Green: Exploring the aestheticized use of chroma-key techniques and technologies in two intermedial productions
Delbridge, MJ and McGowan, L, Green: Exploring the aestheticized use of chroma-key techniques and technologies in two intermedial productions, Body, Space and Technology Journal, 14 pp. 1-17. ISSN 1470-9120 (2015) [Refereed Article]
Peggy Shaw’s RUFF, (USA 2013) and Queensland Theatre Company’s collaboration with Queensland University of Technology, Total Dik!, (Australia 2013) overtly and evocatively draw on an aestheticized use of the cinematic techniques and technologies of Chroma Key to reveal the tensions in their production and add layers to their performances. In doing so they offer invaluable insight where the filmic and theatrical approaches overlap. This paper draws on Eckersall, Grehan and Scheer’s New Media Dramaturgy (2014) to reposition the frame as a contribution to intermedial theatre and performance practices in light of increasing convergence between seemingly disparate discourses.
In RUFF, the scenic environment replicates a chroma-key ‘studio’ which facilitates the reconstruction of memory displaced after a stroke. RUFF uses the screen and projections to recall crooners, lounge singers, movie stars, rock and roll bands, and an eclectic line of eccentric family members living inside Shaw. While the show pays tribute to those who have kept her company across decades of theatrical performance, use of non-composited chroma-key technique as a theatrical device and the work’s taciturn revelation of the production process during performance, play a central role in its exploration of the juxtaposition between its reconstructed form and content.
In contrast Total Dik! uses real-time green screen compositing during performance as a scenic device. Actors manipulate scale models, refocus cameras and generate scenes within scenes in the construction of the work’s examination of an isolated Dictator. The ‘studio’ is again replicated as a site for (re)construction, only in this case Total Dik! actively seeks to reveal the process of production as the performance plays out. Building on RUFF, and other works such as By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, (2012) and Hotel Modern’s God’s Beard (2012), this work blends a convergence of mobile technologies, models, and green screen capture to explore aspects of transmedia storytelling in a theatrical environment (Jenkins, 2009, 2013).
When a green screen is placed on stage, it reads at once as metaphor and challenge to the language of theatre. It becomes, or rather acts, as a ‘sign’ that alludes to the nature of the reconstructed, recomposited, manipulated and controlled. In RUFF and in Total Dik!, it is also a place where as a mode of production and subsequent reveal, it adds weight to performance. These works are informed by Auslander (1999) and Giesenkam (2007) and speak to and echo Lehmann’s Postdramatic Theatre (2006). This paper’s consideration of the integration of studio technique and live performance as a dynamic approach to multi-layered theatrical production develops our understanding of their combinatory use in a live performance environment.