One cast, six cameras, two separate stages at different locations — all performing one play simultaneously.
The UCSC theater arts department’s latest play “The Thinning Veil” connects the world of the living with the world of the dead through live video streaming.
The play, written by Kirsten Brandt and produced by Ted Warburton, is based on the ancient Greek tragedy “The House of Arteus,” but includes influences from other Greek mythology, like Homer’s “Iliad” and Euripides’ “Electra.” “The House of Arteus” revolves around a dysfunctional royal family dealing with heartbreak, rivalry, jealousy and forgiveness.
In “The Thinning Veil,” ancient Greek mythology is adapted to contemporary times. It puts characters into modern-day life by having them own cars, watch football and use foul language, which makes the characters more relatable.
The “veils” in this play are the camera operators, who dress entirely in black and move creepily around the stage and audience, filming and transmitting footage from one stage to the other.
“It’s the birth of a new genre,” Brandt said. “This type of theater has never been done, and this type of live streaming and interconnected qualities through separate stages is brand-spanking-new.”
Brandt said she wants to use technology in a way to connect with the audience viscerally and tangibly, as opposed to distancing people, which she thinks a lot of technology does.
“We’re in a world where everyone wants to be myopic, where everyone wants to stare and answer questions through their phone and not engage verbally,” Brandt said. “I think there’s a way technology can be used for more expansion and connection rather than disconnection.”
Katherine Wahlberg, a senior theater arts major, said having the play set in two different locations really changed the rehearsals.
“It has been crazy watching our director direct two in spaces at once, talking to actors who we weren’t actually in the room with, and on top of that, communicating through a camera,” Wahlberg said.
Even though it has been a challenge coordinating the two different spaces with digital latency issues and time delays in general, the show has worked out all the kinks.
Jake Pino, a fourth-year double major in theater arts and history, plays Achilles, a demigod in the play. Pino said Greek mythology is an important part of the past, present and future.
“There’s a reason why these stories are still being told thousands of years later,” Pino said. “Greek mythology is so juicy and it’s still relevant today.”
Alex Caan, a third-year theater arts major, said having to act for both the screen and audience at the same time can feel weird.
“We’re literally communicating with people [who] aren’t in the same space as us,” Caan said. “You’ll have a different experience depending on which space you see the performance in.”
Erik LaDue, a graduate student who is a part of the theater arts department’s fifth-year program, is the scenic designer for “The Thinning Veil.” LaDue said it has been stressful designing for two different spaces while maintaining a connection between them.
“It’s been very complicated and awe-inspiring because of the scale of a production that this is,” LaDue said. “The show is huge and the set reflects that.”
With only seven weeks to complete this play before the show premieres, the pressure is on.
“Actors onstage are the ones people will be seeing,” fourth-year Pino said, “but really the most impressive players in this show are the techies, the camera operators and stage managers who are in charge of all the cues and making sure everything runs smoothly.”
The performance takes place in the Experimental Theater’s Black Box and intimate “Dark Lab” at the Digital Arts and Research Center, March 2-4 and March 8-11 at 7 p.m. all days except Sundays at 3 p.m.