive/performative environments (Beckett Space).....Georgia has another very strong asset, ICE . Ideas for Creative Exploration is an inspiring example of a hub for coordination and facilitation of interdisciplinary digital collaboration.

Studio Z

Studio Z in Chicago is a exciting group which works with the improvisational techniques of Second City and incorporates elements of Commedia del arte in their modern tales of urban life and characters. Dan Zellner ( heads the group which develops original material for performance in front of a mobile rear-projection screen which makes digital performance (and settings accessible to varied audiences.


Talking Birds

Recently, I visited with The Talking Birds, a group which works on site-specific performances which evolve out of thier fascination with community landmarks. The group researches the buildings, gathers oral histories, and devises new scripts to be performed in these found spaces in a way which both draws on thier history and expands the audiences's sense of the places' cultural meaning. I was able to observe the group working on Three Doctors, a piece in an abandoned hospital wing and as they rehearsed thier pagent piece (as Jonah) from inside a giant metal whale. I also enjoyed participating as a phone voice in one of thier recent projects.


Visit Notes:

Read more about my discussions, interviews and impressions in my visit notes.