In 2016 I had the opportunity to be the media designer for Carnegie Mellon University's production of Bob and Dave and Ren. The show was a new work written and directed by Ben Gansky. BDR explores what it means to be an artists, what art is intended to do for it's audience.
The first act draws heavily from Dirty Dancing and other romantic comity tropes. This act promotes the idea of art as a reminder of meaningful past experiences much like the representational work of David Hockney.
The second act of the show draws from the non-representational ideology of Robert Irwin forcing the audience to live in the moment and see the beauty in their immediate surroundings. In this act there are no actors, instead every audience member wears FM radio headphones that command their actions and ask them to leave their seats and move though the space and even in to the theatre next door.
The final act attempted to combine these to artistic paradigms by bringing back the actors and having them dance for over 20 minuets straight using a huge amount of energy. The sight of these real humans moving and sweating just feet from the audience makes it impossible to ignore the reality of the here and now while at the same time finding meaning in the representational story.
As the media design I worked very closely with the director, and scenic designer to create the look and feel of the whole show with a special focus on the second act since the media was to play a large part in the participatory nature of that section of the show. I also collaborated with my assistant designer and my two video engineers to complete the challenges of the show.
The second act of the show takes place in two black box theatres at the same time with the audience being divided in half. The first theatre had three large mirrors as scenic elements. Behind each of these I concealed a small wireless camera. The live video for each of these cameras was displayed in the second theatre projected on the walls at a one to one scale. During the course of act two audience members were asked to stand in front of the mirrors. This created an asymmetrical experience where some audience members had seen something in person and others had seen the same actions though a set of lenses.
In addition to my duties as the media designer I was also asked to take on the role of audio engineer. One of the core components of the show was that the audience would each be told to stand up and move around the space during the second act. I was put in charge of researching, testing, and building a system that would allow for this sort of experience. I created four low power FM radio stations that each transmitted to four groups of 30 headsets. This allowed each audience member to walk anywhere in the spaces as they received instructions targeted at their quarter of the audience.