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UAlbany Premieres Six Technology Plays -- an Experiment Between Humans and Technology
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author William Kennedy and Screenwriter Richard Dresser Featured Among Technology Plays to Run Through Dec. 8

Contact: Heidi Weber (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 10, 2003) - The University at Albany today held a premiere for a series of six Technology Plays that illuminate the relationship between humans and technology. The experimental form of theatre, which is presented in partnership with the Capital Repertory Theatre and is sponsored by Apple Computer Inc., encourages the audience to interact with various forms of technology, including computers, intercoms and ATMs and features works by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and UAlbany Professor William Kennedy and international playwright and screenwriter Richard Dresser ("The Education of Max Bickford").

The five- to seven-minute plays are "experienced" by one viewer at a time, who interacts with the information technology programmed for each play. Staged in “viewing modules,” each installation is approximately seven cubic feet and features a different form of communication, including e-mail, cell phone, call waiting, instant messaging, Power Point presentations and video streaming. Each booth consists of more than 200 parts and includes ventilation and electrical systems as well as internet connection.

"Academics, students, administrators, programmers, theatre people, technology experts and creative artists, have worked together for the last six months to produce a unique blend of cutting-edge cyber-theatre, social commentary and high-tech comedy," said Mary Valentis, a UAlbany faculty member and director of HumaniTech*.

The Technology Plays Project unites UAlbany with the Capital Repertory Theatre, one of the region's preeminent theatre companies, to explore the complex relations between humans and machines. The project evolved from UAlbany's HumaniTech Project, an interdisciplinary initiative aimed at revitalizing the humanities in an age of rapid scientific and technological advancement and raising philosophical questions about how technology is reshaping humanity.

Kennedy's play, "In the System," consists of digital video streaming on six screens with images that coordinate from one monitor. The main story is presented on video PC, telephone, television and screens that show larger images from within the story line. With classic Kennedy panache, the play recreates the tumultuous events that lead to a highly publicized crime, in which two twenty-eight year-olds hack into the on-line racing system to fix bets and become millionaires.

"I read of some horse-race gamblers who actually beat the system for more than three million dollars, and did it by technological wizardry," said Kennedy. "That was an inspiration for my play, which is a love story between a man, a woman, another man, several machines, faith, hope, fate, a deer and a dog. It is a very sad story but it means to be a comedy. It is called ‘In the System’ and is coming soon to a machine near you."

In "Greetings from the Home Office," Dresser creates a wild roller coaster ride into the world of corporate intrigue. All technological aspects of the play are interactive and are programmed to coordinate throughout the play including a PC and keyboard with e-mail read with a computerized voice, a phone with an answering machine and an intercom.

Dresser said, "As a writer I'm always looking for new and unsettling ways of touching an audience. The prospect of writing a play with no actors to be experienced by a single person was irresistible. In 'Greetings from the Home Office' I wanted to plunge an unsuspecting individual into the awkwardness, false cheer and ethical complexity of one's first day of work at a major corporation."

Four other plays were selected through a competition of Capital Region writers and include recent UAlbany graduate, Daniel Whalen ’02, whose play, "Beyond the Firewall," is his first professionally produced play. Other winners include Daniel Ho ("1+1 = 0"), who received his Masters in Theater from UAlbany, Stacy (Anastasia) Orsini ("parse.a.PERSON") and Malcolm Messersmith ("Chip").

The $70,000 Technology Plays Project was funded in part by a grant from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s “Imagining America” Public Scholarship Grants Program, Apple Computer Inc., the Beatrice and Robert Herman Foundation and UAlbany's Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Office of the Vice President for Research. The project includes a unique partnership between the University and Apple Computer Inc. which donated all the computer equipment and software necessary to produce the interactive plays and also served as a technical resource for the entire project.

Craig DeVoe, the account executive for the company's Northeast Higher Education Division said, "Everyone from Apple Computer has enjoyed the Technology Plays project immensely. This project is a great example of how universities, non-profits and major corporations can work together and partner to achieve common goals."

The Technology Plays are staged in the University's New Library Atrium through Nov. 26 and are free and open to the public daily from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. The plays will appear in different sites throughout the region such as Capital Repertory Theatre, the Apple store in Crossgates Mall, Albany International Airport in 2003-2004.

According to Valentis, in addition to regional sites, the goal of the project is to install the Technology Plays in appropriate venues across the country.

For more information about the Technology Plays or UAlbany's HumaniTech Project, visit www.albany.edu/humanitech or call (518) 442-4073.

 

Established in 1844 and designated a center of the State University of New York in 1962, the University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in eight degree-granting schools and colleges. The University is engaged in a $500 million fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in its history, with the goal of placing it among the nation's top 30 public research universities by the end of the decade. For more information about this nationally ranked University, visit www.albany.edu


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