Tag Archives: CHAT festival

Update on CHAT festival

7 Jan

The time’s approaching for the CHAT festival at UNC Chapel Hill. It’s been so much fun to write for this event, as part of the Virtual Performance Factory.. Like many playwrights, I’m well acquainted with “development hell” and this gig, by contrast, has always involved a guarantee that the thing will be taken into full production—in collaboration with Icarus, a commercial video game company (Fallen Earth producers).

The brief? To write a short script for live performance with audience interaction (no, Mildred, not the dreaded “audience participation” where people are hauled on stage before the rest of a seated audience for ritual humiliation–but a way of scripting for an interactive space where the audience become a part of the event). Also to include: virtual and video-game elements, which are being designed and produced by Icarus.

My piece involves a head-injured soldier who lives in a cardboard-box homeless village under a freeway, but steps through the “doors” of memory into another world–the world of remembered war-fare, modeled on an action video game. Continue reading

“How the Future Force Warrior Will Work”

25 Nov

HowStuffWorks “How the Future Force Warrior Will Work”.

I’m fascinated by the interface of war and virtual reality–the moral questions it embeds as war becomes more possible to conduct at a distance (from the US anyway), and the ways in which video games and war are working together to create virtual environments in which real people get killed.

Here’s a little sample of the article (linked above) which describes the next generation of technologically-augmented US warriors, to be unleashed in battle within 10 years:

“Soldiers will utilize a voice-activated, drop-down screen in the helmet to access information without having to put down their weapons. Embedded in a pair of transparent glasses, the display will appear to the soldier as a 17-inch screen. This screen can display maps and real-time video provided by a forward-positioned scout team, satellite or aircraft. According to DeGay, “We are working to have the graphic user interface inside the computer systems to either replicate computer graphic user interfaces or even Playstation 2/Xbox graphic user interfaces,” because most of today’s soldiers are already familiar with how those systems work.”

So Playstation 2 and XBox become the screen model for actual war fare. Among other unforgettable phrases in this article (from the HowStuffWorks site):
“Imagine a platoon of soldiers wearing suits that turn an ordinary person into a real, live superhero.”

I don’t know about you, but I find the idea of young guys playing a sort of war-adapted XBox while able to leap tall buildings and crush living enemies to death kind of terrifying.

So, this is nominally a blog to do with theatre. What do virtual warfare and robotic soldiering have to do with theatre? I think the answer is something to do with the troubled notion of liveness–of co-presence. Historically the “live” aspect is at the ontological core of theatre, but increasingly, as the theatres empty and cyberspace fills up, as the country wages war with no end-game in sight but we see nary a body—there’s no “there” there. We are shifting radically away from what “presence” used to mean–cohabiting physical space, but the hunger for co-presence, and new ways of achieving it, haven’t gone away (here i am typing into the white-space of the screen after all, dear reader).

I’m interested in how theatre can deal with this, create spaces of witnessing and co-presence that acknowledge that live and virtual are no longer separate categories but commingled in almost every aspect of everyday life.