Theatre and Computers (forward)

Scott deLahunta (
Sun, 28 Sep 1997 11:28:54 +0100

>The University Theatre and the Institute for the Exploration of Virtual
>Realities (i.e. VR) at the University of Kansas has begun work on its
>third major production integrating new media and live performance. On
>February 12th-15th and 17th-21st, they will present David Gustav Fraser's
>TESLA ELECTRIC in the Inge Theatre in KU's Murphy Hall.
>i.e. VR's previous ground-breaking projects include THE ADDING MACHINE,
>Beckett's PLAY, and, most recently, Arthur Kopit's WINGS. All of these
>productions involved the integration of real-time 3D computer-generated
>virtual environments and live actors performing before a live audience.
>With the production of TESLA ELECTRIC, i.e. VR will move in a slightly new
>direction. Rather than utilizing real-time virtual environments to
>provide the scenic elements for the production, the design team will
>render each scene using sophisticated 3-D modeling and lighting simulation
>software. Each scene will be presented as stereoscopic projections that
>the audience will view through special 3-D glasses. The "virtual scenery"
>for TESLA ELECTRIC will far outstrip i.e. VR's previous projects in terms
>of the quality and detail of the scenic image, creating three-dimensional
>photo-realistic environments that are at once fantastical and startlingly
>life-like. Scenes are being created with "DesignWorkshop", an
>architectural modeling program from Artifice, Inc. These scenes are then
>rendered with "Radiance" software running on a Silicon Graphics Origin
>2000 computer at KU's Academic Computing Services. To bolster the
>real-time sense of these essentially static environments, animated images
>will be integrated into the scenic projections to render things like snow
>falling outside a window or lighting arcing between two poles.
>For this production, live actors will perform in front of three large
>rear-projection screens that will display the stereoscopic projections and
>surround the stage on three sides. The breadth of these screens will
>provide the live audience with a sense of immersion within the fictive
>environment, filling up anywhere from 141 degrees to 67 degrees of their
>horizontal visual scope.
>Associate professor, Mark Reaney, graduate student, Lance Gharavi, and
>professor Ronald Willis, the team that created i.e. VR's previous
>productions, are once again joining forces to stage TESLA ELECTRIC. Lance
>Gharavi will direct and Mark Reaney will design and produce the
>technological elements of the production. Joining the team for the first
>time is Martin Moeck, an expert in computer lighting simulations from KU's
>Department of Architectural Engineering. The design process for TESLA
>ELECTRIC is as unique as the production itself. Through e-mail, private
>web pages and a FTP site, Mark Reaney is coordinating a team of designers,
>each of whom will be responsible for rendering different scenes, objects,
>and special effects within the play.
>Fraser's TESLA ELECTRIC tells the story of the inventor Nikola Tesla as he
>struggles with skeptical industrialists, myopic bureaucrats, and openly
>hostile colleagues in an attempt to realize his dream of a--literally and
>figuratively--radiant future through technology. Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)
>was the man responsible for harnessing alternating current (AC). He
>invented the radio (before Marconi), fluorescent lighting, and the
>bladeless turbine. Tesla was also an early pioneer in the fields of
>robotics, particle-beam weaponry, and plasma physics. Fraser's decidedly
>episodic play is both highly fictionalized and meticulous in its
>historical detail. It is, on the one hand, a vaudevillian comedy,
>visually spectacular, fantastical, and self-consciously theatrical, yet it
>is also a poignant and moving psychological and spiritual portrait of a
>visionary who desperately wrestles with the forces of nature and
>The production team of TESLA ELECTRIC believes the marriage of Fraser's
>script and their own expertise in the budding field of "virtual
>reality-theatre" to be a happy one. In TESLA ELECTRIC, i.e. VR is
>creating a theatrical narrative of the mytho-historic struggles of the man
>who birthed the revolutionary technologies that forged the character of
>the 20th century. This production will combine traditional theatre
>methods and new computer technologies that are rapidly creating a
>revolution in the theatre for the 21st century.
>Due to the high level of international interest in i.e.VR's productions,
>plans are being laid for a live web broadcast of TESLA ELECTRIC. For
>further information, visit i.e. VR's website at:
>or call Mark Reaney or Lance Gharavi at:
>(785) 864-3381
>(785) 864-5251 fax.
>or e-mail Lance Gharavi at:
>or Mark Reaney at:
Scott deLahunta and Susan Rethorst
Writing Research Associates, NL
Sarphatipark 26-3, 1072 PB Amsterdam, NL
tel: +31 (0)20 662 1736
fax: +31 (0)20 470 1558