This project is still in progress. Basic information is posted here, and links to videos will be added when they become available.
“Earthbound” is an internet-oriented adaptation of August Strindberg’s Dream Play. It is designed for webcasting in serial form, using only three players: two humans in interaction with a computer ‘player’ that generates the theatrical space.
The entire play is being broken into several dozen short segments to be webcast serially. (See below for the movies as they become available.)
Strindberg’s 1901 Dream Play is a groundbreaking dramatic work that signaled the arrival of modernism in Western theater. Although rarely produced, it continues to be a seminal work for many theater artists. The play follows the adventures of Agnes, a daughter of the god Indra who descends to earth in order to come to terms with the human condition. For “Earthbound,” I have reimagined the entire play—which originally featured several dozen different roles—as a complex dialogue between Agnes, a male resident of the world, and the environment of the world itself. The first two are played by human actors, while the world is ‘played’ by an interactive database programmed to follow the logic of dreams in general, to replicate aspects of the play’s structure, and to represent the perspective of technology as a primary player in the drama of the other two characters.
Each individual segment of “Earthbound” is being constructed from a library of scene fragments and images, organized ad hoc through the database program. Specifically, the program is designed to incorporate a degree of willfulness in its logic, departing from a strictly literal visual interpretation of the text and its stage directions towards a more associational set of representations.
Over the past few years, my performance-based work has been following a trajectory in which technology plays an increasingly central role. There is of course nothing new about the use of technology to enhance theatrical performances, but my goal is to shift our understanding of technology’s role in theater, so that we stop seeing it as a supportive function and come to terms with it as a thing in itself, as if it were a player possessed of an alien perspective and intelligence. At the same time I want to avoid the romanticizing approach that descends from Shelley’s Frankenstein, which personifies technology in human form in order to tell a specific story about our relationship to the nonhuman. I’m more interested in actualizing the technology as a force, and thereby blurring the boundaries of what can function as a viable theatrical agent.
Concept, direction, video editing, and programming: Robert Allen
Videography: Amy Kaczur
Actors: Joseph Byrd and Valerie McCann
Technical consultant: Antoinette LaFarge
This project is supported by a grant from the University of California, Irvine.