Information Technology Services recently partnered with the University of Iowa’s Department of Theatre Arts, International Writing Program, UITV, and the Moscow Art Theatre to present a live transnational theatrical performance. Technology and the expertise of ITS staff members brought together actors for a collaborative bilingual performance – despite the fact that they were on two separate stages, 5,000 miles apart.
The first performance took place on March 9, and more events of this kind will be arranged as the three-year Book Wings project continues. Funded by the Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Book Wings is a creative exchange among American and Russian writers, actors, directors, and new media professionals in a virtual environment. The project aims to foster a cross-cultural conversation, spark new literary and dramatic ideas, and create an enduring body of work.
Les Finken, innovation strategy manager in ITS-Instructional Services, is leading the tech aspects of the project, utilizing high-speed IP networks, high-definition video projection and cameras, professional-grade microphones, and external audio and video mixing consoles. Audio and video signals are captured into DV format for web streaming, and videoconferencing brings performers together in a virtual environment.
“High-speed IP networks are creating opportunities for new types of real-time applications that connect artists and audiences across the world,” Finken says. “These networks were initially used almost exclusively by researchers to collect, process, and share large data sets. Now, more and more academic institutions are using professional audio and video technology integrated with high-definition videoconferencing to create high-performance virtual learning environments.”
Finken says projects like these have significant implications for teaching and learning. People who are not directly involved with a videoconference can still benefit by accessing the live stream to observe the learning exchange. During the March 9 Book Wings event, UI students were able to witness the performance at the Theatre Arts Department’s Theatre B while classes at Towson University in Towson, Maryland, and Columbia College in Chicago watched online.
Other fine and performing arts fields are taking advantage of HD video conferencing as well. Much broader audiences are able to participate in public lessons or classes in a concert hall setting. The technology also opens up opportunities for musicians and dancers who can audition affordably from their home state or country. ITS implemented this capability for the UI Department of Dance in 2011.