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Monday, July 30, 2007


Back in 1980, I wrote an experimental opera called "Plato's Cave." The written score had odd little directions in it for the conducter like "during the next two measures pull your left ear." The conductor had no idea why he was supposed to do that, but conductors must follow the rules of the composition in order to interpret the composer's wishes properly. Each member of the audience received an envelope as they sat down for the perfomance. "When the conductor pulls his left ear, please open this envelope and perform 2 of the five acts listed" was written on the envelope. The orchestra members also received an envelope that said, "When the conductor lifts his right leg, please open this envelope and perform 2 of the five acts listed." The same was true for the singer/actors on the stage. Basically, what started as a standard opera experience quickly turned into a circus-like theater piece with the audience descending on the musicians asking them questions, playing the timpani, etc, the musicians scattering about the hall and stage doing acts like reciting their favorite family memories or jokes, and the singer/actors doing "jumping jacks" and/or applauding the various improvisational performances happening around them. Then the lights went out and everybody was forced to find their way back to their perspective roles of the standard opera experience-- audience member, orchestra member or stage performer. Ushers came out to help them with coned flashlights as a lone clarinetist played a solo called "The Banishment of Inequality." I remember two comments after the perfomance. A young woman telling me she lost all her creative inhibitions because she could be as goofy or as serious as she wanted and it was still part of the performance. The other comment was from a very serious British composer who told me he didn't like the piece so much because only I, the composer, knew what the hell was going on.... that's like "playing God." My response was "maybe so" but what I was really trying to do was break barriers between people by allowing them to tap in the creative process in a very spontaneous, very fun way. Even I didn't know what kind of unique perfomances or creative moments would arise out of my experimental opera...I was just setting the table for the CREATIVE PROCESS.

Smash cut 25 years later to the latest gaming/marketing concept--ARG. Alternate Reality Games. Wikipedia defines ARG as "an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions." I had a conference call a few days ago with some very talented video game designers from New Mexico. They filled me in on this whole ARG craze. It's pretty heady stuff and is very much like "playing God." They even call the game designers and controllers "puppetmasters." Only they know what is real and what isn't. Obviously, in the wrong hands, ARG's could be very dangerous and controlling like what happens in the movie "The Game." But, in the right hands, it could alslo be used to help get people to reconnect in a positive way with their fellow man instead of just being plugged into a video game consul. One of the things we talked about was collaborating on a new ARG based on "BikerCHEF." We already established in our pilot that BikerCHEF's ancient tome cookbook/travel map (which has been passed down through centuries) has a specialized digital antenna which connects the current BikerCHEF to a wisdom cyber space up in the ethers. So, while I am shooting the episodes I could actually also be playing the BikerCHEF ARG getting clues to where I should go or whom I should meet next. Likewise, the people playing the ARG could win tv cameos, a place at BikerCHEF's table, etc. The idea completely reminds me of my experimental opera, but now we will be breaking barriers of the standard cable show viewing experience and doing it in a positive, celebrating the Human Spirit way. I like the idea, so stay tuned!

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