Computers, projectors and theatre

Last night I saw the new projector in motion for the first time.  Holy multi-media, batman.  It’s really beautiful and exciting.  It is going to make Little Brother as cool as it needs to be, as it is a show that depends on the audience understanding the technology in the book to get the most out of the story.  This is not fluff, this is as
essential to the play as, let’s say,  the costumes.

That is not always the case.

I looked up to our SM booth and saw three staff members (SM, ASM and video
engineer) clicking away furiously.  Four more laptops were lighting the center
audience.   At one moment there was a serious search for an open outlet. It reminded me of my first few apartments – way too many plugs, no where left to go.

Another flashback – CMTC’s first show in Boston.  At the incredible Boston Center
for the Arts  where we were able to  rent cheap, and use their small, unheated
space.  Our sound was on CDs, I think, but it could have been a tape player. Our
lights were basically their wash.  I directed, and also performed on the light
board.   I totally mean that, performed, as there was no X to Y switch, and I was
spending the 2-hour show desperately trying to hold steady and not twitch too
much when we had to go to the next cue.  Sometimes I would flash a light if I felt
the show needed a little excitement.   It was Stein’s Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights so
it seemed somewhat appropriate.

We’ve come a long way, baby.  I guess.  But on the other hand, at what cost?
Having this much power on stage is incredible, but it is also dangerous.
As I am thinking thru design choices for A Bright Room Called Day, which will
also use video, I am reminded that the storytelling has to come first.  Everything
on the screen is gravy.  People come to the theatre to see themselves in 3-D, in
real life, and because theatre is dangerous.  One of my professors, Ray Munro,
says the only reason people go to the theatre is that someone can die.  I totally
get that.  And this technology, no matter how pretty, is already dead.  It is canned.
It is, in some ways, the opposite of what we do.

Josh Costello, our incredible Little Brother  director and adapter knows this.  I
overheard a discussion where he wondered if one video moment was distracting
from the storytelling.  The tech crew argued against it, first I think because of how
beautiful and cool it was, but then Josh reminded everyone that the actors on stage
have to be the focus.  Always.  That cue may remain in, or they might adjust, but I was
thrilled at the process that was examining THE WHY of all the computer magic we
can  create, in a medium that in its essence is about two live humans, on stage,
bearing their souls for us.

No computer required for that.  Just flesh and blood.


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