Disembodied Performance

Tod Machover, Peter Torpey, Elena Jessop

Early in the opera Death and the Powers, the main character, Simon Powers, is subsumed into a technological environment of his own creation. The theatrical set comes alive in the form of robotic, visual, and sonic elements that allow the actor to extend his range and influence across the stage in unique and dynamic ways. This environment must compellingly assume the behavior and expression of the absent Simon. In order to distill the essence of this character, we recover performance parameters in real-time from physiological sensors, voice, and vision systems. These gesture and performance parameters are then mapped to a visual language, incorporating cognitive and semantic models, that allows the off-stage actor to express emotion and interact with others on stage. Our approach takes a new direction in augmented performance by employing a non-representational abstraction of a human presence that fully translates a character into an environment.