Sunday, August 12, 2007

The First Digital Play in Theatre

Newsweek, Aug 6, 2007


While we are pretty sure that the scenario in Minority Report will possibly realize much earlier than 2054 with Jeff Han's marvelous invention of multi-touch interface (or so-called surface computer), no one seems to be stunned by the first digital play that finally comes on stage this summer, which sounds really a bit too late for interactive art in other media has been developed for decades.

What strike me most is not how groundbreaking the news is but that electronic media finally intrude theatre, one of the most fundamental forms of art in human history. Theatre, when compared to other art forms, always deals with the 'present'. No play is prerecorded. If John Chris Jones, pioneer in the design methods movement in 60s, identified the main point of difference between art and design is that of timing, theatre is undoubtedly a place for an artist to manipulate a medium that exists at the same time as his actions. (Design Methods, p11) He acts in 'real time'. Every performance is therefore unique and cannot be replicated apple to apple. That on one hand hides the most valuable virtue of art, while on the other, implies the inevasible presence of uncertainty in each performance. And now this kind of uncertainty may well be intensified by the spontaneous reaction from the spectators.

In spite of clear instructions from the actors, the choice to participate or not still belongs to the floor. A few contingency plans may have to be prepared in case of no response or technical instabilities. On behalf of audience, as mentioned in the article, it becomes more and more difficult to comprehend the play, which now requires additional amount of patience and attention to follow the plot. As more and more personalized experience is allowed with all these advance technologies, I begin to worry that discussion of views among audiences will become increasingly difficult due to a lack of common ground. We can discuss on a film because we have watched the 'same' film. If 'what we hear depends on where we sit', we can only 'share' our unique experience but not 'discuss' or even 'criticize' on a particular part.

I suddenly got a weird thought: what would happen if I forgot to bring my cell phone when attending such kind of digital play in the future? No matter what, one aspect may be well received by Hong Kong audiences: they no longer have to switch off their cell phones before a performance starts!

5 comments:

jazon said...

hey,it's jazon from ex-mi,
havent see u in msn at all, haha
Nice blog~~many interesting thing to see ,i will always come back to see what's new.
there's a designer work in MI now called Wing , he is actually the designer of 字花~ i am not a hardcore reading fans, but the magazine is awesome , our own words and culture is important .
haha Last time i didnt have time to ask you what kind of job u doing le? i think i will be in the advertising field in the future...

MoonChild said...

a long passage ZZzzzzz
where's the play
"replicated apple to apple"? explain plz, my teacher!

Ling said...

Moonchild~~
what i mean here is that even with the same actors and plot, each performance of a play could never be duplicated or 'exactly' the same because they are all 'live' acting. it's the same token as we see a concert. the one performed on the first day would never be the same as the one played on the last day even though the program, the singer and the costume all 'look' the same. hope you understand my point ;)

Ling said...

jazon,
nice to have connected with u once again :)
i once read this line in an article: "It's highly unlikely that audiovisual media will find the conditions for creation, if they've been lost in literature." i pretty much agree with that because 'words' are actually ideas in itself. if you're going to work in the ad industry, i'm sure you'll find out how useful and important words are. For a healthy culture, we still need words!
btw, i love your illustrations. keep going and look forward to seeing more great work on your blog (esp the one drawn on the wall! remember to show it when you finish :)
and i usually open my msn during afternoon, that's why u seldom see me, and i actually don't go onto it too much...busy ma...heheee ^^"
anyway, keep in touch!!

Calixte said...

Interesting to know.