An award-winning play about a computer programmer gets turned into an interactive live experience with the help of Georgia State.
By Michael Davis (B.A. ’03)
“Data,” premiering Thursday with both virtual “live” and on-demand options, is directed by Alliance Theatre Artistic Director Susan V. Booth and follows the character Maneesh, a Silicon Valley computer programmer coming to terms with his identity and the consequences of his work.
Unable to bring “Data” to the stage because of the pandemic, Alliance enlisted CMII to help develop a virtual presentation.
Part of the “Alliance Theatre Anywhere” series, “Data” made use of CMII’s large production studio to film actors in front of custom-created greenscreen backgrounds. The partnership also provided a training ground for CMII students, including a group of theater majors who were able to stand in for Alliance actors before filming.
“They had the experience of working with a professional director,” said Brennen Dicker, executive director of CMII. “And the students who were behind the scenes were able to work with these great professionals in postproduction and editorial, so it gave them some real key insight.”
Dicker said the subject matter of “Data” is particularly well-suited to a nontraditional format, and he hopes it’s the first of many collaborations between CMII and Alliance.
“It’s very much an experimental way of doing theater because we’re not making a teleplay, necessarily. We’re not putting a camera up and just shooting the stage,” Dicker said.
“Because of COVID-19, we didn’t have very many staff here at CMII to do this in the spring, so it was really up to James Amann, director of operations at CMII, and a few students to make this work, and they did a phenomenal job.”
“Data” runs May 6-23. Audience members can select an on-demand version to stream at their convenience or an interactive “live” version that begins with a virtual lobby experience complete with avatars of fellow audience members to talk with. When the show begins, audience members can walk together into the virtual theater for the performance.
“Data” was written by Matthew Libby of the New York University Tisch School of the Arts and was the 2020-21 winner of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, which seeks manuscripts from emerging playwrights in leading master of fine arts programs around the country.
For ticket information, visit https://alliancetheatre.org/production/2020-21/data.