There is something special about creating fresh connections in uncommon places. They bring people closer together, spark new dialogue, and encourage new ways of thinking. This is what happened last year when Ezra Cove and Jessie Darrell-Jarbadan met.
Cove, a professor in the Becker School of Design & Technology, and Darrell-Jarbadan, a professor in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, were both newcomers to Clark. One day, they started talking about costume design and during the course of their conversation discovered that the process of bringing a costume to life was very similar in the worlds of game-creation and theater. From there, a dynamic new Clark course was born.
Interactive Theater has brought together the BSDT and Visual and Performing Arts programs for a special purpose: to create and perform the show “Waiting for Obols,” based on an original script written by BSDT Professor Terrasa Ulm. The show depicts an in-between space where people from all universes and time periods seek coins to buy passage across a cosmic sea.
“This space that is indeterminate of time and location provides many opportunities for the audience members to be a part of the production,” Ulm says.
In “Waiting for Obols,” the audience engages with actors throughout the production, helping guide the characters through the story. The audience’s level of involvement will determine what kind of theatrical experience will unfold throughout the evening. In addition to Cove, Darrell-Jarbadan, and Ulm, Professor Amanda Theinert is involved in the design and teaching of the course.
“Everyone gets to select their own roles regardless of major,” Ulm says. “It’s about exploring and seeing how we all come together for the same goal. We want people to go outside of their comfort zone.”
Ulm, who is leading the character-design portion of the class, says she and Darrell-Jarbadan quickly realized that theater and games share a great deal of synergy.
“It’s great how open to collaboration the other professors are,” Darrell-Jarbadan says.
Currently, the class is split in half, with one group designing costumes and the other group designing characters. The costume-making process starts with the creation of costume pattern pieces in a program called Marvelous Designer, which is used for realistic cloth simulation in digital media. Later in the course, those pieces will be printed and sewn together to make costumes.
“The things we can accomplish in a few hours in class using Marvelous Designer would have taken me three days in a costume shop. The next time I have a professional commission I plan on using Marvelous Designer. Having more time to be a designer and less time to be a stitcher is a big deal,” Darrell-Jarbadan says.
“Jessie knows far more than I do about fit, patterns, how to adjust darts – all things I’ve been only eyeballing for years,” Cove adds. “She can relate the work we do in class to real-world construction, something I’ve never done before. This will be able to inform how I work more quickly and efficiently in the future.”
Props and set pieces will be designed using 3D programs such as Maya and Blender, and 3D printers will then give them final form. The props include everything from an ornate staff wielded by one of the characters to coins that will be used during the performance.
“It’s really helpful that our Interactive Theater class won an Innovation Grant, which will give us a budget for fabrics and prop creation,” Ulm says.
Unlike other shows, there is no stage or seating area to distinctly separate audience and performers. The show will use the entire space of the recently renovated Little Center for cast members to interact with attendees who have come to peer into the cosmic sea. You may find a secret character tucked away in a room upstairs and then walk back down to the theater space to see an ongoing dance party. With this format, no audience member will experience the show in exactly the same way.
Ulm says a loose script will allow audience members to embark on “quests” throughout the performance.
“Audience members will receive quests from characters they interact with, and if they complete them, they might receive a hidden line of dialogue or be rewarded with information or a special item,” she says. “The show’s actors are excited to blend the mediums of gaming and theater and develop their improvisational skills.”
“Waiting for Obols” will be held in the Little Center on Dec. 15.
Ed Greig, a senior in the Becker School of Design & Technology, is currently designing the costume for the character of Potone, creating her “ethereal cloaked” look. “All my studies have been exclusively computer-based, so it feels awkward to have a needle and a thread in my hands, but that’s the beauty of this class,” he says.