Projects

Representative Creative Projects

Bowdoin College

Love and Information by Caryl Churchill – March 2-4, 2018

Images & details will eventually be posted here, but I didn’t manage it before I started at York, so it will be a while….

Intermedia Performance Studio
play/share beyond/in

In 2009-2010, I coordinated and supervised the collaborative project play/share beyond/in. This project (eventually implemented by graduate students from the Department of Media Study at UB) was a technology-driven scavenger hunt exploring the history and culture of Western New York though a series of interactive missions. Using SMS-enabled mobile phones the game brings players through the galleries and installations in the Beyond/In Western New York 2010 exhibition, as well as other sites of historical, ecological, or cultural interest. The game ran twice, once on July 31, 2010, and for two weeks from October 16 to October 30, 2010.
http://ips.buffalo.edu/?p=49

WoyUbu: Watch or Play?
WoyUbu: Watch or Play? was an original translation/adaptation/mash-up of Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck and Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, presented as two connected, simultaneous performances on either side of a wall running through the middle of the space. Upon entering the performance space, audience members choose which side they will engage. On one side of the wall, the audience watched a version of Büchner’s Woyzeck, set against 3D projection animations. On the other side of the wall, the audience interacted with the Ubu characters and participated in the story, including shooting Nerf guns at robots and making mischief in front of a green screen. These antics of the Ubus were projected on the other side of the wall as Woyzeck’s addled hallucinations. For the Ubu audience, the story of Woyzeck was only visible through narrowly focused, low resolution surveillance cameras shown on small black and white televisions. The choice for the audience was thus: would you rather watch, seeing everything but not being able to participate; or would you choose to play and interact with the characters, but sacrifice seeing the full version of what you had created? The production thus laid bare the choices for digital manipulations from afar: those who participate and consume technology rarely see the full consequences for their actions, while the passive consumers of technology (the watchers) see more, but can do relatively little to affect what they see. http://ips.buffalo.edu/?p=219

Performances:

  • Buffalo, NY – March 9-31, 2009
  • Ingenuity Art + Technology Festival, Cleveland, OH (Featured Artist) – July 14-16, 2009

Related Publications :

  • J. Anstey, A.P. Seyed, S. Bay-Cheng, J. Bono, D. Pape, S. Shapiro. “Agent Takes the Stage,” International Journal of Art and Technology 2.4 (2009): 277-296.
  • D. Pape, S. Bay-Cheng, J. Anstey, D. Mauzy. “WoyUbu: Experiments with video-gaming in live theatreGames Entertainment Media Conference (GEM), 2015 IEEE (Oct. 14, 2015): 1-4.

365 Days/365 Plays
In 2004, Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks decided to write a play a day for a year. Starting on November 11 (the day Parks began her writing project) in 2006-2007, regional and university theaters produced the full year of Parks plays in their originally written order, occurring simultaneously across the country. The Intermedia Performance Studio (IPS) at the University at Buffalo, in conjunction with the Departments of Theatre Dance, Media Study, and English, presented the week of plays from April 23rd through April 29th as part of its ongoing mission to integrate digital technology, interactive fiction, virtual reality, and embodied performance. Within the IPS, Parks plays take on new dimensions through digital characters, audience interaction, and live dancers and actors. The IPS production of 365 Days/365 Plays occurred in two performance, April 26-27, 2007 in the Intermedia Performance Studio at the University at Buffalo. http://ips.buffalo.edu/?p=19 

Performances :

  • April 26-27, 2007

Reviews :

  • Buffalo News 20 April 2007, p.14
  • 365 National Newsletter (Yale University), April 2007

Torn Space Theater: 2010 – present

Production Dramaturgy

Since 2009, I have collaborated with the Torn Space Theatre as production dramaturge. Contributions include dramaturgical research, production advising, program notes, and coordination of related events (ex., Marvin Carlson’s visit and lecture in association with Emperor and Galilean, 2012). Past productions with the theater include:

Emperor and Galilean by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Neil Wechsler from translation by Brian Johnston (2012)

The Outlaw Show, collaboration by Torn Space Theater and The Real Dream Cabaret (2012)

Aunt Dan and Lemon by Wallace Shawn (2011)

Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen by Caryl Churchill (2010)

Recent Posts

A Unifying Accident: Theatre Education in Strange Times

One of the most exciting theatrical experiences is what the actor, Spalding Gray, called the “unifying accident.” In his solo show, Monster in a Box, Gray defined a unifying accident as a theatrical event so spectacular and unforeseen, “that it suddenly unites the audience and the cast together in the realization that they are all in this one moment together.” Because of the strangeness of the moment, “we all know that it will never be repeated in the same way again.”

A unifying accident is never intended and rarely pleasant. (By way of example, Gray offers his own experience when a young actor suddenly vomited during the Lincoln Center production of Our Town.) But it is always memorable.

For all their discord, such accidents often become the stuff of legend. Whether it’s the lead actress scooping up a phone from a front-row mid-scene, or that pesky wardrobe malfunction, audiences often recall most vividly the moments when it all went wrong and thrill to what happens next. This is, after all, what gives live performance its brio: the possibility that anything could happen and the anticipation of what will come next.

Of course, now the world is living through an “accident” of unprecedented scale, but while live performance is paused, some theatre companies and artists have never been more active.

For some, this is an entirely new event. (It’s been rather amusing to watch as critics previously dismissive of theatre on screens suddenly warm to it when it’s the only game in town.) But, of course, some of us have been working in this area for literally decades and amid all of the struggle and strife, there’s something really exciting in the current moment.

Both new performance techniques such as virtual reality and digital performance, and older forms such as radio drama and living-room performances that previously existed at the periphery of theatre are suddenly at the centre of global attention. Previously inaccessible shows are newly available (some for the first time), and local events with specific audiences and missions are able to reach wider audiences, bringing diverse stories and perspectives into deserved focus.

Here in Toronto, I’ve been following Factory Theatre‘s online projects and Soulpepper Theatre‘s Fresh Ink series (which, to be fair, has cost me a ton in the plays I’ve ordered from the playwrights featured there).  Companies across Canada are finding ways to bring performance to audiences at home, through radio, podcasts, or as in Theatre SKAM’s “Pop-Up Theatre: Home Delivery” performances at your door.

In addition to new work, the advocacy and labour of BIPOC artists and companies and allies, as evidenced in projects like Stratford’s “Black Like Me” and panels on the experiences of Indigenous theatre artists, have meant that as live performances move online, audiences do not hear the same voices. This moment is not about waiting to go back to how it was before, but as I wrote in an open letter to creative arts students, it’s about re-imagining what theatre and dance, and indeed all the arts, can become in the future.

Theatre is an ideal model for accident-prone times because it reminds us not only that anything can happen, but that even the most terrible and sometimes frightening moments create new spaces for what comes next. The show, after all, goes on.

That’s why it’s been so discouraging to see the dominant narratives emphasize loss and futility, and I see the effect this is having on students, who believe that their education and their very work is being impossibly compromised. But this assumes that there is truly only one way that the arts — including embodied and performing arts — can be taught. This has never been true and it’s not true now.

To take only one example from my own university:

In the Department of Theatre at York, we have commissioned playwrights to write original one-act plays for performance in an online environment as we work with emerging actors and designers to develop their theatrical skills and technique for the online environment. We see this as a critical part of their training for the future of theatre. “The Ashley Plays,” a cycle of original site-specific plays written by our 3rd and 4th year playwrights, will be staged virtually in October, and we have created a virtual Devised Theatre Rodeo for high school students that will bring together drama classes from across the GTA and beyond to hone their techniques in both devised and digital theatre. Live arts education does not stop when physical venues close. It evolves.

This is not to discount the real challenges that many performing artists are experiencing right now, nor to dismiss the long-standing and painful inequities and exclusions that have been part of both arts organizations and educational institutions for too long. But these conditions are precisely why we will wait for things to return to “normal” or simply try to replicate what was happening in the past. As we struggle through our current moment, we have the opportunity to experience not just the accident, but unity as well.

Now, then, is an unprecedented opportunity for meaningful, positive change in arts education. It will not be easy, but it is necessary and, indeed, long overdue. The lessons in this coming year will not be about teaching how to work in the ways we know, but in learning together what new forms of work can happen and how our processes can better serve everyone, artists and audiences alike. Education will not be a top-down exercise, but a collaborative and mutual exchange in which we are all learners. This is the lesson of the unifying accident: the realization that we are in a unique and strange moment together and that we can all shape what happens next.

Programs often talk about “state-of-the-art” in relation to professional arts training. Well, this is the state of the arts profession now. How we learn, adapt, and create today will shape the ways that professions in the arts and media emerge tomorrow. We cannot simply put our programs on hold but must adapt and adjust to the new opportunities.

The unifying accident onstage can be challenging, but it often comes to define the specific performance and can even shape the industry more broadly. After all, the familiar “break a leg” for theatrical good luck is an ironic tribute to one of the defining accidents in theatre history.

So, to all my theatre colleagues, students, and artistic fellow travellers of all sorts: Break a leg this year.

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