As Print Dies, an Experimental Show is Born

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    Illustration by Kiri Rasmussen.
    Illustration by Kiri Rasmussen.
    Illustration by Kiri Rasmussen.
    Illustration by Kiri Rasmussen.

    From the iPhone to the Kindle to the iPad, the literate world has seen a diminishing need for print media as technology continues to advance.

    The UC Santa Cruz theater arts department will collaborate with the digital arts and new media department, starting Feb. 26, to present an experimental show titled “Stop the Press!” The production will show how the world of print has transformed over the years as more and more new technology develops.

    Jim Bierman, UCSC theater arts professor and one of the faculty members involved with the show, explains why “Stop the Press!” is important at this time.

    “We’re on the cusp of a paradigm shift from print media to digital media,” Bierman said. “This show addresses the emotional anxiety that people feel in moving from newspapers to newsreaders.”

    With newspapers like the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle struggling to survive, print media is in decline. While they all recognize this, the performers and producers of the show have different opinions about the current state of media and its transition.

    Brian Luce, a fourth-year theater arts student and assistant director of “Stop the Press!,” feels that it is simply more convenient to access newsreaders.

    “I like actually holding a newspaper, but I normally don’t get my news from a newspaper,” Luce said. “I get it online.”

    The production comes at a time when people can read anything they want to know on an electronic device hardly larger than the palms of their hands. Amazon’s electronic reading device, the Kindle, is currently being shipped to over 100 countries.

    Kimberly Jannarone, theater arts professor and the show’s director, said it is important to find a way to live in a world of decreasing print.

    “This piece speaks to exploring new ways of people interacting with new technologies,” Jannarone said. “This isn’t a play in the traditional sense. It’s structured more like a Disney ride.”

    Modeled after Disney’s “Carousel of Progress,” an attraction based on both nostalgia and futurism, the production begins by inviting audience members to walk into a hall. There they can approach different stages set with scenes portraying the death of newspapers and print media.

    Audience members can have their fortunes told, enter the room through a “digital environment,” and even see a performance in which a theater arts student dances with a 3-D image.

    “It has been pretty exciting to figure out ways for [the dancer] to interact with something that’s not actually in the room,” Luce said.

    The idea for the show first arose last spring. Its creators were initially inspired by a photo of the old Santa Cruz Sentinel building downtown. Through the windows of the building, the image showed where the printing presses used to be, outlined on the walls by years of splattered ink. The powerful image of the shadow of the presses presented the idea to create a show based around the death of print and the coming “golden age” of technology.

    Members of the collaborating departments then sat down together to discuss their ideas and what they wanted the show to encompass.

    “This is really something quite different from starting with the script of a Shakespeare play or something that is already written,” Bierman said. “The script itself is largely assembled of electronic artifacts. It includes websites, blogs and online forums.”

    Producers of the show all have different opinions about the transition from print media to digital media. These differences of opinion cause the show to address both sides: the arguments for and against emerging media technology. Some people, including Jannarone, feel that the tangibility of print is priceless.

    “I’ve never found anything better than a book in my hands, and there’s nothing more comfortable or pleasurable than lying on a sofa reading,” Jannarone said.

    Jannarone’s major concern is that media technology will lead to the demise of investigative journalism. As news begins to circulate entirely on the Web, she says, journalists will have less incentive to go out into the field to report.

    “And that’s what scares me,” Jannarone said. “The idea that we are going to have less in-depth coverage of the news in the world, and therefore less knowledge.”

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