In winter term 2014/15, I initiated a student project together with my colleague Patrick Tobias Fischer that explored interactive technologies for theatre stages. As an engineer, Tobias' expertise lies in media facedes and the creation of playful collaborative interactive systems. As a designer with experiences in the performing arts, I was in charge of choosing an suitable story and took care of all aesthetic issues, besides supporting the technical development and managing the whole production process. We collaborated again with the drama educator/ theatre pedagogue practitioner Julia Hahn who helped us to develop the script, and who directed the staging process with the semi-professional actors. Eleven students of Computer Science & Media, Human-Computer Interaction, Product Design, Media Art & Design, and Media Architecture worked collaborative during the classes. The goal was to conceptualize, develop, and test interactive technologies for props, costumes, and stage design for a theatre performance. The whole production took around 18 weeks - we did everything from ideation and script preparation, over building and testing the various interactive elements, to rehearsals, stage set-up, advertisements, and running the show. In March 2015, we had two public performances for around 100 spectators in total.
is a short story by the British author Hector Hugh Munro a.k.a. Saki
. The story takes place in London’s Hyde Park, most of the time on a bench. The main character is Norman Gortsby who is finally been fooled by a young wealthy man. Gortsby thought this man had lost a bar of soap that he found underneath the bench. The young additionally told him he could not find his hotel anymore, and so Gortsby borrowed some money to him. The end of the story reveales that the soap belonged to a poor old man, and his own thoughts and beliefs cheated Gortsby.
After developing the script, we agreed with the director on emphasizing three core themes for our theatre performance - the ambience and ambivalence of a big city, a tiered society between rich/powerful and poor/unimportant, and subjective thoughts and prejudices. The soap and the bench further seemed to be central symbols for us. Based on these considerations we developed the conceptual designs for four interactive systems: the background projection wall
evokes the city’s lightshadow atmosphere of danger and adventure, the foreground projection wall
represents inner thoughts and prejudices, the soap
is a symbol of a class society since only rich people
could afford it at Saki's time, and the bench
is a contradictory place of equality and encounter. Afterwards, the students worked in small interdisciplinary teams to build these four interactive systems. Before the opening night, we had one intense rehearsal week with the actors what revealed weaknesses and caused slightly conceptual changes at some points, and finally helped very much to stage all intended interactive systems.