Northwestern production ties together film, live performance


Source: Katie Chang

Students perform in a rehearsal for the new show “Alien.” The show was created by a student for an independent study project that aims to explore the intersection between film and live theater.

Emily Chin, Assistant A&E Editor


A show debuting next week on campus will feature both on-stage video and live performance in a study of how the two art forms complement each other.

“Alien,” which looks at the intersection of physical and virtual reality, features simultaneous video footage and dance pieces throughout the entirety of the show.

“Dance, although it’s a physical art form, is more grounded in psychological reality,” said director Samantha Spoll. “Film is more of a virtual reality, whereas dance can be seen more as portraying someone’s mind.”

The Communication senior said she formed the idea for the show last spring and decided to create “alien” as an independent study on the intersection between film and performance. She also received a research grant to look at what has been done professionally with the interaction between the two art forms and what difficulties arise in combining them.

In using both mediums, Spoll said she hopes to learn more about the space between the different kinds of reality and what it means to watch different types of performances.

“We either watch a film or we watch a show most of the time and what combining those elements does is it takes you on a surreal journey,” Spoll said. “There’s less of a logical narrative and more of a surreal dream-like journey.”

A video showing dance pieces performed by the ensemble, daily activities and clips from pop-culture videos will play in the background throughout the entire performance. Video designer Cemre Paksoy said dancers will occasionally interact with the screen and, at times, ignore its presence.

Paksoy, a Communication junior, said she is using the video to enhance the dynamics of each scene and reflect the theme each is portraying.

“It’s taught me a lot about taking more creative freedom with this media,” Paksoy said. “It’s not necessarily watching for continuity or making it logical, but creating an experience through video. We’re talking about that in abstract and thematic terms and translating that into a visual.”

Spoll said through the process she has let her ensemble take more creative freedom and provide input on the themes that are present in the show. She added that she started rehearsals without a clear direction on what the show would look like, but was able to draw themes from the rehearsals.

Because many people have not been exposed to shows where video and performance are occurring simultaneously, Spoll said she is interested in the audience’s reaction. She said she will hold interviews with audience members after the performance to hear their thoughts on the show.

Producer Katie Chang said she is excited to see how people react to the show, and is interested in people’s honest opinions because the show is part of research.

“If people are coming to it from a theater background or a dance background, they’ll have an appreciation for it,” the Communication junior said. “But people like my parents are coming and they have no theater background and sometimes their thoughts are more compelling.”

Though the team has been producing both elements of the show separately since January, they have not put the two together yet, Chang said. She added that she’s excited to see it come together at the performance next week at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.

“We’re dealing with what we think could be reality,” she said. “It’s very compelling to me.”

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