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Game Play Performance Art in Brooklyn
There is a small, but growing margin of cross-over between video gamers and theatre buffs. The Brick Theater in Brooklyn New York has a Performance Art festival intended to appeal to both groups. The second annual “Game Play” has live performances of video game-themed plays and performance art, as well as machinima and special events every day now through Sunday the 25th.
I caught two of the performance this weekend. One was Modal Kombat “The first Ever Guitar-Controlled Video Game Battle.” It falls somewhere between performance art and a tech demo. In it, Dave Hindman and Evan Drummond, two Klassical guitarists, have wired acoustic guitars to serve as game controllers (It has to be clarified that these are not Guitar Hero controllers being repurposed, but actual musical instruments that have been modified to control games). They make the paddles in Pong move up and down by changing the pitch of their notes, steer Mario Kart vehicles by hitting different strings, and move Tetris blocks by alternating between the two guitars. Of course, they also play some Mortal Kombat.
The audience is invited to participate in the Tetris sequence, and can come onstage after the show to try out the hardware and play some of the games. It’s an odd show, but definitely of interest for gamers who are also musicians. Of course it’s also recommended for techies who appreciate creative modding.
I also saw “Theater of the Arcade” written by Jeff Lewoncyk and Directed by Gyda Arber. This consisted of five short plays, each telling the story of a classic video game. The real fun came from the way that each play was written in the style of a famous playwright. It was the epitome of absurdist humor as the bare storylines behind Pac Man and Frogger were elaborated upon and presented with the seriousness of high drama.
Imagine if you will if “Donkey Kong” had been written by Tennessee Williams as the story of a brutish lower-class husband who keeps his wife at the top of a tenement apartment, and tries to keep away her Italian plumber admirer. Also try to picture Asteroids as a tense workplace drama about spaceship pilots in a high-pressure competition right out of “Glengarry Glen Ross.” A significant amount of the fun comes from the process of figuring out which game is being spoofed, along with what playwright. It’s a clever show with inside gags for both gamers and theatre fans, highly recommended for both demographics.
The festival has a different selection of performances each day. Player Affinity will have reviews of several more productions later this week.
More information available at: www.bricktheater.com