Friday, August 26, 2011

Virtual Realty Comes to the Stage

“You are Dead. You are Here.” is a theatre piece in progress written by playwright Christine Evans collaborating with University of North Carolina director Joseph Megel. Story turns on actual therapy currently being developed along with a program called Virtual Iraq that literally takes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder patients back to the scene of the crime: war torn Iraq, to help them confront the issues brought on by the tragedy of being in war.

Presented at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, a beautiful complex in Playa Vista, Evans’ play will eventually be mounted using Virtual Reality programs currently in development at the ICT. Today’s reading featured Media design by Jared Mezzochi which incorporated projections including Skype images as well as use of the current Virtual Iraq program.

Essentially, a trained psychologist sits with a young African American soldier who has reluctantly agreed to “give a shot” at what he expects to be a virtual reality game. The depths to which the therapist and the client must delve unfold readily with examples of the new technology being used with actual patients who are suffering from PTSD. As in any good story an additional element is brought in to add to the mystery of the play. Apologies to the excellent actors whose names I neglected to take down.

It was noted that not everyone thinks that having PTSD patients wading back into their traumatic situations via Virtual Iraq is a good idea. The results in the real world remain to be tallied.

The evolving use of New Media in theatre is on the cutting edge thanks to the collaboration with USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

Thanks to Joseph Megel, Christine Evans and Jared Mezzochi and their cast of three who are opening not only these new techniques to the stage, but helping to defuse the stigma of seeking treatment for trauma experienced by the fighting men and women of the United States.

Please check the attached video for the results of the work in a reading at UNC in May, 2011.

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