Fundamentals and Forms of Digital Theatre

Some ideas or questions to ask:

  • Technology is a bridge not a destination.
  • What’s the point of doing anything when it’s already been done before.
  • Is technology the central point of a performance, or can we do the performance without technology as well?


  • Questioning the ‘newness’ of new technology:
    This is brought to light in Dixon’s use of two quotations from artist Marcel Duchamp and art critic Brain Sewell. ‘Art is produced by a succession of individuals expressing themselves; it is not a question of progress’. — Marcel Duchamp
    ‘Duchamp was in error; nothing comes of nothing in the history of art’. — Brian Sewell
  • Highlighting the tension between what we consider as progress in art and culture, and what we consider as already established.

Jean-Francois Lyotard – a French philosopher and writer. His most famous work The Postmodern Condition (link from Encyclopaedia Britannica)

About technology and cyberspace: Images of Utopia and Dystopia: From the Sea to Hyperspace (link from

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was the founder of “deconstruction,” a way of criticizing not only both literary and philosophical texts but also political institutions. (link from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Dixon takes us to 3 distinct ‘periods of change’ that are important to consider in the history of both multimedia, and digital performance.

Dixon highlights the significance of

  • Computer-generated imagery as a distinct art form in the early 1960s – the 1965 Computer Generated Pictures exhibition in New York
  • The development of ‘Film-stage’ – what Roberts Blossom created by ‘expertly combining live and filmed dance pieces, sometimes in counterpoint to one another, at others in perfect synchronization, with film close-up details of feet and body parts moving in precise time to the live dancers’ routines.
  • ‘Performance art blossomed as a significant and influential form, and political theatre found its radical, agitprop voice’.
  • ‘Just as the futurists in 1913 had spoken of an age of new beginnings, with “no tradition, no masters, no dogma,” many ‘60s artists had a similar sense of shaking off the past and wiping cultural and artistic slates clean: an equivalent feeling of liberation from passéist tradition’.Dixon cites Geoff Moore, director of the Welsh multimedia theater group Moving Being: ‘If you didn’t come out of a performance challenged, potentially changed, with a feeling that you had been taken further, you had been cheated’.And Tim Etchells, director of Forced Entertainment: ‘ Ask this of each performance: will I carry this event with me tomorrow? Will it haunt me? Will it change you, change me, will it change things? If not it was a waste of time’.

a theatre company MOVING BEING

  • Minimal attention to UK based multimedia theatre practices in scholarship, which perhaps reflects the ‘“establishment” conservatism in theater criticism compounded by the rigid artistic categories defined by the Arts Council for funding, inhibited interdisciplinary, cross-media, creative freedom’.
  • Geoff Moore reflects on the “visual illiteracy” of British theater critics, and their staunch resistance to more abstract, nontextual forms’.
  • Robert Wilson on Britain: ‘It’s a backwards country with no understanding of contemporary art. They tell me to do Shakespeare. I do what I do, someone else can do Shakespeare’.

a theatre company THE WOOSTER GROUP

  • A New York-based experimental performance company that emerged from Richard Schechner’s The Performance Group (1967-1980).
  • An ensemble of artists and performers led by artistic director Elizabeth LeCompte.
  • The Performance space and Performing Garage


  • Different terms: Cyberdrama, cyber performance (digital performance), digital performance (not same as cyberperfomance until it uses internet), digital practices, networked performance (performance that uses connections as mobile phones, internet or any other communicating facility , telematic performance (use of streaming and video conferencing applications), hyperperformance (use of hypertext-using text someway differently as normal text for reading), cybertheatre (is a subcategory of virtual theatre) – so it is a total mess
  • When can we consider a performance live? When there is a performance on the screen, is there anything else that tells us that it’s live than just the note ‘live’? Should there be?
  • Digital performance – networked performance: cyberperformance and virtual theatre
  • Cyberperformace: telematic performance; hyperformance; cybertheatre (cyber drama)
  • Peformance vs Theatre – everyone has a different understanding of these terms which makes using them very sentsitive, complex and diverse
  • Live vs Mediatised – live is same time, mediatised is not physical, they could be altogether and separate
  • A delay at streaming could be considered both as live, because it is happening almost real time. Plus for example there is a delay when I say anything and when you hear and understand it. Other opinion is that it is not live because it is not 100% real time, so i cannot be live.
  • Virtual worlds – streaming media – purpose build, platforms – virtual worlds – …
    Virtual world – The Palace, Second Life
    Streaming media – skype, BMW Tate Live
    Purpose bulit platfom – UpStage, WaterWheel, Visiors Studio
PRACTICAL: using digital to create illusions, visions, thoughts

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