This was a Spring 2007 MITH Winnemore Digital Dissertation Fellowship project of Nadja Masura. Her dissertation, “Digital Theatre,” examined the ways that digital technology–such as animation, video, motion capture/sensing, and internet broadcasting–when used along with “live” co-present actors, expands our ideas of body, place, and community.
Digital Theatre is a type of performance which utilizes both “live” actors and co-present audiences along with digital media to create a hybrid art form revitalizing theatre for contemporary audiences. This work surveys a wide range of digital performances (with “live” and digital elements, limited interactivity/participation and spoken words) and identifies the group collectively as Digital Theatre, an art form with the flexibility and reach of digital data and the sense of community found in “live” theatre. Masura offers performance examples from Mark Reaney, David Saltz, Troika Ranch, Gertrude Stein Repertory Theatre, Flying Karamazov Brothers, Talking Birds, Yacov Sharir, Studio Z, George Coates Performance Group, and ArtGrid. (The technologies utilized in performances include: video-conferencing, media projection, MIDI control, motion capture, VR animation, and AI). Rather than looking at these productions as isolated events, she identifies them as a movement and link the use of digital techniques to continuing theatrical tradition of utilizing new technologies on the stage. The work ties many of the aesthetic choices explored in theatrical past by the likes of Piscator, Svoboda, Craig, and in Bauhaus and Futurist movements. While it retains the essential qualities of public human connection and imaginative thought central to theatre, Digital Theatre can cause theatrical roles to merge as it extends the performer’s body, expands our concept of place, and creates new models of global community.