A research project on the virtualisation of the live performer

The press Review

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...and there they are Titanic: Looking back by Woody

…and there they are
9 students from different theatre-academies
9 voices
9 approaches to sink a ship
and adding two coaches
who’s voices and views
did differ as well

how to start this journey
by acknowledging the fact that form is content
and
visa versa
by starting to open up a mind
towards technology
(for the maastricht students nothing new)
(for the others something completly different)
theatre-makers from different personal chosen angles:
directing/performing/acting/pupeteering/lightning

so we used the maastricht way of working:
producing performances based on “impossible assignments”
reading, discussing,
trial and error
searching for strategy’s
in which everyones field of expertise
and everyones needs
got space to breathe and expand

technology next to being present on stage

a stage
a location with great possibillities
and
great difficulties as well

but they managed
from a kind of babelonic english
to a shared language

and i think
they
we
learned from each other differences
the ship did not sink
no one drowned
the disaster
the iceberg
embraced the golden ship

woody richardson laurens

Looking back in amazement - an evaluation of some kind by Peter

It's now some two months after the opening night of 'Titanic / Untergang', and after the end of a quite amazing PLETA project.

As always, we quite underestimated the scale and scope of this international collaboration. It started with downright panic as we realised that it would be pretty tough to handle our international guests with only two performers from Maastricht. Due to the organisation of all the other projects we had to settle with that.
Who would accompany our guests through the maze of Maastricht? Who would do all the practical stuff of buying and building all the necessities? Who would make the feel at home? That turned out allright, for most thanks to the enthousiasme of Maarten Heijnens and all the corporate enthousiasme and flexibility of our international guests.
In my mind, we always underestimate the differences in artistic and pedagogical approach between European Theatre schools, even if they are routed in the (North-) Western Europe tradition. The theatre landscape and practice in Europe is very diverse indeed. And that's both something to encourage, and something that's quite difficult to bridge even in a two months project. Next time we would love to engage more students from Maastricht to have a better balance and support within the group. But for now, it worked, miraculously…

As an artistic strategy, we worked in two opposite directions at the same time: from content to form (mostly by Woody Laurens) and from form to content (Peter Missotten - my approach). As with 'Hades' that worked wonderfully and gave the opportunity to all participants to feel at home within this artistic journey.
The influence of technology on theatre (and on society) was the main theme of this project, also supported by the professorship Technology Driven Art. How to apply virtualising technology hands on in a project of this scale? The choice to work towards a public presentation in a huge gasometer was both comforting and challenging. Students improvised with small camera's, sound systems and 3D-scanning technologies. The Maastricht-approach is always to give the students as much technological autonomy as possible; We worked without technicians from school and used our expertise as a backup for the students. That's a very steep but ultimately rewarding learning curve. During the two months, all participants discovered their points of focus, their fields of expertise and responsibilities. Some concentrated on 3D technology, some on the consistency of the story, some on the building of the huge ste, some on the live performance. At the same time there was enough common ground: to perform all of them on stage in a huge technological set (at 35 degrees, during the opening night: it was extremely hot these days in our gasometer). As tired as they (and we, the tutors) might be at the end, we bonded together in this achievement.
This whole experience has been an enriching experience for all of us. We learned to be amazed by our differences. And all the participants got a first hand knowledge of time different artistic strategies in using technology on stage. That's something to cherish… That's something to do again in the (near?) future. It's enriching capacities are not to be underestimated. Both cultural as professional. This experience can be the seed of new ways to do things in our theatrical practice, for all of us.
The end result was at some moments overwhelmingly beautiful, sometimes touching, sometimes way too slow and boring, and always very hot… But it was a full blown and very ambitious spectacle of some sorts…
Was it difficult?: very much so…
Was it enriching?: very much so…
Did it change the professional views and skills of all participants?: yes indeed,it did!

Peter Missotten



There it is: the results are in: TITANIC | UNTERGANG

There it is: the results are in:
TITANIC | UNTERGANG AN INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH PROJECT IN COLLABORATION WITH PLETA.EU

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Titanic / Untergang is an international collaboration between PLETA.eu (a platform of European Theatre Academies) and the professorship on Technology Driven Art. 8 students of seven different countries joined forces to investigate the use of technology in a live performance. As a challenge, Woody Laurens and Peter Missotten - the research coaches for this project - haven chosen the old gasometer of Maastricht as their platform. A huge space, 50 meter in diameter and some 13 meter high, with an echo time of 13 seconds.
How to transform this space into a panoramic setting for the sinking of the Titanic, in reverse? The answer is cables: lots of cables and some 15 video projectors, all of them controlled wirelessly. The participating students created media installations in which they improvised performances around the theme of the sinking of the Titanic. Alongside, they worked with 3D scanning techniques to get full body scans, using the affordable Structure 3D sensors. The quirks of the technique delivered fascinating wireframe models they integrated in the performance. Next stop was Bierbeek (B) where they shot loads of underwater movies in a lifesize watertank. Combine this with a golden, inflatable Titanic of their own making and a shabby, plastic iceberg, and you got yourselves a fascinating performance in a 360° panoramic setting. A bloody hot setting it was (due to the weather), sometimes resulting in a few projectors refusing to start up and a wobbly melting iceberg. That didn’t stop the students to perform in a hightech evocation of the sinking of the Titanic. Backwards.

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Silence

These are days of silence in this blog. It means we're working like crazy dogs to get this show up and running.
A gasometer of 50m in diameter sounds like great fun, but it sounds actually like an echo of 13 seconds, and a whole lot of cables and splitters and more cables.
But these international students are determined to get this thing going.
With an iceberg and an inflatable, golden Titanic and a 360° panoramic projection. With some 15 projectors.
So no pictures today… Well, just this one:

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