Behold Amphora!

Echosis: Behold Amphora!
Engadget Experience Proposal


Summary

Echosis is a new pop opera which re-imagines the classical Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus. The original story followed the beautiful and confident young hunter Narcissus and his cursed admirer Echo the nymph. Narcissus' refused each potential lover, both male and female, demanding a partner who's beauty was equal to his own. Eventually these refusals drew the wrath of the Mt. Olympus, and his punishment was arranged.  Happening upon a still clear pool, Narcissus caught sight of his own reflection and fell madly in love with his own image. However, each time he reached out for his beloved Self, the illusion was disturbed. Unable to consummate this impossible love, Narcissus slowly wasted away, staring into his own eyes at the edge of the pool.  And all the while Echo watched on, powerless to save him.

In Echosis, certain elements of this classic tale have evolved. Narcissus is now a professional gamer who spends most of his time in Amphora, a virtual world created by the Goddesses of Mt. Olympus. Echo is not simply a helpless admirer, but a fully developed character who's emotional resiliency ends up suspending Narcissus' ghastly fate (in a tragic impasse'.)

 In exploring the archetypal motifs of this story, we tried to move past the fairly transparent moralization of the original versions and instead use it as a reflection point from which to unpack a range of issues, including the self-as-muse, contemporary media culture, and the implications of VR and AR on identity politics. The result is a focused new work of theater which resonates with a contemporary malaise, and provides a point of release for some occluded emotional territory.


Proposal

Echosis was written for the stage, and one of the most difficult aspects of producing the show in a traditional theater context will be figuring out how best to depict Amphora's vibrant and mythic virtual world.  We feel that AR has the potential to bring this facet of Echosis' story to life in a way that has not really been seen yet in a contemporary theater work.

Ultimately, we want to produce Echosis in a small custom theater, with each member of the audience wearing their own pair of AR glasses. We want to explore the tech as tool  in a live musical theater context.   We want to use AR to overlay the "divine" content of the Amphora's world onto the performers, nothing a distinct transition between realms. This will not simply be used as an FX gimmick, but would provide an essential narrative mechanism for Echosis as a work, as well as manifesting a a central character, the Ouroboros and the liguid light of which it is an avatar.

For The Engadget Experience New Realities Grant we are proposing running a multi-phase test of a multi-user AR system which is tailored for a very small audience (8 seats).  For this test we would produce Behold Amphora!, the 5th scene from Echosis, with both live actors and our custom AR system. Given adequate funding, we would bring this system to LA for The Endgadget Experience and perform Behold Amphora! intermittently throughout the course of the event. Tickets would be extremely limited, and could be used as a promotional tool or VIP perk.  Now onto the details of the scene.


Behold Amphora!

Behold Amphora! takes place on Mt. Olympus, in the high chamber of the Goddesses. Hera sits at a large round table, flanked on either side by fellow Goddesses Athena and Aphrodite. At the center of the table burns a prismatic fire of liquid light (which is depicted via AR). Hera uses the liquid light's creative powers to recount the history of Amphora, from Prometheus to the present day.  The 3 Goddesses would sing the work live, and the AR content would be synchronized to the performance

We chose Behold Amphora! for a two key reasons. 

1. While the song provides key backstory for Echosis' narrative, it does not require an understanding of the entire story to be meaningful, and will work well as a stand alone piece.

2. Since the entire scene takes place around the Goddesses' table, we can seat the 8 audience members at the table with the Goddesses. This allows us to efficiently constrain the active field of vision (essential for current AR tech) while also providing an extremely intimate experience for audience members. 

 Below you can hear a demo of the song, and view storyboards for the scene. To read the stage-play click here.




Tech

There seem are 4 main facets of the tech required to produce Behold Amphora!  

1. CGI 

2. Code

3. Hardware

Of foundation importance is the hardware, namely the AR glasses and the computers which run them.  We hope to utilize the visibility of the Engadget Experience to establish a relationship from an AR manufacturer, so that we can begin actively prototyping our stage-look with the exact hardware which will be used in the event install. We may need to buy some equipment, but hopefully, they will want to exhibit their gear at the Engadget Experience and we can program on one of their rigs.

We need a lead CGI artist with a strong background in fluid dynamics and animation, Our lead programmer will need experience in the implementation of 3D content into headsets, especially form multiple perspectives. A majority of our $100,000 budget would go towards securing this talent. This may be possible through a third party turn-key facility, or we may need to bid it out to independent specialists. 

We feel that stagecraft and performance are not simply venues for technology and showmanship, but also provide a point of coherence for us as social animals.  We want to study how we can use these new media to not just tell a deeper stories, but also enhance the connections between audiences and performers, as well as between audience members.  Can we not only make the fantasy of the theater better, but also make the act of witnessing the fantasy better for the group as a whole?


About Us

While Echosis is an ongoing collaborative endeavour requiring the talent and input of scores of artists, it was originally conceptualized by long-time collaborators J. Ashley Miller and Daniel Goggin.

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J. Ashley Miller - Composer / Creative Director

J. Ashley Miller is a transmodern composer, and producer from KC. His early work producing and writing for Ssion introduced him to video theater. His site-bound video compositions for Quadrigarum flowered into full on musical theater with 2015's RVB. With help from the 2016 CSF Generative Artist Award, Ashley composed and workshopped Echosis, his first feature length musical work.  

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Daniel Goggin - Technical Director

Daniel is an artist, creative technologist, videographer, animator, and creative manager. Professionally he has designed and programmed interactive experiences for clients such as Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Spotify, Samsung.  He has also designed for numerous artists, museums, galleries, concerts, festivals, and fashion events. His passion is helping artists implement creative visions which require techological mediation. Currently he serves as the Manager of Media Services at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

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