This past summer, I was lucky enough to be right up by The Red Zone at U2’s Minneapolis, rain soaked concert. I was blown away by the technology. I took photos of “The Claw”, the lighting system, the overhead ticker tape screen of world population, etc. They had come along way, baby, from my first U2 experience back in the mid 1980’s when my friend and I went to see “some Christian, Irish band” at 1st Avenue here in Minneapolis. U2 and I have “grown old” together. That first concert was at the same time I did my first teaching artist work or artist in residency, as it was called, in a College for Kids program at Minneapolis Community College.
In those days, U2 had some mics, a sound system, a few lights and Bono dancing in the audience; I entered my classroom weighed down, like a Sherpa on a mountain trek, with clunky old tape recorders, tapes, flip pads, markers, boxes of “stuff”, etc., etc., etc. On performance day I needed a pickup truck to haul everything to the performance sight. I always said if I ever left my artistic career I could work for a moving company because I was so adept at “schlepping” stuff.
This summer, U2 had a stage set that arrived days before they did and took that long to assemble. I was fascinated with the number of technicians it took to operate sound, lights, and special effects. Technology had made the tools of their artistic world BIGGER, to the point that the technology was the warm up act. Interpol, the warm up band for the concert, just provided background music for the real show going on as technicians geared up and suited up to “make magic”.
I was teaching theater camp the week of U2’s set up for the Minneapolis concert. I arrived an hour early, on the first day, with my iPod and mini speakers, a net book the size of tissue box, a digital projector, not much larger, a voice recorder smaller than my smart phone (also a great art creations tool – though many chose to differ), a white projection sheet and 8 thumb tacks. I was also about to create magic with technology – only in my case, technology made the tools of my artistic world much smaller, easier to manage and more accessible. It all fit in a reusable bag from my local grocery store. Since I used projected scenery, I only had to cart costumes, which fit in the trunk of my car.
Technology has changed my world. I think, in my case, for the better. I spend less time schlepping and more time creating with my learner/collaborators. I have changed my scope of the definition of theater. I still teach that theater is an actor, telling a story, to an audience; but, in this age of technology what defines an actor, the story or the audience? Does this shift enrich or endanger the artistic quality of the work? What place does technology hold in my “teaching artist” world? I will be exploring these and other questions in my next series of articles entitled “Arts in Education – There’s An App for That”.