Friday, December 19, 2014

A Brief Review of NYU Classes

The NYU classes site has been a very helpful resource for me in terms of accessing class information. I like that each class website includes a clear place to instructors to add the syllabus. However, I have noticed that some professors post the syllabus in different ways. One way is to post the syllabus right on the site so that students can read it on the page. The other option is for professors to post a link to download the syllabus. While I can see the uses for both, I wish that all professors were required to post the syllabus the same way, as this would provide a more consistent user experience for students.

I also wish that there was a way for the drop-down file menus to navigate more smoothly. While I am thankful for so many of the resources that are made available through this system, the opening and closing of files and folders seems confusing at times. I am having trouble describing why this is, but I can say without a doubt that it is much less smooth than the navigation of Finder on the Mac or a similar explorer tool on a PC.

I saw an announcement that NYU Classes is being updated over the winter break, so I am excited to see what changes are made.

The Sites of My Colleagues

Nicky Barbato: I really liked the way that Nicky chose a color scheme that complimented some of the colors in the photo on his home page. The blue tones blend nicely with the blue of the guitar in the picture of him performing.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the underscoring of upbeat jazz music for the animation on Nicky's Animation page. It was an appropriate support to the bright colors of the animation.

Kaylin Hawkins: What first caught my eye on Kaylin's website was the colorful, zany background that she chose. She is an overall lively and fun individual, so this felt like a good visual representation of her personality.

I also enjoyed her font choices on the website along with the fun, colorful link to her blog.

Manying Xu: The background on Manying's website is one of the most striking, eye-catching that I have seen! The colors made me excited to explore more of the website.

Her Images assignment was equally striking, given the way that each image of the anime characters seemed to popped out at me with each change.

Browser Comparisons

Chrome: My favorite browser is Google Chrome. It is quick, and the interface is very easy to use. Additionally, I like that it collects a layout of pages that I visit most frequently so that whenever I open the browser, I can easily click on one of my preferred websites. Unfortunately, Chrome does not always present webpages properly, such as the Music Concrete page on my Tech Resources website. When I opened the page with Safari, everything was aligned just fine. This was not so in Chrome.

Safari: Safari is quick and clean and always seems to present webpages clearly. However, the buttons are too small for my liking. I much prefer the larger buttons on Google Chrome.

Firefox: I have not used Firefox in quite awhile, and I cannot remember why. If I had to use something other than Chrome, however, I would use Firefox, as it combines the best of both browsers: easy interface (large buttons for straightforward navigation) and presentation of clear websites.

Technology Possibilities for Theatre Production

Technology has begun to play increasingly prominent roles in the production of live theatre. The following is a list of where technology has expanded its reach in theatre in the last 50 years, along with an idea of where it might go next.

  • Projected Scenery
    • I have seen more than one production in which painted scenery is not required. Rather, the designers use light projected scenery designs to change the setting on stage. Occasionally, projections are combined with painted backdrops or sets.

  • Light-Projected Effects
    • Snowfall, rain and fire are just a few effects that can be created using projections of light on stage.

  • Character Appearances on Video
    • While most characters in a show typically appear on stage at some point during the show, it is entirely possible for some characters to only appear via projected video. This provides greater options for casting when constraints such as time and distance might otherwise prevent an actor from being involved in a production.

What's next? Holographic actors? Time will tell. 

Virtual Reality to Virtual Learning?

The article, The Rise and Fall and Rise of Virtual Reality by presents a compelling overview of the history of Virtual Reality and where new VR technology may be going today. As a theatre educator, I wonder what the implications of such technology could be for the theatre classroom.

While different theories of acting abound, most theatre teachers and theorists would agree that the expansion of one's human experience is of tremendous benefit for any actor's work. Some believe that the greatest acting derives from re-living past experiences. Others feel that while a plethora of past-experiences cannot and need not be called upon by every actor, each actor can nonetheless imagine what he or she would do if a particular experience were to arise. Still others believe that what is most important to an actor is to live in the moment, learning to take in what is happening all around and to respond to it truthfully. The story may be fabricated, make-believe, but the actors' experiences on stage need not be.

With this in mind, I wonder how Virtual Reality technology might be implemented in the training of young theatre artists. For those who believe that past experiences are necessary in order to recreate their reality on stage, Virtual Reality might provide just such experiences for the actor to draw upon, fabricated though they are. For those on the opposite side of the spectrum who believe that imagination is the key to embodying realistic actions and characters on stage, Virtual Reality may likewise provide just such opportunities to practice living in an imaginary world. And for those who propose that acting is all about experiencing each moment as it comes and responding truthfully to those moments, Virtual Reality might be the perfect arena in which an actor's sensitivity to the world (or worlds) around him are sharpened.

Advanced technology aside, could it not be said that acting in itself is the most basic form of Virtual Reality? Real people agree to assume characters outside of themselves inside of a world that is not their own, all within the constructs of an external designer. Perhaps we already have all of the Virtual Reality we need.

Helpful Online Resources for Theatre Students

As a theatre educator, I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of important websites for my theatre students to know about. This post is a collection of my findings thus far:

1. Theater Mania
Theater Mania provides news about current and upcoming Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, including show times, links to official show sites, stories and interviews with cast and production team members, and occasional video clips. The site also offers discounts to several shows when you sign up for their email list. The site also provides information about shows outside of New York City, with links to separate pages dedicated to other major cities where live theatre is in abundance.

2. Backstage 
This website provides casting calls for theatre, television, and commercials, and features multiple search filters including the type of production one wants to audition for, paid vs. non-paid, union vs. non-union, and more. It is an equally helpful website for any producers, casting directors, etc. looking for talent to be a part of their production. The site also provides a resource page for actors and others to hone their craft, learn more about the business, connect with agents, and more.

3. Offstage Jobs
Similar to Backstage, this website serves as a searchable database for non-acting positions in productions all across the U.S. Those looking for work as teaching artists, music directors, and directors will also find this website helpful.

4. Theatre Communications Group
TCG is the organization that publishes American Theatre Magazine, an informative publication that keeps a pulse on America's national, non-profit theatre sector. The organization hosts conferences, provides networking opportunities, and encourages further learning and social engagement for theatre practitioners on all levels. The organization's website itself offers numerous resources for furthering one's education about the American theatre scene.

5. Theatre Development Fund
TDF is most well-known in New York City for the TKTS discount booths that tourists and regular New York theatre-goers alike flock to for majorly discounted tickets to Broadway shows on the day of the performance. TDF also provides several other resources for students, educators, and anyone with a genuine interest in extending the reach of theatre to a wider audience. Membership to TDF provides access to heavily discounted tickets for Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway shows that are not always available through the TKTS ticket booths.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Next Big Thing? (Part II)

In my last post, I wrote about the possibility that Apps or tablets might become the next major technological game changer, much like Apple's previous innovations changed the way many people interact with one another in this digital age. But what are some other contenders in this category? Are Apps or tablets really the "next big thing?" In this post, I offer up a pictorial display of a few interesting inventions that may deserve further investigation. The following four are a few findings taken from's article, "The CNN 10: Inventions"

1.  The Atlas humanoid robot: Finally, a robot that can replace human laborers? Or is it?

2.  Google Glass: It's like a computer on your FACE! (Careful what you wish for...)

3. Oculus Rift: The dream becomes reality....virtually speaking.

4. Soccket : Those who say that life is just a game in the struggle for power might just have a point? Or shall we say "punt?" 

If you could choose to proliferate any one of these in the mass market, which would it be?