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At Qualcomm Institute, MACHINAL Is First Tech-Infused Performance of 2017


  • Doug Ramsey

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  • Doug Ramsey

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Poster for performance of multimedia work, MACHINAL, staged by UC San Diego graduate students in performing arts.

A new theatrical and multimedia work developed and staged by graduate students at the University of California San Diego, MACHINAL, will be the first performance of 2017 in the Qualcomm Institute's Initiative for Digital Exploration of Arts and Sciences (IDEAS) performance series. It is also the third work staged in the 2016-2017 season of IDEAS.

MACHINAL will take place this Thursday, January 12, from 5pm to 7pm in the Calit2 Theater at Atkinson Hall on the UC San Diego campus.

The performance will use the Vroom wall-size display system in the Calit2 Theater for a live performance and interaction with live audience. “MACHINAL is an artistic experiment based on big questions about what live theatre can be and how technology and machines have changed the landscape of our human interactions in the world today,” says Will Detlefsen, an MFA candidate in Directing (expected in 2017) and one of the graduate students behind MACHINAL.

Detlefsen’s collaborators on the performance include: Mary Glen Fredrick (actor), Grady Kestler (sound designer), Annie Le (designer), Steven Leffue (sound designer), Anna Robinson (designer), Brandon Rosen (lighting designer), Ph.D. student Kristen Tregar, Enrico Nassi (MFA actor), Stephanie Del Rosso (MFA playwright), and Kasson Marroquin (production stage manager).

The piece is an artistic experiment that asks questions about what live theatre can be and how technology and machines have changed the landscape of our human interactions in the world today. Based on the real-life case of Ruth Snyder, this devised performance is the story of a woman caged in a male-dominated, mechanized, materialistic world who murders her husband in order to be set free.

The performance is based, in part, on the 1928 play MACHINAL by Sophie Treadwell, based on the true story of the first woman sentenced to the electric chair for murdering her husband. Performer/sonic interactions in MACHINAL will feature EEG-driven sound sources developed by Italian computer musician Francesco Roberto Dani.

Now in its fourth season, the Qualcomm Institute’s primary performance series, IDEAS, features nine works that cross disciplinary boundaries at the intersection of art and technology. The performances and artist residencies were awarded after a peer-review competition open to faculty and graduate students in Music, Theatre and Dance, as well as Visual Arts and engineering disciplines.

According to IDEAS selection committee chair Shahrokh Yadegari, a professor of Music at UC San Diego, “this year’s programs bring faculty, students and researchers the performative and presentational context for interdisciplinary artistic and scientific endeavors taking advantage of the state-of-the-art technologies available at Qualcomm Institute."

The performance of MACHINAL is open to the public and free of charge. RSVP is requested to Trish Stone at For more information about upcoming and previous performances in the IDEAS series at the Qualcomm Institute, visit the website

Mark your calendars: The next performance in the IDEAS series, The Burden of Selfhood, will take place on Thursday, March 23 from 5pm to 7pm. The performance in the Calit2 Theater will feature Stefani Byrd, Sarah Ciston, Amy Fox, and Fernanda Navarro.

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