July 2021

Ashley Ferro-Murray and Rebecca Rouse: Theatre as Laboratory: Experimentation with Non-Human Partners in Expanding Dramaturgies

Blend&Bleed: On Transreality and Pervasive Play

In this three-part workshop, participants experimented with technologies and other nonhuman entities through the frameworks of partnership and play to reimagine theater for today’s distributed audiences, and be in conversation with Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet nearly a century after it was made.

As an introduction to the subject matter, workshop coleaders Rebecca Rouse and Ashley Ferro-Murray presented various perspectives on research-performance methods that center the theater as a laboratory for investigating fluid human and nonhuman collaborations.

The lecture “Theatre as Laboratory for Expanded Human & Non-Human Partnerships” by Rouse examined the rich history of theater as a laboratory for innovation and experimentation, with a particular focus on the uses of new technologies on stage. Theater is discussed as a medium uniquely suited to reflect, (re)enact, and share our post-digital lived realities.

In “Circumscribing Media: Historicizing the Contemporary in Media Performance,” Ashley Ferro-Murray presented performance-makers who use technical practices including biomedicine, infrastructure design, and televisual aesthetics and whose work Ferro-Murray has produced at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC). The lecture details the slippery relationship between human and nonhuman in twenty-first century performance.

Both lectures were followed by a dialogue with the public. In an unrecorded session, participants used aesthetic, historical, and conceptual material from Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet as inspiration for their own works. This was followed by a public presentation of short works and a roundtable discussion.

Rebecca Rouse, PhD, is a senior lecturer in Media Arts, Aesthetics & Narration in the Division of Game Development at the University of Skövde, Sweden. Rouse’s research focuses on theoretical, critical, and design production work with storytelling for new technologies, such as augmented and mixed reality. Rouse designs and develops projects across theatrical performance, museums, cultural heritage sites, interactive installations, movable books, and games, all with the thread of investigating and inventing new modes of storytelling. Recent theatrical works directed by Rouse include a production of Wilder’s classic play Our Town that incorporated a gesture-responsive large-scale 360-degree immersive screen; an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt that used a range of technologies old and new, from a miniature toy theater, to large-scale live projection, to oversized puppets, and more; and a production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd that incorporated responsive facial projection technology as well as traditional mask work. This artistic work dovetails with Rouse’s research in design methods, media theory, and the history of technology.

Ashley Ferro-Murray is a curator of theater and dance at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She also serves on the curatorial board of Body, Image, Movement Biennial in Madrid, Spain, and the editorial board of TURBA: The Journal for Global Practices in Live Arts Curation. Ferro-Murray’s curatorial practice focuses on expanding historical frames for performance and technology artworks while supporting artist-centered approaches to media. Publications include “Chameleonic Survivalism: Jaamil Olawale Kosoko’s ‘Adaptive Strategies and Ways of Being in the World’” (forthcoming), “Biological Determinism – Evolutionary Inertia, Constraints” (forthcoming), “Transborder Immigrant Tool: Choreographic Resistance in the US-Mexican Borderlands,” and “Technologies of Performance: Machinic Staging and Corporeal Choreographies.” Ferro-Murray holds a PhD in performance studies with an emphasis in new media from the University of California, Berkeley.


00:07:00: “Theatre as Laboratory for Expanded Human & Non-Human Partnerships” by Rebecca Rouse and discussion
01:16:22: “Circumscribing Media: Historicizing the Contemporary in Media Performance” by Ashley Ferro-Murray and discussion
01:48:48: Public presentation of participants’ works
02:31:20: Roundtable discussion

Preview image: Oskar Schlemmer, Triadic Ballet, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 2017. Photo © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro.

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