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The Builders Association and dbox, SUPER VISION: REHEARSAL

SUPER VISION tells three stories

1. As he crosses successive borders, a solitary traveller gradually is forced to reveal all of his personal information, until his identity becomes transparent, with no part of his life left outside the boundaries of datasurveillance.

2. A young woman (Jen), addicted to the white noise of constant connection, maintains a long-distance relationship with her Grandmother. As she makes efforts to digitally archive her Grandmother's past, the Grandmother slips into senility.

3. A father covertly exploits his young son's personal data to meet the demands of the family's lifestyle. This ploy escalates beyond the father's control, until he is compelled to disappear. His wife and son are left with a starkly diminished data portrait, and his escape is shadowed by the long reach of the datasphere.

Dan Dobson

Dan Dobson: We had our first real workshop in the summer of last year (2004) at the Wexner Centre. They gave us the theatre and use of the University of Ohio MoCap (Motion Capture) centre - we were allowed to play for about a week. You know, coming from a place where you don’t have a text to work with, we were playing around with so much technology and without a real destination yet. Very few of those ideas remained. We were working with an earlier video designer - and we didn’t really have that many sound ideas - and he kept going: ‘data,’ ‘data’. So that was our little mantra back then.

Then we just really talked about writing for a number of months. We were working with a film scriptwriter - just because we end up cutting text so much and a lot of theatrical writers have lot of problems with people doing that to their work and film writers don’t. They are much more use to edits. And we went around with stories for so long and then ended up in The Kitchen in New York, doing a little two-and-a-half week workshop.

Nick Kaye: That was in the spring (2005)?

Dan Dobson: Early spring of this year. We just walked in and started playing again. We had new video at that point, so nothing had been set yet. We just kept trying to get some destinations recorded and then found another writer – Constance DeJong. Constance started in June (2005). We had a weeklong reading - really with no technology - looking at a few things for live image manipulation. When we started again in August (2005) that was kind of from scratch - it was almost a clean slate. We did it in six weeks. It was really five, because by the last week we were just trying to run it. So this show was kind of made in five weeks, which is pretty crazy. ALLADEEN was a much longer process and those earlier workshop periods really did create a base for things to move along.


Nick Kaye: When you are creating the sound environment are you working or creating a context for the performers by responding to what the performers are doing - or are you creating something that the performers then work against?

Dan Dobson: Yeah we go in to our six-week process (August 2006). First, all our equipment comes in – all the actors use microphones. We start reading the scriptMarianne Weem’s first question is ‘Dan, what you got?” It’s like ‘ I got nothing – I just walked in!’ There is a lot of pressure to get something for them to work with right away, because to be up there – loud, with a microphone, but naked – bare – is so very difficult for the actors. So there is a lot of pressure to get something in very quickly, so you are just spinning stuff out and nine times out of ten it doesn’t work. But you have just got to get something there. I just keep making stuff and this time was the first time where I actually did the process with an assistant –Josh Schmidt. It is unbelievable how much it frees up my time and just my nerves. The process used to be kind of painful – somebody is asking for sounds – I don’t have it. When did I have time to make it? So this was great. I could really afford to have the time to be able to have a headphone on one ear and listen to what they were doing and just think. Then just all of a sudden one thing kind of hit and then that feels good - you just work a lot at it.

Nick Kaye: How does the evolution of the sound work with the other layers of media?

Dan Dobson: The whole process is much harder for video people, because it takes so much longer to make video. We just keep working and there are some things that are now synched to video – but that happens after the process.

Nick Kaye: So things stayed fairly open until quite late?

Dan Dobson: A little bit more with SUPER VISION, because I am using software that is much more flexible. So we keep on adjusting and changing - and that keeps it interesting for me - and Marianne Weems has no problem with that. Actors don’t usually have a problem with that – we get to keep working on it.

James Gibbs

Nick Kaye: In the talk you gave at BAM with Marianne Weems, you discussed a kind of responsive scene or responsiveness in the design – or the way the design unfolds, which seems to pick up some of these things.

James Gibbs: Not only is it responsive during the show, but also the design process was intensely collaborative – and it’s about responsiveness in that sense too. In developing the traveller’s scenes we wanted to use these tree structures - partly because of how suggestive they are of connections between information and also because of how common they are in people’s efforts to visualize and organize data. We had this idea fairly early on about having trees as a more graphic element, with angles and parallel lines that would become organic over the course of the piece, and over time - as it becomes a little bit more invasive - reaching the point where he has been flayed – where there are veins pulled out of him instead of just a graphic structure. But the idea of making these trees overwhelming and layering them off and obscuring Rizwan Mirza grew out of rehearsal and performing - and finding a place for it to land. That is an example where the visual design - and what we should do - evolved over the rehearsal period. We all came together to create something that I don’t think any of us would have sat down with a storyboard and drawn. Although it seems, in retrospect, like the obvious choice, it never is.

David Pence

Nick Kaye: To what extent were you working with the technology in rehearsal?

David Pence: We worked with the technology from day one—even before then, given that James Gibbs, Peter Flaherty and Dan Dobson were important contributors to the script workshops. And this is emblematic of the way Builders’ members think about projects and making work, which is that even at that early stage—when there are just words on paper—we are already starting to unify the ideas of the director, the designers, the live performers, and the playwright. The group is already talking to each other about the ways information will be transmitted. That’s the context for talking about plot, character development, imagery . . . because all of it will involve media in some way. For example, at the most basic level, we know from the start that every word of the script will be delivered through a microphone. So everyone works on exactly how we shape the text, the physical performance, the visuals, the cameras, the sound. For me, that’s really exhilarating. It’s the only way I have worked for the past fifteen years.

see also: collaboration and development | data environment | interactivity | script development | soundscape |


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