Boreum Hill show fuses computer programming with performance

Boreum Hill show fuses computer programming with performance
Jim Moore

He is the star of the show — and also the theater tech.

A new performance piece that features complex lighting, multimedia, and an interactive set is coming to a Boerum Hill art space on Jan. 8–17. But rather than employing a troupe of actors and a crew of designers and technicians to stage the show, the artist responsible has created a set of computer programs to control the lights and sounds on the stage while he performs alone. He said the flashy effects help him tell the story in a new way.

“I’ve tried to curate a narrative using different production elements,” said interactive-electronics artist Andrew Schneider. “It lets me change space instantly. It’s like hyper-cutting reality together.”

The piece, “Youarenowhere,” is part of the Coil 2015 Festival at Invisible Dog Art Center, a series of experimental performances organized by Performance Space 122. Schneider’s piece reflects his background in theater — he has performed with famed experimental theater company the Wooster Group — but also his degree from the interactive telecommunications program at New York University, which focuses on the use of technology to create new forms of communication. It was there that Schneider said he saw how computers could be used to manipulate a stage environment in previously impossible ways, using programming to control lights and projections.

“Just learning the syntax of that language blew my whole world open,” he said. “The possibilities were endless.”

“Youarenowhere” is a marriage of Schneider’s disciplines. He is the lone performer on a stage cloaked in lights controlled by a pair of laptops, talking directly to the audience about love and about the trouble his character is having communicating to the person he loves. The conversation touches on quantum mechanics, physics, and how our understanding of space and time is impacted by technology.

“Everyone has that first play about quantum mechanics,” joked Schneider.

In the show, the environment around him changes according to a pre-written programming script, with sound effects and distortions interrupting the messages his character is trying to convey. Schneider — who has employed his programming skills in previous performances to control underwater cameras and confetti canons — is also able to control some of the production elements while on stage, including the ability to adjust some of the lights using the pitch of his voice.

“The space itself and the design elements are characters in a way, preventing communication,” he said.

Youarenowhere” at Invisible Dog Art Center [51 Bergen St. between Boerum Place and Smith Street in Boerum Hill, (347) 560–3641, www.thein‌visib‌ledog.org]. Jan. 8 at 8 pm; Jan. 9 at 5 pm, Jan. 12 at 2 pm, Jan. 13–17 at 7 pm. $21 ($16 students and seniors).

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperl‌man@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.