Mary-Lou McCarthy engaged with the students of TU Dublin to explore the use of technology in her new play The Dead Letter Office. According to Mary-Lou….
‘In March 2020, I was commissioned by The Civic’s (Ready Steady SHOW! (RSS!) initiative to develop The Dead Letter Office; a new play for young audiences exploring migration, connection and belonging. After 6 months of research, I was encouraged by RSS! to engage with technology as a way to develop the idea. I discovered there was potential for cross-pollination between digital technology and The Dead Letter Office and I applied for a Engagement with New Technologies Award through the Creative Ireland South Dublin Programme. My proposal was to connect with the department of Creative Digital Media at Technological University Dublin, learning about their work so as to bring cutting-edge digital technologies to bear on my artistic practice through research, discussion and in-person workshops.
After discussing the idea for the play with the department, I met online with lecturer and artist Adam Gibney who teaches Emerging Media Practice and Multimedia at TU Dublin. At our first meeting we discussed the use of digital technology in live performance. One brilliant example we discussed was Sasha Velour’s (from RuPaul’s Drag Race fame) one-queen show Smoke & Mirrors, which fuses drag, visual art, theatre and narrative storytelling. I haven’t seen the show, but having heard about it it is now firmly on the ‘go-see’ list! I learned that while Sasha was performing in a club in New York she needed a spotlight. The club didn’t have a spotlight, but they did have a projector…and so Sasha innovatively used a projector to create her own spotlight. What began as a technical necessity grew into a hit show using projection mapping throughout to heighten the narrative storytelling and message of the piece. We also spoke about the importance of balance in a production when using digital technology and how technology can be used as a collaborative tool. It’s about “meaningful engagement” said Adam, and this struck a chord with me. How can we create work for young audiences that engages meaningfully with digital technology?
I continued to think about how and why technology can feature in a play. I was keen to explore Projection Mapping after our discussions and Adam invited me to a 3-hour Projection Mapping Demonstration with Third Year students of the Multimedia Production and Digital Arts Course. This workshop took place at Rua Red in Tallaght, the space kitted out with multiple projectors and cubes allowing us to work and play in groups.
We never lose that “first-day-of-school-feeling” when entering a new space where we don’t know anyone, and so a very kind and talented group of students invited me to partner with them for the workshop. Adam took the class through how to set-up and use projection mapping step-by-step and it was a great workshop. It has been a long time since I was a student in an educational setting and I learned a lot from what software to use; what native resolution means; through to mapping and masking.
I am very grateful that I now have the language to talk about projection mapping. If I am to use it in this or future productions, having this hands-on experience and understanding of the technology will facilitate a better collaboration with a designer. I feel confident to use digital mapping in my artistic practice, and I am eager to see it used more in live performance.
A highlight of this award was connecting with artist and lecturer Adam Gibney; you can see Adam’s latest exhibition “Can you breathe for me” at The Dock on St. George’s Terrace in Carrick-on-Shannon until June 18th 2022. For more information on Adam’s exhibition see here [URL]: https://www.thedock.ie/whats-on/can-you-breathe-for-me ‘
Photo credit: Mary-Lou McCarthy
Mary-Lou’s play ‘The Dead Letter Office’ will run in October and we are so looking forward to the production.
More details soon www.civictheatre.ie