Magazine article American Theatre

'Doctor Faustus' for the Digital Age

Magazine article American Theatre

'Doctor Faustus' for the Digital Age

Article excerpt

KALAMAZOO, MICH.: In Leon Ingulsrud's April production of Doctor Faustus at Western Michigan University, Mephistopheles made his entrance as a black silhouette, as evil figures have been wont to do ever since someone thought to hang a sheet in front of a candle. "But then he started doing things a shadow can't do," reveals Ingulsrud--like sprouting 20-foot wings. That's because what looked like a shadow was actually a stereoscopic projection of computer-generated imagery, created with software (Autodesk's MotionBuilder 7.5) typically used to develop video games. Off stage but in full view of the audience, much like a musician in an orchestra pit, a performer with sensors attached to her face and body performed the gestures that were mimicked by the demon, a 50-figure unison chorus and several other animated characters. To make the images really pop, audiences were handed something distinctly retro at the door: geeky 3-D glasses. "My interest was in bringing this high-tech stuff into contact with low-tech things," Ingulsrud explains, his voice quickening with enthusiasm as he compares motion-capture to puppetry.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Ingulsrud is known for his work as a founding member of the New York-based SITI Company. He has acted with the Suzuki Company of Japan and New York City Opera, and directed for such companies as Swine Palace in Louisiana, Perseverance Theatre in Alaska and Missouri Repertory Theatre. If these new artistic avenues excited him, couldn't he have pursued them through professional channels rather than with a group of university students and staff? …

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