inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #26 of 52: (fom) Tue 3 Feb 15 19:40
    
This all sounds so exciting and brilliant. Can't wait to read more, and to 
reread the first 25 posts. I wish I could see the show ("see" -- i.e. be a 
member of a participating audience).
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #27 of 52: Robert Matney (robertmatney) Tue 3 Feb 15 20:20
    <scribbled>
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #28 of 52: Liz Fisher (liz-fisher) Tue 3 Feb 15 20:32
    
Hey (kali)! Thanks for jumping into the conversation.

I wanted to respond to your question: Why the Oresteia?

As part of my research for Deus, I gave myself a crash course in
Greek drama. I'd read a handful of Greek plays, seen a few in
performance, but never studied them at length.

So I read at least one translation of every extant Greek tragedy (33
in total) to see which story had the highest "God fucking with
human" ratio. Heavy emphasis on the "with" - gotta be careful around
those gods - they sure like deleting that preposition. :)

Turns out, the House of Atreus has one of the highest number of
instances of divine intervention, with extra points given because
the gods tell humans to perform acts that would generally be
considered outside of rational and socially acceptable behavior.

Another happy coincidence of using the Oresteia was the fact that
Aeschylus, Euripedes, and Sophocles had already created a
"multi-verse" for us because of their variations on the mythology
surrounding the House of Atreus. I figured if the Greeks were ok
with creative reinterpretations of their story, we weren't risking
the wrath of the gods or dead Greek tragedians.
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #29 of 52: kali (kali) Wed 4 Feb 15 01:27
    
What great reasons! That makes so much sense, and I love the idea of
an Atreusian [Atreudian?) multiverse!
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #30 of 52: (katecat) Wed 4 Feb 15 06:46
    
> the highest "God fucking with
 human" ratio.

hahahaha

we had a talkback once with the audience who played god in DEUS, and 
it was interesting that their motivations were split. Some people were 
trying desperately to sort things out for those crazy Atreuses, trying to 
make it come out right for once. Others were straight-up looking to make 
things as awful as possible.

I feel kind of bad saying but I think I'd have been one of the latter. But 
I like those nice people.
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #31 of 52: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Wed 4 Feb 15 11:27
    
I love the sound of the show!  And also wished I'd seen it! Bring it to Chicago (my new home 
town!)

I'm Adam, and I'm the co-host of the theater conference here on the WELL, and a 
clown/actor/theater guy.

I love interactive theatre, and have always been fascinated by the tech behind it.

There used to be a theatre in San Francisco during the 90's called Antenna, and they would do 
guided shows using a walkman.  It would tell you where to go/what to do in the theatre, you'd 
where a walkman, and I think at least some of the shows, the walkman/tapes would be different, 
so different people would experience different things at different times in different orders.
Hmmm... I guess they still exist, I thought they went out of business"

<http://www.antenna-theater.org/>

Something a little similar was Fiona Templeton's You The City, which was a personalized 
track/ride in a city.  Kind of a combination of arty scavenger hunt and personalized theatre, 
you'd get  an itinerary, and you'd follow that.  The guy on the bus, is he an 
actor, or just weird?  Hey, what's happening to me?  

<http://www.fionatempleton.org/you-the%20city.htm>

Those were all personal experiences, and the way the play went was determined in large part 
by the theatre creators. It sounds like you've democratized that process somewhat.  I wounder 
if you could talk about the trials and tribulations of that democratic process, and whether 
there is any tension between the digital (Hey everybody stop checking your facebook, you are 
at the theatre) and the artistic.
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #32 of 52: Robert Matney (robertmatney) Wed 4 Feb 15 12:00
    
Just a quick interjection:
* For those of you who missed it and who are interested, you can see
an archive of the livestream of the production here:
**
http://howlround.com/livestreaming-liz-fishers-deus-ex-machina-a-choose-your-o
wn-adventure-performance-fusebox-festival
* Additionally, if you wish to see our 6-episode guerrilla PR
campaign for the show, "Dunk Oresteia" based on "Drunk History," you
can catch that here:
** http://whirligigproductions.com/drunkoresteia-the-complete-series/
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #33 of 52: (katecat) Wed 4 Feb 15 18:44
    
That Drunk Oresteia is HILARIOUS. You can see Liz herself being
gorgeous and blonde and extremely tipsy, explaining Greek tragedy.

Also, if you want to join in with questions or comments and you're
not on the Well, please tweet @TheWELL or email inkwell@well.com
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #34 of 52: Liz Fisher (liz-fisher) Wed 4 Feb 15 20:49
    
(pdl) you ask a great question about our purpose behind
incorporating voting into the show.

Once we had the "ah ha" moment around the connection between
audience agency and divine intervention, we realized that Greek
drama would be an especially interesting source material because of
its roots in democracy.

Greek dramatists used their plays to interrogate nascent ideas of
democracy, so we figured it would be fun to do the same thing with
21st century ideas of democracy. Hence the shifting paradigms to
which (katecat) alluded.
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #35 of 52: Liz Fisher (liz-fisher) Wed 4 Feb 15 21:28
    <scribbled>
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #36 of 52: Liz Fisher (liz-fisher) Wed 4 Feb 15 21:37
    
(katecat) I think you're right in that Deus feels different from
Shear Madness and Edwin Drood. But why? I think I'm still trying to
figure that out...

Some early thoughts and observations on how we managed the voting
that you don't see in the other performances:

1) The voting was totally submerged into the performance. One of our
earliest goals of the production was to create "frictionless"
instances of voting. We never wanted the story to stop just because
the audience had to vote on which way the story should. We masked
this through a variety of techniques - movement, music, light, and
video being some of the tools that we utilized. 

2) The sheer (pun intended) number of choices that an audience has
to make. Both of these plays only ask the audience to make one
choice and at the end of the play (please correct me if I'm getting
this fact wrong). In the first ten minutes of Deus, the audience has
already voted two (or three) times.

3) The use of every day technology (SMS messaging) in the midst of a
live performance. You're supposed to have your cell phone dark,
silent, and in your pocket during a play and yet, the first person
to step onstage tells you to take your phone out and turn it on. It
feels transgressive and that sets a unique tone for the play.

We worked very hard to keep the voting from becoming a gimmick. And
to be honest, we weren't sure if it was possible to achieve this.
Now that we can see it's possible, we're asking this same question
over and over, trying to figure out what the exact ingredients are
and if it can be replicated.
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #37 of 52: My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 5 Feb 15 05:28
    
That's a great start to the play--having someone tell everyone
to take their cell phone out and turn it on!! hysterical
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #38 of 52: My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 5 Feb 15 05:30
    
How did this play affect y'alls thinking about immersive theater and
audience participation?  Did any ideas evolve, change, or reverse over the
course of the play?  Will y'all continue to explore immersive theater and
audience participation?
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #39 of 52: (katecat) Thu 5 Feb 15 05:46
    
I am very eager to hear the answer to those questions, but also have to say
I think Liz's ideas about why the voting wasn't gimmicky in DEUS are really
insightful and accord with my experience. Especially the NUMBER of votes --
for the first one or two you could feel a bit of uncertainty in the
audience, but then people really got into them, talked among themselves as
the vote progressed, laughed or cheerfully boo'd at the outcomes--it was
great. You could feel people looking _forward_ to voting.
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #40 of 52: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 5 Feb 15 07:32
    
That was my experience as an observer. You had a sense of the power
of the device in your hand, it became all the more weighty and
luminous, a deified instrument. 

Might be interesting to incorporate the display more deeply in the
play, bringing it to the stage... the way the television set in
"Vodka, Fucking, and Television" (a play Liz directed a year or so
ago) became like a character in the play, a media reflection of the
action. 
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #41 of 52: Liz Fisher (liz-fisher) Fri 6 Feb 15 16:54
    
Nice questions (pdl)

[How did this play affect y'alls thinking about immersive theater
and
audience participation? ] 

I think the biggest takeaway I got from Deus is that we need to keep
exploring these kinds of theater forms (interactive and immersive).
We just don't know enough about what these forms are capable of and
how they can cross boundaries and blend with other forms of
entertainment, research, and so on. There is so much untapped
potential and as technology continues to evolve, more and more ideas
are born. Somebody has to go forth into that undiscovered country
and bring back examples of what's possible.

It's important. It's necessary. It's thrilling.

People keep saying that "theater is dead" - of course, I know people
just like to be the one who first declared that "X" is dead. It's
cool to be that person. I'm not arguing the correctness of that
statement, but if they're right (and even the infamous Peter Brook
talked about theater dying back in the 60s), then interactive and
immersive theater could be the thing that saves theater from the
grave. There was a special kind of magic in the lobby during and
after each performance of Deus. It's the kind of magic that
theatermakers are always chasing and sometimes find. Audience
members were engaged, excited, and above all, present. Even though
they had spent part of the performance on their phones, they weren't
disconnected from what was going on in front of and around them.
Strangers were bonding over votes that went the wrong way or the
wacky antics of their fellow audience members as they attempted to
earn more votes from the priestesses. The whole theater felt alive.
And it was magical.



[Did any ideas evolve, change, or reverse over the
course of the play?]  

One thought I always had about audience participation is that you
never know what an audience might do, so I worked very hard on the
construction of the audience interaction moments to try to control
the variables (ie, only specific characters would speak to the
audience, there were specific moments that accepted input from the
audience, and so on.) I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. 

Audiences are more unpredictable than children or animals as your
scene partner. So everyone (actors, crew, stage management) has be
to completely flexible and ready to roll with whatever they might
throw at you. We never expected audience members to start yelling at
the screen when the voting started - I remember that one night it
got so loud that our dancers couldn't hear the music or the final
announcement of the winning prophecy.

With this in mind, you have to make sure that the performance can
handle that kind of spontaneity and improvisation. Thankfully, Deus
did. But we were't expecting the degree to which it occurred. 

It also forced me (as the director) to be more ok with a higher
degree of looseness in the staging of the show. Generally, I'm a fan
of really tight/specific staging - but we were never going to be
able to do that (globally) with Deus - there were just too many
unknowns.



[Will y'all continue to explore immersive theater and
audience participation?]

ABSOLUTELY. We've already started work on our next piece. Its
working title is Wetwork, which gives you a hint as to the content
of the piece. We're hoping to build the technology on the bones of
the Deus technology (also called Mount Olympus) and see what happens
when we add additional platforms to the mix. The play deals with
ideas of surveillance and who's watching who. This play will be more
immersive than Deus, which I don't think of as all that immersive -
interactive, yes. Unfortunately, great immersive theater (hello
again, Punchdrunk!) tends to cost more - you need serious resources
in order to build that alternate reality. But I think we've found a
way to construct a complete world for Wetwork that is scalable and
won't break the bank.


I know I'm going to want to come back to these questions - they're
so dang tasty. But I want to throw these answers back out to the
group to see if folks who saw or were a part of Deus feel the same
way. (robertmatney)? (katecat)? (jonl)?
 
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #42 of 52: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Sat 7 Feb 15 09:20
    
Question for you guys:

You had 12 different voting points, over 12,000 different potential
scenarios that could have been viewed.  

Was there a path of least resistance?  Over the course of all the
performances, was there something that was always/usually chosen?  

Any Aristotlean theories as to why?
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #43 of 52: (katecat) Sat 7 Feb 15 16:52
    
It wasn't 12 voting points, but 12 possible endings. There were three 
major votes: one that split the play in two; another that split each of 
THOSE roods into two (so now we have four); and another, three-choice vote 
that split those four roads into 12.

Of those 12 endings we did 7, counting the preview (is that right, R&L?), 
and I THINK we did 6 twice and one three times. And I THINK the one we did 
three times was actually the closest to the original play--Clytemnestra 
kills Agamemnon, rules for eight years, and then is killed by Orestes. 
Which (if I'm right, big if) is sort of interesting.

But in my opinion, mostly people were trying to pick mayhem. (Except 
Sunday afternoons, when they were picking Peace & Reconciliation.) It's 
just that the oracles were written such that it wasn't always immediate 
obvious what choice meant more mayhem.

there wre also dozens of smaller votes (that's how we got the 12K 
permutations). A couple of those almost always went one way--one where a 
character wanted to sing, for example, and she was always given 
permission; another where a character wanted permission to tell a long 
story and was nearly always denied. 
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #44 of 52: (katecat) Sat 7 Feb 15 16:58
    
Liz, I'm so glad to hear more about your next project--the tiny details
you're letting slip out are tantalizing. I didn't realize it would be 
immersive! Can't wait. 

On the question of Theater is Dead--I have a theory that authentic 
experience -- really being there, seeing, breathing, getting the photo or 
signature--has a higher value now that anyone can be anywhere digitally. 
At the same time though, people's attention spans and tastes in 
entertainment are being shaped by digital entertainment. So I think 
theater is responding to these two factors in interesting ways (like DEUS, 
& Punchdrunk,etc)
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #45 of 52: (fom) Sat 7 Feb 15 21:47
    
Can you say more about the immersiveness of Wetwork?
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #46 of 52: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 9 Feb 15 06:47
    
"...to see if folks who saw or were a part of Deus feel the same
way..."

I definitely felt that the play was more "alive" than any theatre
experience I've had before, though the plays I've experienced where
you and/or Rob have been involved in some way have always played
close to the audience... thinking of Uncle Vanya, Rose Rage, &
Vodka, Fucking & Television particularly. They weren't interactive
or immersive in the sense we're discussing here, but they were
staged so that anyone in the audience had proximity which was more
involving than staging with some distance from audience. 

I'm interested in how the technology will evolve. I've been thinking
lately about "machines that tell stories," how computers may evolve
to create narrative and meaning, and thinking about how this might
feed into the form of theatre you've been experimenting with. 
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #47 of 52: With catlike tread (sumac) Mon 9 Feb 15 09:50
    
I so wish I could have gone to one of the performances! (Hundreds of
miles away, that's why not.)
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #48 of 52: (katecat) Mon 9 Feb 15 15:04
    
> I definitely felt that the play was more "alive" than any theatre
 experience I've had before,

that's fascinating to hear. I guess in a way it was alive, since it was
being shaped and changed and blown around in the breeze of the audience's
whims every night.

> how computers may evolve
 to create narrative and meaning,

it is hard for me to imagine that happening any time soon! But I do think
computers could probably even now generate sequences of events that _human
listeners_ would somehow manage to turn into stories and endow with 
meaning. That is like the human superpower, adding "so" and "therefore" 
and "but then" to any given sequence of events, so it becomes a narrative.

(like any superpower, it's both our great strength and our deadly 
kryptonite I suppose)

I once went to a sort of semi-experimental theater piece where the
playwright had a program note to the effect of "don't try to make this a
story, just let the events wash over you." I thought oh jeez why not just
have a program note advising us not to actually hear any of the words they
were saying, just have them wash over us? I just think that is not how
humans work.
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #49 of 52: (katecat) Mon 16 Feb 15 14:45
    
well heck, I'm so sorry that Rob and Liz got caught up in their busy lives
and were unable to participate here as much as I know they wanted to. But I
want to thank them for coming to the Well to share their thoughts about 
DEUS EX MACHINA and digitally interactive theater. 

I'd  also like to thank everyone who came by to post or ask questions. 
Hope we can carry on the conversation in g theatre --
  
inkwell.vue.480 : Liz Fisher and Robert Matney, Deus Ex Machina
permalink #50 of 52: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 16 Feb 15 17:37
    
Thanks, Kathy! And thanks to Rob and Liz. We did cover a lot of
(exciting) ground!
  

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