Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cars that Drive Themselves

I have been reading about the race in California for robotic cars.


While it seems off topic, I think it has an interesting tie in. There are a variety of engineering competitions out there that can bring a little fun into a fairly studious program of study. Yes, theatre is fun. But I think technical theatre is pushing the envelope of technology more and more everyday. I have heard that in Europe they are replacing counterweight systems with all motorized systems due to safety concerns. In the US, rigging went from hemp systems to counterweight systems, and many locations do have automated systems of some sort, even if just on a few lines. Automation is making more scenery move by itself, and projections and other special effects are becoming norms rather than the exception in many places. Yet, how does technical theatre education handle all of these new technologies. I firmly believe in training for tomorrow, yet it seems most places are barley keeping up with training for today. One of the ways that I would propose to help that situation would be to have more competitions. To encourage more inventiveness, for instance. Too many times, one place does a show, and then the show does the LORT circuit, and the shows are way too similar. The effects are copied or passed around. While an education in technical theatre needs to have a sound basis of common techniques, and knowledge of technical theatre history, a student needs to be able to take this knowledge and merge it together in new ways.
I realize that we have difficult parameters – there isn’t a lot of time (or budget) outside of a show, and the show has various needs and a TD only has limited options according to designs, space, time, and so forth. But perhaps if we had more outside interactions – above and beyond USITT, and the Tech Expo, perhaps we could generate new technology instead of getting it from outside sources. I suppose this ties in to my thoughts on elegant solutions and my blog about reality shows, but I think it is important to start integrating more technology in a manner that learning can occur outside of show pressure.

FYI, I have spoken several times about elegant solutions. These types of solutions are ones that are complex enough to do the job, but no more complex than necessary. Simple can be beautiful. They should be the most effective solution for a particular set of circumstances – a great solution for a show in one venue may be wrong for the same show in another venue. In grad school I had a course in which every week we were given a scenario and we needed to come up with a technical solution.

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