Monday, July 23, 2012

Meet a Master Mason Monday: Lindsey Carter

Tells us about the first person you met at The Brick. I came to know about The Brick through Edward Einhorn, and it was Gyda Arber who was the first brave soul to cast me.
Tell us about your first show at The Brick. Gyda, Maggie Cino and I worked on a Tiny Theatre piece by Callie Kimball called Crash/Splash in 2010. It was my New York stage debut, and I played a little boy named Michael. It will always be one of the things I am most proud of doing in New York.

How did you first get involved with The Brick? After meeting Gyda and working with her, I was fortunate enough to be noticed by other artists in The Brick's extensive network and continue working on shows there, building relationships and making strange and interesting theatre.

What aspect of The Brick do you love? The amazing support! The Brick really strives to encourage artists to test the boundaries and make new and interesting choices.

If you could move The Brick anywhere where would you put it? I would make The Brick portable, and take it on tour. Like the entire building. Of course, I would fill it up with lovely Bricklayers (and snacks) also.
In your opinion, what makes The Brick an incubator of emerging theater artists? The support that we give one another to explore. That exploration, and its results, I think creates better art and artists.    

What have you gained from your experience at The Brick? I am more comfortable with the unknown as it happens onstage, but I also feel that my time at The Brick has helped me be a better friend as well as a more curious person and actor. It's really opened my mind to just what theatre, (and all art, really) can be. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

GAME Play Artist Interview: Brian Davis ("Right Thing")

My piece explores the intersection of art and gaming by simply stripping away all the superfluous information and distilling the experience of gaming down to a simple question that has many interpretations. I am interested in economy in both art and gaming.

Obstacles in the general acceptance of video games as an art form
are the same obstacles that every new medium has faced gaining acceptance. Good artists and game developers don't care, though, and will continue to make interesting things.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was my disappointment when, after playing all the way through Metal Gear Solid 4 on the PS3, I missed the climactic ending scene because I had to pee.

True or False: video games are now more culturally important than they were in the past.

I discovered the merit of video games as an artistic medium after putting in over 100 hours into GTA: San Andreas and realizing how incredibly immersive and reward-driven the experience was.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

GAME PLAY Artist Interview: Raphael Arar ("Synth-a-Sketch")

My piece explores the intersection of art and gaming by re-imagining a classic game from the 50s to the present day as a reflection on the current state of digital culture. SYNTH-A-SKETCH is similar to the Etch A Sketch in its basic gameplay and interface; however, there are more conceptual themes at play. On the most basic plane, we now have a game that bridges the physical and digital divide—an aspect that our current culture struggles with. The piece also presents players with an influx of multi-sensory content. We experience so much digital noise in our day-to-day lives, and the installation serves to exploit this by transforming the line into one of shape, color, dimension and by the creation of interactive sound as a byproduct of gameplay. Despite all of this multi-sensory material, players are left with little control over the parameters, and the installation ultimately highlights major frustrations we experience daily.

When people say video games aren’t art I tend to
say it depends. Some games purely exist to hook people and make money. Others serve to highlight aspects of culture and reflect upon them.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was
euphoria, but there may have been other external factors involved...

True or False: video games are now more culturally important than they were in the past.
True—but this really extends to the emergence of technology as an artistic medium. Artists just have another material to leverage to express whatever they want.

Why should people view your piece? First off, it's interactive. You won't just want to view it, you'll want to experience it. The installation can be interpreted on many different levels. At its most basic, it's fun, suitable for children to childish adults. Once you start thinking about it and really interacting with it, themes emerge that reflect on digital media today.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GAME PLAY Artist Interview: Josh Bricker ("Deterrence Machine")

When people say video games aren’t art I tend to agree. As a medium I think they have great potential to become art, but video games out of the box are not art. They may be artful or even beautiful, but most games never go beyond simple aesthetic pleasure. Culturally we tend to needlessly attach the term ‘Art’ capitol ‘A’ to something whenever we want to imbue an object or thing with value or prestige. I have never understood why a thing/object not traditionally considered art needs to be re-categorized as such. Like with video games, why do we feel the need to make them fit into the ‘ART’ box? Why can’t video games just stay video games and be judged as shitty or amazing, or beautiful video games? I mean aren’t video games fucking awesome for the very reasons that they are not art? For the most part, art is stuffy, boring and pretentious. Oscar Wilde famously said about art:
Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.
In contrast video games are activity based fun; pure entertainment of the highest order. For the sake of fun, capitol ‘F’ and the future of the industry I hope the two worlds continue to exist separately. For me to regard a video game as a piece of art it needs to transcend the purely superficial and visceral joy associated with the vast majority of video games and game play. I want art to tell me something new about the world, try and expand my understanding of something and tackle the existential. It’s a very narrow view of how art can operate and probably signifies an over reliance on pragmatic, rational thinking, but looking at and making art in this way wards off the persistent feeling of nihilism I get when I make and look.
An obstacle in the general acceptance of video games as an art form is video games rarely if ever provide any insights or values. Most games are usually nothing more than crass (but extremely entertaining) exercises in the spectacular. Generally the gate keepers of the art world demand more from its art then pure experience, but as the old guard is replaced by the new, meaning once our generation becomes the old guard, we’ll see that change and video game art will eventually become absorbed into the mainstream (my guess is it’ll probably get twisted and commercialized- similar to the way graffiti and street culture have been legitimized- into a marketing tool so corporate America can sell Mt. Dew and Red Bull). In fact you could make the case that the stigmas surrounding video games as art have already started to disappear. As gallerists have discovered ways to commodify game art, artists like Corey Arcangel have begun to show at institutions like The Whitney, opening doors for the future legitimization of video game art and artists.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was
when I beat the original Medal of Honor I strutted around like a proud peacock for about a week solid. I played non-stop for four days straight. To this day it’s the only game I have ever beaten.

True or False: video games are now more culturally important than they
were in the past.
True. In recent years the gaming industry has become one of the leading forms of entertainment in terms of revenue, often going toe to toe with or outright beating Hollywood for the almighty entertainment dollar. Highly anticipated game titles routinely gross more in the first 24hrs of release then the most anticipated films during an opening weekend. Stratospheric earning power, combined with shadowy funding from military/government sources and the pervasive, global reach of the gaming industry make gaming one of the most important mediums in contemporary culture to understand and critically engage. While the connection between violence and video games may be tenuous, there’s clearly a connection between video games and propaganda. Games like Call of Duty raise interest and support for the U.S. military and have become a part of the militarization of society. A recent Call of Duty commercial reinforced this point with the tag line “There’s a soldier in all of us” and gun battles being fought by people (presumably Americans) in work attire. Additionally in 2010, the U.S. military spent $50 million dollars developing combat training games and even developed a first-class shooter of its own, similar to Call of Duty, called “America’s Army” which is openly used as a recruiting device and is free to download from the internet. As a medium, video games pose a danger in that their often violent natures are rarely, if ever, reflected upon meaningfully by users. Video games require active participation unlike other media such as music or movies, which raises their potential to distance user associations between violent actions and possible consequences. I see this is getting convoluted so I’ll end it here. But it’s a big question that deserves more critical analysis then I am capable of. So to summarize: yeah, shit is real important.

Why should people view your piece?
Cool generic explosions.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

GAME PLAY Artist Interview: James Carter ("NY_Hearts:LES")

NY_Hearts: LES explores the intersection of theater and gaming by putting you in the shoes of one of the main characters of a love story and sending you on a scavenger hunt of sorts through the Lower East Side. The entire experience unfolds in site specific locations while you listen to Jill, Sal’s girlfriend, recount their relationship on an iPhone app, Moveable Feast. Businesses are featured in the story, and at each location you get items Jill talks about, including a yoga class, lunch and many other surprise goodies.

When people say video games aren’t art I tend to talk about how the NEA is now funding video games. I also emphasize how story is essential to practically every video game. Story is the place where theater and video games intersect. I have a friend who plays games just for the story. Game Play offers artists a chance to explore new ways of telling story, going outside comfort zones; theater artists explore games, and gamers bring their narratives to the theater. The convergence of the two is thrilling.

An obstacle in the general acceptance of video games as an art form is sometimes people think video games are a waste of time. It’s something kids do. It’s something unemployed thirtysomethings do while sitting in their underwear. It’s just play. It’s not art. Wait. Did I just say it’s play? Funny. That’s what we do in theater. Play. On stage. In site specific locations. Playing is what theater is. Another convergence of themes.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was: Lots of swearing, console throwing, and teeth gritting. Damn TMJ. But video games can also give me a Zen feeling. In the zone, one can relax, release and recharge. Just like flower arranging or motorcycle maintenance, there is a Zen and the Art of Gaming. Oh, snap. Did I just call gaming an art, again?

True or False: video games are now more culturally important than they were in the past. True. They didn’t exist for much of the past, so now they’re pretty important. As far as the recent past, their importance is rising in graphic capabilities, storytelling, and money making. It’s no wonder Hollywood is playing a big part in the evolution of games. It’s big money. The more realistic and social these virtual worlds become, the more culturally important they will be.

I discovered the merit of video games as an artistic/theatrical medium after I became involved with transmedia storytelling, or telling many small stories to create one large story over many media platforms. So many of the creators I know are not just video game makers, but they are game designers in all mediums. Alternate Reality Games (ARG) is a form of storytelling on the rise over the past ten years. This is where reality and fiction intersect, and players influence and sometimes create portions of the story. Interactivity and engagement are words repeated as mantras in the transmedia world, and invariably, whenever I see them done well, some game mechanics are involved.

What video games in performance can provide that traditional media cannot is the interaction and audience influence.

Why should people see your Game Play show? It may be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. If you’ve never played with the Moveable Feast app, it certainly will be new to you. If you’ve never stepped into a character’s shoes (don’t worry no one will pull you up on stage), then this will be new to you. Haven’t seen a show in a site specific location only to receive a present when you visit? You will discover a new experience. Have you ever gone to a theater show and taken a yoga class? You can at NY_Hearts: LES. I’m very happy to be taking many digital and traditional storytelling tools and mashing them up to offer a unique theater experience. Oh, yeah…and it’s going to be tons of fun!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Meet a Master Mason Monday: Amy Overman

Tell us about your first show at The Brick.  My friend Pete Schuyler was in Strom Thurmond Is Not a Racist/Cleansed in 2007.  And I remember we gave him a lot of crap about going out to Williamsburg.  They had curtains down and the space open all the way to the back wall and I loved the bricks and how huge it was.  I then promptly forgot it existed.  I'm not sure I even realized what the name of the theater was.

How did you first get involved with The Brick?  I auditioned for Ian and Berit and was cast as the Model in Blood on the Cat's Neck in 2009.  I was the only newbie in this cast of Brick regulars.  I remember Roger Nasser telling me that the whole cast would immediately Facebook friend me.  And they did.  Also, there was a lot of blood and I wore a really fabulous dress.  I think that dress is still how a lot of people know who I am. 

What aspect of The Brick do you love?  I love that the Brick is a group of experienced indie theatre artists who are doing this because it's what they love.  People who have had shows succeed and had shows fail and who aren't doing this as a stepping stone to Broadway or Hollywood, but are making theater for its own sake.

If you could move The Brick anywhere where would you put it?  There's actually an old movie theater at around 100th & Broadway that's been shut down for years.  I'd put the Brick there.  The fact that this is walking distance from my house is purely coincidental. (

What have you gained from your experience at The Brick?  I have met so many talented people.  Dysfunctional Theatre's last show, Unlicensed, never would have happened without the Brick.  The playwright, a lot of the actors, directors, and audience were all people I either met at the Brick or met through Brick connections.  Also a lot of these people are now my friends, which is nice. 

What’s the best benefit of being a Master Mason?  An overall feeling of superiority.

What is one thing you would change about The Brick?  Some way to get from backstage to the back of house that doesn't involve climbing out a window and cutting through the back of the pizza parlor.  Or a transporter.  Actually, I'd really like a transporter.

Show to plug?  Yes! Of Dice & Men, which is Dysfunctional Theatre Company's first show at the Brick opens on July 7th as part of Game Play.  An awesome comedy about a group of 30-something D&D players and what happens to their group when one of the members decides to enlist in the Marines.  No previous knowledge of D&D required, but if you like D&D, you will find it extra awesome.  I'm directing and it stars Master Masons Gyda Arber & Adam Swiderski.  3 Master Masons for the price of 1!