Friday, August 11, 2017

The Dudleys!

Written by Leegrid Stevens
Directed by Jacob Titus & Leegrid Stevens
Produced by Loading Dock Theatre Company

Nominations: Outstanding Innovative Design for Video Design & Animation: David Bengali, John Erickson, Reid Farrington, Jorge Garcia-Spitz, David Mauro, Dan Monceaux, Leegrid Stevens

About the Company: The primary focus of Loading Dock is to create original plays that explore extremes in human behavior. We produce emotional, character driven plays with an experimental edge.

About the Production: Family memories are brought to life as a malfunctioning 8-bit video game. By dodging ghosts, zombies and evil Aunts, Vic tries to win a game he lost a long time ago.


What first attracted you to this project?

Leegrid: I became interested in the chiptune scene when I was at grad school for playwriting. I was working on a series of writing exercises in class when I started combining the two forms (chiptune & theatre). It was a fun way to explore some darker themes in my writing.

Dan: My common interests in vintage computers, computer games, pixel art, animation and independent theatre. At the time I was doing some work as a video technician on a children's theatre production that was touring in South Australia, and developing my own multimedia performances, with an audio-visual focus, rather than a theatrical one. I met Steven Gridley in an online forum and went on to produce character art and animation (including the title screen of the game/play). I worked on my contributions from my home in Adelaide, South Australia, without ever meeting the crew face-to-face. I'm yet to see the show in its entirity myself!

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Leegrid: Seeing the video design come together with the actors.

Dan: Steven's direction was very clear, yet he also allowed me plenty of freedom to work creatively to meet the production's needs. I was familiar with the Nintendo games of his childhood that he wanted to suggest in his work, and he was very encouraging throughout the process of making and revising it. He took a gamble on me, as I hadn't made much pixel art at that time. I've since gone on to draw and animate an entire retro computer game called Cuttle Scuttle. Working on The Dudleys! helped me build the confidence I needed to take on this recent project.

What was the most challenging
part of working on this production?
Leegrid: Learning photoshop and drawing everything pixel by pixel.

Dan: There were some technical hurdles encountered along the way, as the production grew from its original showing. The screen format changed, which led to my contributions being revised and updated several years after the original work was undertaken.

What did you want the audience to walk away with after seeing The Dudleys!?
Leegrid: A sense of regret and a renewed appreciation for the present.

What was one of the most unique things about working on this production?

Leegrid: One animation of a living room shifting color during a sunset had two hundred and forty frames, each being hand drawn. I'm not a pro in photoshop and there was probably a quicker way to complete that animation but it took me two weeks of evenings and weekends to finish that one.

Dan: It was a pleasure working in the rarely-explored middleground between the worlds of theatre and retro gaming. It was really neat to see the actors onstage, interacting with the scenery and animated characters I had drawn.

What did you learn from your time working on The Dudleys!?
Leegrid: I learned that a bad power cable on a single projector can inexplicably short circuit the video stream of a completely separate and unrelated projector (presumably conducted somehow through the grid??). I also learned that not having the video design work consistently until THE DAY WE OPEN will cause me to lose 15 pounds, give me PTSD, and lodge a knot in my stomach that took about 5 months to finally subside. I still don't like thinking about it.

Dan: I learned that I was capable of bringing a world of pixels to life, and that directors with imagination could marry that with the world of live theatre. What a kick! 

What was it like working with these artists?
Leegrid: The nominees have incredible visual skill and creativity. They took flat animations and made them live on a three dimensional stage.

Dan: Their raw creativity and enthusiasm are palpable.

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