Rager, Sandee/Marsdust/March 2003: 13
Close your eyes and envision Forbidden Planet or The Day The Earth Stood Still and mix in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and you’ll get a fantastic hybrid of stage and screen. George Popovich, is the director of theater at HFCC and has been amazing audiences for 17 years with over 60 productions. For this year’s challenge, he’s accepted a vivid, 3-D, live stage venture. He first came to this concept when watching the movie The Lawnmower Man.
“I thought it was cool,” Popovich said. “I wanted to do it.” This was back in 1994 and he started researching what it would take to create his own virtual reality production. That research, mostly via the Internet, took him on a journey through numerous search engines, message boards, and chat rooms. The goal was to find someone – anyone, who could tell him where to shop, how to buy and how to use the equipment and software it would take to bring his vision to life. He started getting equipment and following the directions that came with them as best as he could understand. He spent hours at home in his basement working with the projectors he had. The more research he did, the more he saw what was needed to achieve his vision.
He kept a close watch on the telecommunication department at school while they were building a studio and doing a live TV program. He talked to the department about live theater and the Virtual Reality concept he envisioned. Time and research went by and it came to the summer of 2001. Popovich contacted Alan Contino of Melvindale, Michigan for his help.
“He wanted to make it happen,” Popovich said.
Contino is technical director of The Tempest and has an extensive background in television and motion picture production.
In the winter of 2001, Nick Riley joined the team as VR Technologist. He wanted to help with the show in any way he could. His background started in high school with backstage work. Being backstage was comfortable for him. He is attending HFCC for theater and computer information systems as a double major. He saw this show as an ideal fit for him.
“I do whatever needs to be done,” he said. “This is a new and emerging art form.”
“We’re doing pretty good being a theater and being able to do this,” he said.
“It can either be order or chaos,” Riley commented about Popovich. “I adapted myself well to his current state of mind.”
Everyone involved has given their all to Popovich and the show. One without the other wouldn’t work. People support each other and work together even through rough spots.
“The tech guys are hardcore,” Popovich emphasized. “There’s nothing that doesn’t get by him (Contino). If we didn’t have him we’d be screwed.”
“We’re the backbone of the show,” Contino said, referring to him and Riley.
Popovich has plans for another show like this one. He will continue to do this until he retires and will explore new ways to expand stage and screen. He would like to use animation and body motion capture in the future. The next choice will be a children’s show or something abstract and surreal.