A week or so ago I went to the new Jekyll & Hyde Club in Times Square, which is currently in a soft opening mode. Mike Blasko of WeiglWorks showed me around, and it was fun. I had been to the old location on 6th avenue, and also their bar downtown, but today's Times Square seems like a more appropriate home. LifeFormations did the animatronics (and they have a very interesting "Laws of Animatronics" on their website), and Weigl provided 40 "ProCommander" units to control around 30 animatronic special effects, all connected using Ethernet. All the shows were programmed in VenueMagic, and coordinated by some custom front end software from Weigl. Many of the characters can be controlled live by a performer. It's worth a visit if you're in the area; I didn't have my camera that day, so here's some photos from Mike (click for larger images):
Nicole S and I went last night to Cathy Cervenka's amazing all power ballads show Love Bites at the Canal Room. The singers and band were incredible, and much of it was my favorite kind of performance--respectful of the original while camping it up, all done with love by people with immense talent. Here's a few pictures, many more here.
The Entertainment Designer blog has a nice interview with my friend Matt Duplessie, Founder & CEO of the 5 Wits Companies. 5 Wits makes very cool interactive adventure attractions, which are fun for both old and young alike.
I first met Matt years ago when he came down to check out the Gravesend Inn, and then when I was in Boston, I checked out his first attraction--Tomb--near Fenway park. In recent years, they moved out to a complex attached to Foxboro stadium, and this summer I checked out the new location, and I highly recommend seeing the new shows. The attention to detail is incredibly high, the actors do a great job, and it's the kind of fun interactivity that should be far more common. They even fooled me (which is hard to do) in one effect that I won't give away. Check it out if you're in the area!
I've been a fan of Montreal's Moment Factory for years (here's my writeup of and videos from their interactive work on the NIN tour from 2008), and over the summer, they created a projection-mapped son et lumière on Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall, called Duality. I wasn't able to get there over the summer, but on my way back from Maryland for the holidays last night, I stopped in and saw the new winter show, Winter Sweet. It was a rainy and cold Christmas Eve, but a few other brave souls and I caught the show:
Projection mapping to me is sort of a one-trick pony, so it's great that the creators also incorporated some well-hidden lighting, which you can see up-lighting the arches here:
I also commend the creators for spending some money on a good sound system! Often, on these sound and light shows, the sound gets short shrift, but here they used a high-quality surround system, and used it well.
Moment Factory has a "making of" video too:
I've yet to find any sort of dedicated website for the show (which is unfortunate), so you have to dig through AC's general tourist site. As of today, this link has details on the show. But if you're in AC, it's definitely worth checking out.
I stopped by tonight to see my friends' annual Holiday Light Spectacular here in Brooklyn. This sophisticated but home made show is well worth a visit--I have more details in last year's writeup. This year, the show has an America's Got Talent theme (I've written about my friend who was on the show and the buzzer show control used in that show), and it's well worth stopping by! Below are a few pictures; the address and other information is in the link above.
Dark stages and black-costumed, illuminated performers are certainly nothing new. Spiritualists and magicians have been doing this kind of stuff for more than a hundred years--my friend Todd Robbins showed a great example just a couple years ago here in NYC with his fantastic show Play Dead. In addition, there are long traditions of "Black Light Theatre" in the Czech Republic and other places around the world. But last night, I saw this idea taken up to a new level with my friend Miral Kotb's unique and excellent new show Artist of Light at the Duke on 42nd street.
I've written about Miral and her very cool iluminate™ (pronounced "eye-luminate") art/technology here before, as I was cheering her on as she progressed through the ranks of America's Got Talent in 2011 (she made it to the final four--which is quite an accomplishment--but a car wash guy from West Virginia who sings Frank Sinatra songs won). If you missed them on AGT, the basic idea of iluminate is that black-costumed dancers are outfitted with wirelessly-controlled, electro-luminescent lights and LED's, and both the dancer's moves and the lights are tightly synchronized with the sound track. Miral, with her unique background both in choreography and serious programming (she was a software engineer at Bloomberg) has combined art, science and boundless creativity to make not just a new brush, but instead a whole new canvas.
To see what I'm talking about, you should spend less than two minutes and watch this video:
I'm often baffled by dance performances. While I'm impressed by the physicality and performance, I often feel like the dancers are speaking in a language that I don't understand. But last night, I followed the story from the outset. Some of that, of course, is due to the show's relatively simple story line, which will work for audiences old and young (although dance snobs won't likely like it, since the show draws a lot from street dance forms, popular dance music and even dubstep). But I also think a lot of that story communication is due to the unique world created by the show's technology. While Artist of Light is very different than the last dance piece I raved about--Chunky Move's Mortal Engine (my writeup on that great show here)--it's also very similar in that the technology never comes off as a gimmick or gets in the way. Instead, the technology is integral to the storytelling, and is used as conduit for the show's emotional communication (the goal of all live performance for me).
The dancers and dance are impressive, and control geeks will also be impressed by the incredible amount of precision involved in the programming and execution, and will have difficulty imagining how many thousands of hours it must have taken to get all this stuff to work at the level I saw onstage last night.
As someone who has studied technology and worked in show business for so long, it's pretty rare that I'm surprised by anything on a stage. But last night I was continually and pleasantly surprised by what I saw, and I think you will be too. The show runs until January 4th, buy a ticket now and go see it!
I stopped over yesterday to check out David Blaine's "Electrified" stunt. I couldn't stick around until dark (when the photos would be much cooler) but I did snap a few:
At the lower right there's a couple guys with laptops who are running the Tesla coils, which are playing various musical pieces. One thing that doesn't come through is the tremendous noise created by the coils--you could hear it a couple blocks away.