relying on the web

Scott deLahunta (
Sun, 28 Sep 1997 11:28:52 +0100

I have recently seen an announcement on the perform-l list of one i.e.VR's
( upcoming new productions. I have clipped a
few bits here:

>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.

>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

>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.

> 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.

A couple of things come to mind. Firstly, we spend most of the time
discussing the overlap between 'dance and technology' on this list -- and,
generally speaking, the physical body (and moving) seems to be at the center
of these discussions. What begins to happen when we discuss recent
developments in 'theater' as compared to 'dance'? I would start on this by
suggesting that 'theater and technology' seems to focus primarily on the
development of technology as it relates to scenography. Say we start with
the early 5th century B.C. Greek theater with it's pivoting painted panels,
rolling platforms and an apparatus that enabled actors portraying gods to
"fly." Renaissance theater had such fascinating movable scenery that scene
changes were frequently made during a performance for no dramatic reason. In
the 19th Century Theater, new methods of scene shifting using elevator
stages, revolving platforms, and hydraulic machinery were developed so that
scene changes were no longer made in front of the audience. Electrical stage
lighting came into place. The 20th Century Theater began with Gordon Craig
and Adolphe Appia rewriting the manuals on stage design. Appia worked with
the latest technological lighting inventions in order to create 'immersive'
atmospheres for the actor. In his own essays about his work, Appia refers to
the importance of using a lighting system invented at that time by Mariano
Fortuny which was based on the properties of 'reflected light'. After this,
the work of Joseph Svobada adds to the basis that the primary focus for
technological developments in relationship to 'theater' is the scenography.

Interestingly, Mark Reaney's and Lance Gharavi's contribution to the
technological development of scenography seems to be almost entirely based
on the use of an audience viewing device -- 'special 3-d glasses'. Without
these glasses, as I understand it, the complex projected environments they
construct would lose their special 3-d appearance. In fact, in a videotape
interview with Reaney, Gharavi and others of the team (done by Judith van
Wessel from the Univ. of Amsterdam <>), someone makes the
comment that some people do not see the 3-d even with the glasses due to the
physiological differences in individual seeing capabilities.

....... search the web on 'theater and technology' or 'new media' and you
are likely to come across mostly references to stage and lighting
technologies (for example However, you
should also stumble across Oudeis (, a web-based
"theaterproject that shows Odysseus journey all around the world on RL
stages and one Cyberstage at the same time, connected via the Internet".
This project managed to get itself 'showcased' at 'ars electronica' this
year -- which included a MOO opportunity (
MOOs are definitely more appropriate to theater due to the heavy emphasis on

Any other thoughts related to defining what might be the distinguishing
characteristics of 'dance and technology' as compared to 'theater and
technology' ??

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