Roving Actors with Mobile Devices

Roving Actors with Mobile Devices

June 2013:  The amazing property of a telepresence platform is that actors can stream right into the platform with an iPad or an iPhone. An actor in New York City can be en route to Ray’s Pizza for a slice and interacting with a London actor en route to Pret a Manger for a Peking Duck wrap. As long as the two actors in the two different cities and time zones have a decent Internet connection, they can stream into the same virtual space online. The quality of the stream depends on the strength of the wired connection and the personal device. We’ve found that iPads deliver the same quality stream as a high-powered laptop. An actor can tote around iPad and live stream his or her surroundings – e.g., a frenetic Manhattan intersection with engines revving and horns blaring – into the virtual space. Suddenly, an actor in London hears a dog bark from a Lower East Side street. In “Dead Drop,” a security agent for the British government has to extract information from the British brother of an FBI’s “person of interest.” Security agents in New York City need info from London to figure out what the connection is between the once estranged brothers. The format is a roving spy caper between the US and the UK. And, indeed, their interrogation styles are rather different. Culture clash jokes aside… The actors in New York – Teddy Canez (“Clive”), Susan Louise O’Connor (“Jane”) and David Rysdahl (“Adam”) – and the actors in London – Anniwaa Buachie (“Polly”) and Thomas Rushforth (“George”) – rehearsed online with J Dakota Powell... read more
Theatre in a Digital Accelerator

Theatre in a Digital Accelerator

June 2013:  The digital space is hot and throbbing. The number of digital startups in London mushrooms as enterpreneurs jump into the space with new concepts, products and business models. It’s the second wave, albeit, more sober after the Wild West era of hyperinflated valuations at the turn of the century. Innovation Warehouse has generously given LoNyLa/TimeWave the use of their event space to launch the festival. In the past few weeks, British theatre artists and digital entrepreneurs have found themselves working side-by-side on occasion. Unlike theatre, however, the digital space in London is distinctly international. Tiptoe through the working areas of Innovation Warehouse and you’ll hear accents from every node on the planet – India, New Zealand, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Austria. You may even detect a British or American accent in this heady mix. Because people from different cultures work and collaborate in close vicinity, accelerators are fertile environments for new ideas and solutions. On the one hand, the TimeWave journey exposes theatre artists to the boldness and drive of this international community. On the other, artists tend to be an imaginative and daring group. They’re not strangers to living on the edge. The cross fertilization of these two groups can serve both communities in productive ways. As per nuts and bolts, lighting designer Simon Gethin Thomas had to figure out how to create a theatre space in the middle of a wired warehouse! Using his own software, Simon simulated the space at Innovation Warehouse and designed the theatre for the festival. We wanted it to be raw, simple and sleek. A large rear view projection screen would... read more
Shuffle-Ball-Change: Internet Broadcasting

Shuffle-Ball-Change: Internet Broadcasting

June 2013: To boost the geek factor a notch, there’s nothing like a late night video-chat from London to Eric Norrell at Telestream in sunny SoCal. Eric is a desktop specialist and all-around web broadcasting pro. He’s going to give us a brief training session on the use of a virtual camera. While we’re staring cross-eyed at three different platforms necessary to make TimeWave happen, Eric is cool as an iceberg pre-climate change (no meltdown in sight). To stream in remote pieces from Spain or the U.S., the process is straightforward. The minute you start using telepresence in which two locations are contributing to one play at the same time, it gets tricky. You have to use three applications – telepresence platform, live video editing application and web broadcasting platform. The stream from the telepresence platform feeds into the live video editing software, which then pipes the composite stream into the Internet broadcasting platform. It’s supposed to be “live,” right? The next stage in the development of these applications will be full integration, so the platforms speak to each other and the process becomes coordinated and fluid. At the moment, they were built for different reasons. We have to figure out ways to knit these applications together. In some respects, it’s a reverb back to shoe strings and sealing wax. Ask any old-time physicist and you’re bound to hear – sometimes strings and wax are all it takes to get something to work. As long as it works, what’s to fret? The next challenge is to figure out how to give remote actors “eyes and ears” so they can... read more
Rehearsing a Play via Telepresence

Rehearsing a Play via Telepresence

June 2013: While rehearsing “Sex, Flap & Jazz,” we used the Vidyo telepresence platform, which is a business-quality videoconferencing tool for corporates. Most people assume that Vidyo is similar to Skype. However, the platform is more than a video chat over the Internet. It’s actually simpler. No number to call, no ringing, no waiting for someone to pick up, and no disjointed pauses or hang-ups. A telepresence platform is akin to virtual room. All you need is an email link to enter the room. You can pop in and out of the room by clicking on the link. It feels as if you’re entering and exiting another dimension – a fourth dimension – in which you don’t exist as an avatar but as yourself. Live. No cartoonish masks. You can interact with a remote person with minimal latency. For drama, which relies on dialogue, even a second or two of latency can dash the connection between people and make theatre untenable. When you’re using telepresence in a play, one actor is live on stage while another actor works from a remote location. During a performance, the remote actor is streamed into the play and projected on a large screen. About a dozen plays in TimeWave are using telepresence and connecting British actors with American actors in either New York City or Los Angeles. Question 1: How do you rehearse a play with actors in different cities and time zones that may span five to eight hours apart? With the time zone difference, how do the circumstances affect the mood and experience of the actors in a scene? Question 2: How... read more