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September 02, 2004

The Crazy Wisdom Sho


Remote Teleprompting

Unfortunately, there's no video archive on George Coates' web site, which seems to have been abandoned in 2001. However, you can read about The Crazy Wisdom Sho, an experiement in live theater and the Internet in which live performers in a San Francisco Civic Center Theater were onstage surrounded by web-enabled teleprompters. At selected moments, the actors were controlled by online participants who had submitted Crazy Wisdom to the teleprompters via the website.

And, according to George Coates, "(The George Coates Performance Works) produced a show called the "Nowhere Band" that included an inter-actor named Ralph who arrived on-stage via the internet every night at 8:30 PM PST for a five week performance run. This was the first distributed live performance ever to occur as part of a regularly scheduled theater run. Audiences in our theater would see Ralph blow into his pipes to sound a `C' note in Australia establishing the musical key, as the Nowhere Band in San Francisco tuned their instruments to his bagpipe for the first number played in the show. This show premiered at our civic Center theater in San Francisco in 1994." This quote is from "The New Performer" by Sheila A. Malone.

Malone continues: "The idea of space and real are connected with the idea of a time-based experience. The relationship of live characters is absolutely dependent on the interaction with the virtual characters. George Coates takes these ideas of real and hyperreal and completely mesmerizes audiences with the production of "20/20 BLAKE: The Visions Of William Blake." George Coates describes the performance, "at one point we had even hacked a way to make two SGI graphics engines run simultaneous stereographic interactive animation programs enabling audiences wearing polarized glasses to experience stereo 3D illusions of volumetric space interacting in real time with live actors on a stage. (This enabled, for example, a flock of birds to appear to hover over the stage and audiences, swooping down to harass the live actor, chasing the actor around the stage wherever the actor chose to go - in real time)." Here Coates and his company of actors, technicians, and virtual images are merged with the audience into a space created and controlled by the computer and its operators. The definition of performer has changed. But the presence of space and time are consistent common denominators in the performance."

Posted by jo at September 2, 2004 06:08 PM


This is second hand knowledge but I have heard that being frustrated with the unreliability of the internet Coates Company ended up faking the whole thing meaning that they just pretended there was a live, real time internet connection but actually used prerecorded material. Can anyone confirm whether this is true?

Anyway, that is the question people often ask me when I tell about Avatar Body Collision: why don't you just fake the on-line thing to avoid lag and dropped connections and other incoherence? Claim is that mock-up would make it a less risky show, which would then result to more coherent enactment of the script. It would probably please audience more that incoherent play with parts of it missing. Well, that is what some say. I think that there is something really meaningful in having the real—time internet element in performance. but why? really?

Posted by: Leena at September 4, 2004 05:21 AM

For me, this is a question of intent and desire: what's more important to an artist, creating an emotional experience for her audience or being "true to her materials" (they're not necessarily mutually exclusive)? This is something I struggle with a lot, not only as an artist but as an observer/participant. There are times when I wish to feel completely immersed in an experience and hate any disruptions in the flow (lag, yes, but also people in the audience coughing or talking); and others when the "cleverness" of an experience and awe of technological capability completely win me over. This reverts back to that old intellect vs emotion dichotomy, both in the creative process itself and the audience's experience. This also brings up the question of a separation between artist and audience: when one performs theatre online, is one performing with or for an audience? [When an audience participates in the creative act, their expectations are different than if they were passive recipients.] So, the question of whether it matters if something happens online in real time or not is dependent on a host of issues, some of which I've mentioned above.

Posted by: Jo at September 6, 2004 11:50 AM