HFCC Combines Theater and Technology for Dinosaurus!

Lakins, Terry/The Dearborn Press and Guide/April 2, 2014: p 2B

     Henry Ford Community College’s Virtual Theatricality Lab may redefine live theatrical performances with its production of stage play “Dinosaurus!”

     The Theatricality Lab uses live virtual characters and scenery and combines them with stage actors.

     “It’s like when 3-D first appeared or when sound first came out,” said George Popovich, director of Theater Arts and Director of the Virtual Theatricality Lab. “It’s a new modality of presentation.”

     “Dinosaurus!” will begin showing in November.

     “Dinosaurus!” is the story of two geologists looking for oil that accidentally stumble upon a hidden world filled with dinosaurs. The tale is told from the viewpoint of the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs see the humans as intruders and try to get of rid of the humans.

     Popovich said animated dinosaurs will be projected in 3-D stereo, and will appear to be the next to the live actors during the performance. Audience members will wear 3-D glasses. The effects of 3-D stereo will make the dinosaurs appear 10 feet from the closest spectators.

     The scenery will be also rendered in 3-D and will portray a cavern where the dinosaurs thrive. A professor character will be rendered in 3-D Stereo using a real-time motion capture actor: This will be done in a different room, but the actor will be able to the see action onstage through hidden cameras. This will allow the actor to interact with the audience. There are real physical effects that go along with the performance such the audience being sprayed with water when an animated dinosaur sneezes.

     Popovich said the project has taken three years to get it to where it is now. Lack of funding, time constraints, and technical issues made getting it together difficult.

     One of the best challenges, he said, is selling the idea to a larger audience. With very few people attempting to do 3-D on stage, he feels it’s hard to get people to really understand the concept and support it. Despite the difficulty, Popovich remains optimistic and feels the advantages of Virtual Theatricality are worth the trouble. The ability to use virtual technology may lead to solutions that are impossible to do in the real world. Popovich is also confident that if this initial run of “Dinosaurus!” is successful it could lead to possibilities of touring the show at elementary schools and getting the word out.

     Whether “Dinosaurs!” is successful or not, he is still interested in translating other popular plays into the virtual theater format.

     “It’s my opportunity to see all the magic and fantasy on screen intersect with the reality of live actors, said Popovich. “ It combines my two great artistic loves—the stage and the cinema.”

     Only 80 seats are available per performance, so early purchases are highly advised.

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