In the Fall of 2013, Ged Stephenson, Programme Coordinator for the Performing Arts BA at Weston College, Weston-Super-Mare, UK, contacted Michael Lugering, Professor of Theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with a proposal to create a simultaneous performance in Las Vegas and Weston-Super-Mare using the internet as the stage for interaction. The piece would be devised: a form of theatre where the script originates not from a writer or writers, but from collaborative, usually improvisatory, work by a group of people (usually, but not necessarily, the performers). It differs from improvisational theatre in that by the time a devised piece is presented, it usually has a fixed form: the improvisation is confined to the creation process, and either a writer, a director, or the performers themselves, will have decided exactly what is to be included and the running sequence.
Ged’s partner in this project is Sylvia Lane, Course Coordinator of Musical Theatre at Weston College. At UNLV, Michael reached out to Louis Kavouras, Chair of the Department of Dance. The Dance and Theatre departments at UNLV have worked together on several devised pieces presented at Fringe Festivals in Edinburgh, Scotland and Adelaide, Australia. Michael also reached out to UNLV TV, UNLV’s state of the art broadcasting studio. They embraced the project, providing valuable technical assistance including use of their studio facility, UltraGrid software, and even sent their Engineer to Weston with a compatible camera and technical expertise.
Ged and Sylvia visited UNLV in the Fall of 2013 to meet the participants and then in the Spring of 2014, Michael and Louis visited Weston. It was agreed that the project would live-stream in April of 2015.
In the Fall of 2014, casting took place on both sides of the “pond” and the Creators/Directors began to exchange ideas. UNLV cast seven students: four from Theatre and three from Dance. Weston cast eight students from their Performing Arts program. At the end of January 2015, mid-way through Weston’s second semester and at the beginning of UNLV’s spring semester, rehearsals commenced. Twice a week, at 9AM UNLV time and 4PM Weston time, cameras in both places went “live” and work progressed. There were many challenges. Weston’s Trimester schedule included breaks between semesters and UNLV’s Semester schedule was split by Spring Break. As a result, several weeks were not available for interactive rehearsal. Additionally, daylight savings time began in the US on March 8th but not until March 29th in the UK confounding rehearsal schedules. Technically UltraGrid provided almost instantaneous communication and feedback but issues like audio repeating from speaker to microphone to speaker from one location to the other have been difficult to resolve.
Time Lapse is the title of this devised piece which, fittingly, explores Time with words, music and movement. As Ged says, “We are working together without having that 5,500 miles distance being an issue, but we’re also looking at the concept of time.” And Michael adds, “I am hopeful that the power of performance will transcend the physical distance.” Time Lapse live-streams Thursday, April 23rd at 8AM PDT (Pacific Daylight Time) and 4PM BST (British Summer Time) and again Friday, April 24th at 12AM (midnight) PDT and 8AM BST.