A research project on the virtualisation of the live performer

Looking back in amazement - an evaluation of some kind by Peter

It's now some two months after the opening night of 'Titanic / Untergang', and after the end of a quite amazing PLETA project.

As always, we quite underestimated the scale and scope of this international collaboration. It started with downright panic as we realised that it would be pretty tough to handle our international guests with only two performers from Maastricht. Due to the organisation of all the other projects we had to settle with that.
Who would accompany our guests through the maze of Maastricht? Who would do all the practical stuff of buying and building all the necessities? Who would make the feel at home? That turned out allright, for most thanks to the enthousiasme of Maarten Heijnens and all the corporate enthousiasme and flexibility of our international guests.
In my mind, we always underestimate the differences in artistic and pedagogical approach between European Theatre schools, even if they are routed in the (North-) Western Europe tradition. The theatre landscape and practice in Europe is very diverse indeed. And that's both something to encourage, and something that's quite difficult to bridge even in a two months project. Next time we would love to engage more students from Maastricht to have a better balance and support within the group. But for now, it worked, miraculously…

As an artistic strategy, we worked in two opposite directions at the same time: from content to form (mostly by Woody Laurens) and from form to content (Peter Missotten - my approach). As with 'Hades' that worked wonderfully and gave the opportunity to all participants to feel at home within this artistic journey.
The influence of technology on theatre (and on society) was the main theme of this project, also supported by the professorship Technology Driven Art. How to apply virtualising technology hands on in a project of this scale? The choice to work towards a public presentation in a huge gasometer was both comforting and challenging. Students improvised with small camera's, sound systems and 3D-scanning technologies. The Maastricht-approach is always to give the students as much technological autonomy as possible; We worked without technicians from school and used our expertise as a backup for the students. That's a very steep but ultimately rewarding learning curve. During the two months, all participants discovered their points of focus, their fields of expertise and responsibilities. Some concentrated on 3D technology, some on the consistency of the story, some on the building of the huge ste, some on the live performance. At the same time there was enough common ground: to perform all of them on stage in a huge technological set (at 35 degrees, during the opening night: it was extremely hot these days in our gasometer). As tired as they (and we, the tutors) might be at the end, we bonded together in this achievement.
This whole experience has been an enriching experience for all of us. We learned to be amazed by our differences. And all the participants got a first hand knowledge of time different artistic strategies in using technology on stage. That's something to cherish… That's something to do again in the (near?) future. It's enriching capacities are not to be underestimated. Both cultural as professional. This experience can be the seed of new ways to do things in our theatrical practice, for all of us.
The end result was at some moments overwhelmingly beautiful, sometimes touching, sometimes way too slow and boring, and always very hot… But it was a full blown and very ambitious spectacle of some sorts…
Was it difficult?: very much so…
Was it enriching?: very much so…
Did it change the professional views and skills of all participants?: yes indeed,it did!

Peter Missotten