Re: Theater Technology vs Dance Technology

Scott deLahunta (
Mon, 29 Sep 1997 05:47:10 +0100

At 03:48 PM 9/28/97 -0500, you wrote:
>In many ways I see Theater and Dance overlapping in terms of the electronic
>expressions that could benefit both.

I wonder if it makes any sense for those working in the states to contact
places like the US association of design and production professionals in the
performing arts ( Their mission statement
says that they want to support innovation and development in this area --
Mark, maybe you could sell them on the 'midi-suit' for actors? Richard
Povall, maybe you could find some support for next summer's workshop project?

Mark, I think your dance / theater distinction is the basic one: that the
presence of the spoken word signifies theater. We could construct an xy axis
on this point -- and slide around looking for the appropriate relationships
between different forms of work. More Theater / More Dance : More Theater /
Less Dance, etc. In Europe, the relationship between spoken word and theater
was called into question by Artaud and Brecht -- leading (some say) to the
European physical theater of Pina Bausch and DV8.

-- back to something else I mentioned in the last post... who in the
'theater' world is working with new media and IT. Of course, I forgot, there
is the Gertrude Stein Rep Theater (famous for their big IBM ad done a few
years ago) -- what other groups? George Coates
( is doing something similar to Stephan's
WebbedFeats -- trying to gather material from contributors on the internet.
The site is not nearly as dynamic as Stephan's was. The Virtual Theater
Project at Stamford (
is working on an advanced sort of MOO environment (more multimedia) where
"users can interact with intelligent, automated actors/agents, either in
well-defined stories or in improvisational environments". What makes this
theater? well, of course the existence of 'actors' who are 'intelligent'
(can speak) and stories/ narrative. Lots out there written about these sorts
of environments in the areas of game theory, distance education, etc. Also,
corporations and companies like Philips (check out their 'vision of the
future' site are using the
developments in this area to create multiuser, multimedia object oriented
environments for giving remote individuals virtual tours of their new
product 'rooms' which involve games, narratives and actors. Big money...

Here is another angle, the difference in focus on digital technologies
(theater / dance) and the 'process' of making work. 3-d design cad programs
could be seen, and are seen, by design professionals as primarily a tool
which allows them to construct more flexible and multi-perspectival maguette
versions of the stage. Sort of the equivalent to computer choreography
programs like lifeforms. We know that they are not 'just tools' though and
that their usage has an impact on the ongoing evolution of dance/theater and
media aesthetics. However, the manipulation of the virtual space which is
taken up with the representation of a human body is a different issue than
the manipulation of the virtual space that is taken up by a representation
of a chair. Of course, in digital terms, the human body can be easily
transformed into a chair (arms becoming arms, legs becoming legs) and vice
versa -- animation. So, in fact I may be pointing a finger (which is
sounding suspiciously PC) here at something which is too slippery to catch
ahold of... well, certainly it's not possible in the space of a single

But, as I have written before on the list -- the making of distinctions
intrigues me, especially in relationship to the slippery borders and
boundaries contained within the theory and practices of digital culture. So
-- if anyone else has any dance / theater thoughts, be happy to hear them.

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