Mark Petrakis makes things happen among people, using technology, storytelling, and deeply polished pataphysical mojo.

Once every year or two, a couple dozen performance artists and technology jockeys assemble under Petrakis' direction, somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, and put together a show. They always use small halls of three to five hundred seats. "The Cobra Lounge" is a nightclub from the eleventh dimension that materializes from time to time, like Brigadoon. The shows are advertised mostly by word of mouth, and all three shows are always sold out a week in advance.

A few years ago, my daughter and I were invited to perform. We had only one run-through, and it took place the afternoon of the performance. Ten graphics workstations, networked and projected, a complex audio system (a tap dancer, for example, whose taps were MIDI triggers that triggered prerecorded words, enabling the dancer to tap out various sentences). Lighting, cues, costumes, makeup. We didn't get to the final blocking, where the human cues and the technological accompaniments were supposed to synchronize, unti la half hour before curtain. We were, to say the least, apprehensive. Mark showed up. He had laryngitis. He was calm.

He whispered, calmly, hoarsely: "We don't have time to test this, so it will have to work on the first try. In fact, everything that happens is part of the show, so there's no way it won't work. Do what you can with what you've got, and it will happen."

It's hard to describe, but there was something in the quality of his voice that made it happen. We all knew it was impossible. It happened. It was a lesson for all of us.

Then there's the "Anon Salon," a regular gathering of digerati and demos in the apartment above the Icon Byte Bar and Grill. Or his "meltomedia" manifestos on the WELL's Muchomedia conference. Check it out for yourself.

Mark Petrakis

Now he's our man in Multimedia Gulch. Tune in to the first episode:

Downtown Cybertown 1.0