eStranged Featured in Manchester Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat
‘eStranged’ finds humans split into digital, physical selves on New England campuses
By GRETYL MACALASTER
Union Leader Correspondent
From bottom right, University of New Hampshire theater students Danielle Barrett, Amy Desrosiers, Cody Barbin and Melissa Snow rehearse while David Kaye, center, directs both the live cast and the lead character at the University of Maine-Orono via a live-feed for the upcoming production “eSTRANGED,” a multi-media production utilizing two casts on two stages in two states for a simultaneous performance at UNH and UMaine-Orono. LINKING CAMPUSES: From bottom right, University of New Hampshire theater students Danielle Barrett, Amy Desrosiers, Cody Barbin and Melissa Snow rehearse while David Kaye, center, directs both the live cast and the lead character at the University of Maine-Orono via a live-feed for the upcoming production “eSTRANGED,” a multi-media production utilizing two casts on two stages in two states for a simultaneous performance at UNH and UMaine-Orono. (GRETYL MACALASTER/Union Leader Correspondent)
No one in the cast or on the crew of David Kaye’s new production “eSTRANGED” will tell you the process has been easy, but they all say it will be quite something to see.
The “telematic performance” involves two casts, two directors, two stages, two universities, two states and a lot of new technology.
The production is the brain child of Kaye, head of acting and directing at the University of New Hampshire, and N.B. “Nate” Aldrich, assistant professor of intermedia at the University of Maine, Orono, and is a collaboration between UNH’s department of theater and dance and the University of Maine Intermedia Master’s of Fine Arts program.
“eStranged” is a deconstruction of philosopher Albert Camus’s 1940s novel, “The Stranger,” about murder and morality. Expanding on the questions of the nature of existence, Kaye said he focused his work on the impact of technology on society and relationships. The main character, Patrice, played by Rachel Nelson, is loosely based on Camus’s main character, Meursault, but “eStranged” conjures a more modern world, one in which humans find themselves split into their physical and digital selves.
In Durham, four actors are staged behind their computers. By the end of the play at least 16 “dividuals” will take the stage representing media-created beings, rather than physical beings.
The play will be performed simultaneously in both Durham and Orono later this month using live-feed technology, handheld cameras, iMac computers, giant LED screens and software developed at UMaine Orono to make all of those pieces work together.
“It has been really challenging to make it work from the technology standpoint,” UNH senior Kim D’Agnese, 22, assistant director and stage manager, said.
A new technical element has been added at each rehearsal so far, adding a new challenge to the production as rehearsals continued.
“The audience here is going to see sort of three layers of visual live action,” Kaye said, referring to work by actors in the Durham theater and those in Maine, as portrayed on three large screens, as well as the iMac computers that are used by the actors and which figure prominently in the production.
“Part of the careful planning is deciding what exactly this audience sees and what the Maine audience sees,” Kaye said.
Each of the actors involved said this experience is like nothing they have done before.
“It is definitely interesting and challenging and different, and something I was fearful of, but there is a lot of excitement in that, too, to see how we can pull it off and make it quite literally spectacular, unlike anything an audience has seen,” UNH senior Danielle Barrett, 21, said. “It makes you think about so much more than just your own character. It makes you question humanity, and how technology informs or misinforms relationships and society.”
Each of the students said working with Kaye is always amazing, and they would not miss the opportunity to participate in something he created.
“He really takes the artists and allows us to embody the concept rather than be on stage and act out the concept. I think we are growing very much as people as well as actors,” UNH junior Amy Desrosiers, 20, said.
UNH senior Melissa Snow, 21, said she is interested to see the outcome of all of their work.
“You just don’t really know what to expect,” Snow said.
Kaye said as telematic technology has developed, people have begun to recognize its potential within theater, but is not sure if a performance like this, involving two stages and two audiences separated by distance, has been done, but Aldrich suspects it will not be the last time.
“I think that merging IT and theater and cinemagraphic ideas together is kind of what needs to happen for all these forms to move forward,” Aldrich said.
“eSTRANGED” runs Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 20-23, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 24, at 2 p.m. in the UNH Hennessy Theatre in the Paul Creative Arts Center in Durham, and the APPE blackbox in the IMRC in Stuart Hall, Orono, Maine.
During the second half of the performance, audiences in Maine and New Hampshire will become a part of the production in a discussion of their observations.
The show is not recommended for children as it contains strong language, sexual references and violence. Tickets are $8-$16. Call 862-7222 for more details.
A ground-breaking ‘telematic’ performance University of New
Hampshire and University of Maine join forces for “eSTRANGED”
UNHampshire and University of Maine join forces for “eSTRANGED”
DURHAM — One play, two casts, two stages, two states. On Nov. 20, the University of New Hampshire Department of Theatre and Dance and the University of Maine Intermedia MFA Program, premiere a telematic performance based on Albert Camus’ “The Stranger.” The play, which will be performed simultaneously in both Durham, NH, and Orono, ME, is called “eSTRANGED” and will use video simulcast and other technologies to tell one story.
“eSTRANGED” explores aspects of existentialism in the 21st century as human beings find themselves split into their physical and digital selves. UNH’s David Kaye and U Maine Orono’s NB Aldrich (UNH ’81) devised this joint production to be performed simultaneously from each campus, hundreds of miles apart. Using video simulcast and social technology, actors from both universities will perform in one, multimedia production.
The play runs Nov. 20-24 in the UNH Hennessy Theatre in Durham, and the APPE blackbox in the IMRC in Stuart Hall, Orono. This production contains strong language, sexual references and violence and is not recommended for children.
Click image to enlarge
David Kaye is the head of Acting and Directing for the Department of Theatre and Dance at UNH.
Q&A with UNH Professor David Kaye.
How did the idea come about?
“Nate and I had discussed collaborating on a project for several years. We talked about many very different ideas, but we both became interested in the possibility of a telematic performance. However, we wanted to create something where the intermedia and technological nature of this style of performance would be at the heart of the project, not something laid on. We wanted the telematic format itself to be the very best way to explore the subject we chose. This eventually led us to ponder the sometimes disconnected and alienating effects technology can have on the human psyche. Discussions about alienation eventually led us to the existentialists, and then to Camus’ novel. About this time Nate had come across the essay “Postscript on the Societies of Control” by the contemporary French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze. This provided us with a sharper vision of how we might be able to take a 21st century look at “The Stranger” and use the nature of the telematic performance as the spring board for this exploration.”
Why the collaboration?
“I began working with Nate in 1997 when he was our department’s theater technician, before he headed out to complete his MFA in electronic music. He has an incredibly sharp intellect that he combines with a powerfully creative mind. He created the soundscape for my productions of “De Donde,” “Julius Caesar” and “The Memorandum.” Theatre is, by its nature, the ultimate collaborative artistic medium. Having a chance to reconnect and create a work collaboratively with an artist that I deeply respect is an opportunity I would not want to miss.
Rehearsals have been very interesting, because they too are done telematically. So computers, projectors and screens are set up at each rehearsal as the creative teams here at UNH and at UMO are linked by the same live-feed technology we will use in the performance. This is an entirely new rehearsal experience. We are all fully emerged in the collaborative process as this team of actors, designers and directors, working from two different locations, come together to create a single piece of art.”
What will the technical logistics/challenges be?“We have been working on the technological component for several months. Specific software has been acquired and we had to learn how to utilize it. Some technological components had to be invented to make happen what we wanted to happen. It is quite a challenge. This is where the opportunity to collaborate with the Intermedia MFA students, and with the new Innovative Media Research and Center at UMO is so exciting. It offers our undergraduate students the chance to work with students, faculty and technology that we don’t presently have here at UNH.”
Anything you want to say about the source material, “The Stranger?”
“This piece will be like nothing we have ever presented at UNH. It is a deconstruction of the Camus novel, but also uses his other works, specifically “The Myth of Sisyphus” as the lift off point for many of the questions we are posing. The play will not be so much an answer to those questions as an artistic response. Camus, as with many of our great philosophers, posed multiple questions that led them to construct about the nature of our existence. These arguments were, in the case of Camus, a response to the 20th century world he lived in. We will attempt to ask some of these same questions, framed within the context of our existence as, what Deleuze termed “dividuals.” That is to say, a life now lived as both a physical being, and a media created and manipulated virtual being. Virtual beings that have the potential to continue after the physical being disintegrates. These are dynamics that the great minds of the 20th century could not even imagine. Only a handful of telematic performances have taken place worldwide. All of us — the entire creative ensemble from two institutions, along with the two audiences separated by several hundred miles, will be breaking a lot of new ground.”
“eSTRANGED,” runs Nov. 20-23 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. in the UNH Hennessy Theatre in Durham, and the APPE blackbox in the IMRC in Stuart Hall, Orono. Tickets for the Durham performance are $8 for youth aged 17 and under, $14 for UNH students, ID holders and seniors and groups of 15 or more, and $16 for the general public. They can be purchased through the PCAC Ticket Office located in the Johnson Theatre lobby of the Paul Creative Arts Center. This full-service ticket office is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and one hour before curtain. Tickets purchased online will incur no additional fees. Call 603-862-7222 or visit UNHarts.com.
This production contains strong language, sexual references and violence and is not recommended for children. For more information about our season, our programs, to book a tour or to make field trip reservations for your school, visit unh.edu/theatre-dance or call 603-862-2150.