Sunday, May 25, 2014

Designer's Desk - Lighting

It’s hard to believe that in a few weeks we will be in the midst of tech week and on our way to Scotland. Ever since we started devising Forget Fire in February, I have been looking forward to lighting a show with the themes and ideas we discussed. The fact that throughout all time humans have searched for the answer to something that is missing runs deep in my heart. So, as an artist, nothing makes me happier than creating a show that expresses a message that means so much to me.

Technology is what sets us apart from any other period in history, but we cannot escape the feeling that something is missing. In this age of information, it seems that technology is to blame for things from cyber-bullying to teens texting their friends from across the room. Perhaps our problems with technology are not inherent to innovation, but rather the current manifestation of age old problems. Since we are looking at topics of technology and loneliness, I take a lot of my inspiration from very isolated and sterile images. I think that this creates a very contemporary, empty, and secluded feeling that matches with what we have devised. This in contrast with warm light can bring hope, peace, and understanding.

Working on this show really challenges me as a designer in several ways, but the most unique hurdle is devising a play. Devising has yet to be part of my educational experience and I’m so glad that it will be. Creating a play is a whole new ball game, so having the opportunity to travel to Edinburgh and learn a new approach to theatre is an amazing one. So far, I have loved the long discussions with the company about topics, issues, and themes. Now I’m counting down the days until I'm back with my fellow students to further create and develop Forget Fire.

I was fortunate enough to be the assistant stage manager for the U.S. premiere of Why Do You Stand There in the Rain? which was first produced at the Fringe. Now, I’m so excited to travel to Scotland to collaborate with fellow artists on a topic we believe so many should hear. Forget Fire will be an experience that I will never forget, and I know I will not be the only one.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Designer's Desk - Scenic

In working on Forget Fire, a devised piece, I am presented with the unique challenge of creating a tangible scenic design based on rather intangible ideas that are in the process of being solidified. I do know that from discussions with our devising team, director, and designers the scenic elements will try to evoke or facilitate the idea of connection between people, objects and ideas.
Ocean Topographic Chart

I am in process on the design presently and have been playing with the idea of expansion; expansion of the network of interactions that all people create during their life time; also the idea of technological lines intersecting the more human strings of connection. I have been inspired by city maps and ocean topographic charts that have both lines and intersection points which are ambiguous enough to create the idea of connection without having to be ultra specific in location. The space that I will try to create is that within communication; inside the telephone wires, in the cloud of virtual storage or connection, within the silence between two people when they know what the other person is feeling or experiencing. A combination of what makes us human and the technology that can help us find connections with those around us. That’s all for now!

-Paul Dufresne

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Devising Week - Cruelty of Facelessness

We had a great day during devising where we watched three inspiring TED Talks. One discussed cyber mobs, one talked about how easy it for someone with a little determination to find your location from things you've posted on the internet, and one about how hard it is to remove digital "tattoos."

Overall, our group spent the most time talking about the TED Talk where Anita Sarkeesian revealed how her life was invaded by a cyber mob who threatened her, put her likeness on a website where they could beat her, and made her feel like less of a human because she wanted to examine the role of female characters in video games. We were struck by how easy it was for a group of people to pick up so many followers to attack a woman when the internet acted as a barrier between person-to-person interaction. The facelessness of the cruelty both made it easier for the "mob" to attack and for Anita to feel absolutely alone and defenseless.

We also spent a lot of time poring over how disgustingly misogynistic the cyber mob became. Because although there were plenty of types harassment enacted against Anita that could have been towards either males or females, the cyber mob additionally felt the need to attack Anita's gender specifically. They used threats of rape and sexual assault as a weapon to the point where pornographic images were given Anita's likeness and shown being raped by various video game characters. Because our devising group is mostly composed of women, this was particularly disturbing.

 It seems that once the element of facelessness is incorporated, it becomes all too easy for threats and violence to take a very gender specific angle. I feel that cyber harassment is a huge issue at this time. In the same way that drivers on the road are able to shout nasty things at one another when they can't be heard or seen by other drivers, angry people on the internet seem to feel that the hatefulness they show towards others somehow doesn't count if the person is not there in front of them. But the pain inflicted by these cyber bullies can be very real and frightening for the victims. In fact, there have been many news stories about school-age children committing suicide because bullies from their schools took to the internet to humiliate and devalue their victims. So overall, Anita's TED talk led me to think about the thousands of people this happens to every day and why this nastiness occurs on a much grander scale when there is an element of anonymity involved."

-Arielle Fodor

Monday, May 12, 2014

Devising Process - Technology Through the Ages

The ensemble of Pepperdine students attending the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer met for a week of intensive work-shopping to design and devise the piece that we will continue to develop and eventually perform on our journey in Scotland.

During this week the many thoughts and talents of our eighteen ensemble members kicked off our devising with a variety of possibilities. We had many discussions centered on technology and specifically looking into the pros and cons of the influence that technology has had on our generation and society. We watched a variety of TED talks and shared our own experiences and relationships relating to the root of our design. We used outlets of dance, spoken word, scenes, scenarios, musical compositions, and spacial relationships to personalize, experiment, and begin to build a piece of theatre.

A great source of inspiration during the week was a quote that was presented by Sarah, a designer in the company:
Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers” –Socrates
This led us to our most passionate topic of conversation and a series of important questions. Are we really so different as a generation dependent on technology, or has it been this way throughout time? A cycle of developments in society that the “elders” of the time view as reckless or foreign may just be a natural reaction to change? Or is the recent technological dependency really a new height, stemming from our growing loneliness and longing to mask ourselves in social interactions?

I personally believe that technology is a wonderful thing when used to seek connection to those we might lose otherwise, but it is very common for our youth to use it as a kind of barrier or mask when connecting with other people. This has created a society of lonely individuals not quite secure in themselves and clinging to technology as a crutch and security blanket. I do agree with the quote that Sarah found, and believe that this has been the case for generations. People, by nature, are going to cling to things that are new, exciting, and can offer a sense of security that did not exist before. The evolving society may be progressing and changing, but the human condition remains the same.

-Alexis Fitting