‘Computer theater’ refers to live theatrical performances involving active use of computers in the artistic process. The concept groups diverse ideas, methods, and levels of integration between theatrical and electronic elements. The use of computers in theater can be roughly subdivided in four categories. Computers can be used as electronic puppets, where a human puppeteer controls a computer graphic character displayed on a stage screen. More novel is what I call a computer-actor, where the computer automatically controls a character, establishing a true interplay between man and machine. A third possibility is expanding the body of an actor on stage, enabling the actor to produce sound, images, or music as expansions of his voice and body – a hyper-actor. Finally, the most common example of the use of computers in theater has been computerized stages, where the space as an element of the performance (set, lights, and ambient music) is controlled by a computer.
Recent developments in image processing and speech recognition now permit that basic aspects of the live action performed on a stage to be recognized in real time by a computational system. Also, computer graphics and multimedia technology are achieving a state where live control of graphics and video on a stage screen is possible. These technological breakthroughs are opening the stage for artistic experiences involving computer-synthesized characters and environments that were virtually impossible less than half a decade a go.
- Claudio Pinhanez, Brazil/USA, MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts, USA. Claudio Pinhanez is a media artist and scientist working on the integration of computer technology and theater. Born in Brazil, he is currently a Ph.D. student at the M.I.T. Media Laboratory, where he conducts research on computer vision and artificial intelligence and creates and produces computerized performances. He holds degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science, and has also studied theater, music, and cinema. Claudio has received awards both as an actor and art director from national festivals of theater in Brazil. Claudio’s work aims to create live performances which integrate human and computerized actors using advanced sensing technology to ensure that real artistic interaction occurs during the rehearsal and performance processes. Claudio recently produced and performed a short comedy sketch called SingSong at ATR-MIC (Kyoto, Japan) involving a mime and four computer-graphics artificial creatures. He was also a member of the team who created the KidsRoom at the Media Laboratory, an interactive, immersive environment for children. Currently he is working on a computer theater piece based on Beckett’s Act Without Words 1, exploring the Godotian relations of mankind and technology. He is also developing a telemedia piece for the 1998’s Carnival in Brazil, and a multimedia piece involving a Hindu dancer. pinhanez.com/claudio
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