UNA - Katie Key's MFA Thesis Performance

"Una is a trip through the shadows of our subconscious.  The audience witnesses the main character, Una, surrender to her demons as she moves through worlds made of materialism, emotion, and spirit.  Each world grows in abstraction as her journey travels deeper into her subconscious.

The overarching narrative is a dreamscape, yet each world shifts into its own style of narration from verbal, to non-linear vignettes, to singularly visual.  This is not just a story about Una; I hope that the audience will see glimpses of themselves."
~Katie Key

Wow, what a tremendous project.  I'm not even sure where to begin.  Back in May, Katie and I started talking about creating a multi-media extravaganza for her MFA Dance thesis perfromance.  Over the months, she developed the story and I worked on the projection and sound technology to be used.  I also assisted in the spatial logistics and some of the planning.  This was an tremendous project with a huge cast and crew, and the process was very satisfying.

The audience began by entering a dark hallway. At the end of the hallway was a projection feeback loop that the audience could interact with.  This was the 'exit from reality' through a vortex.  I created the vortex with Jitter.  A camera was watching a sheet with a rear projection showing the processed video.  The processing slowed the feedback down so the audience could play with this 'digital mirror'.  Email me for information about this code.

Katie as the Red Bird
The story begins with Una getting ready to go to bed.  In her dreams she is visited by three birds fantastically costumed by Kristin Dalleske.  Each bird had a wireless microphone which I processed with a pitch shift and feedback delay patch written in MAX/MSP.  I found this to be a very successful effect as each bird was clearly from another world.  Again, I'm more than happy to share this code, just email me about it.

Young Una and Mother
She then enters into the 'yellow' world which was a domestic representation of her life and disconnected relationship with her mother.  This was our projection heavy section of the show.  There were three simultaneous projections being run (read more about doing this here).  The actors interacted with the projections, exiting the stage and appearing in the scenery and then returning to reality.  Just another exploration of the interaction between theatre and technology.  I was able to make the believable with some Jitter magic.

The 'blue' world transitioned with young Una becoming a college aged Una (played by Katie herself).  This was a dark world exploring the challenges and dangers of the real world.  The world was driven by slowly evolving drawings of 'Frown Town' or the name of the town in the scene.  This world was driven by a series of non-linear vignettes by actors dressed as evil variations of real-world professionals (doctors, police, etc.).  Music was provided by my good friends Max Shiffman and Doug Craft who played an interesting combo of accordion, bass, drums, and other miscellaneous devices.

The train to 'Frown Town'

The final world (red) was an exploration of cyclical relationships and movement.  Una has now grown into a full-fledged woman and it seems, has finally found herself.  Unfortunately, two of the dancers were unable to perform at the last minute and this changed the dynamic of the world tremendously.  Projections were of slowly moving, red-tinted clouds and a soundscore I created in Ableton Live.  This was comprised of harmonica loops which increased in intensity and pitch as the dance piece progressed.
Red World

Finally, the spirits surrounding Una overwhelm her with love and end up 'stealing' her soul they love her so much.  Little Una then wakes up and joyful music plays and feathers fall from the ceiling, reminding us of the birds that took her on this journey.

Overall, this was a challenging experience. While we had put a tremendous amount of planning into the show itself, many obstacles arose along the way.  Our story changed many times and there were some issues with casting, but we had a great crew and cast.  Additionally, pulling this off during my last semester in school was very difficult.  This was a great program to work on and it felt good to have creative input on an ATL&S show for a change.  We are still working on final documentation, so stay tuned.

Tara as the Yellow Bird
Congrats to:
Rebecca Holley - Stage Manager, Kristin Dalleske - Costume Designer, Esmeralda Kundanis-Grow - Creative Assistant, (I was the Technical Director)

MC - Graham Emmons
Red, Blue, and Yellow Birds - Katie Key, Marcin Mroz, Tara Rynders
Una - Hanna Woods, Katie Key, Jennifer Delaney
Dancers - Sarah Bowers, Daniel Leonard, Scott Leslie, Stephen Newcomb, Hallie Bauernschmidt, and Julie Murphy
Music - 'Frankie Avalon', Maximilian Shiffman, Doug Craft, EJ Posselius, Katie Key, 'Rolling Stones'
Video - EJ Posselius, Erik Klosterman, Aaron Young, Tara Rynders

and of course, Katie for all her tremendous efforts!

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