Off Broadway's highest honor
MIT Theater Arts Associate Professor Jay Scheib, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, received a coveted 2012 Obie Award — off-broadway's highest honor for his production of World of Wires. The Obies, or Off-Broadway Theater Awards, are annual awards given byThe Village Voice to selected theatre artists and productions worthy of distinction.
Scheib — a director, designer and author of plays, operas and installations — is internationally known for works of daring physicality, genre-defying performances and deep integration of new technologies.
World of Wires is the final installment of the multidisciplinary Simulated Cities / Simulated System performance trilogy he developed at MIT. The trilogy is centered on collaborations with disciplines outside of traditional performing arts idioms such as civil engineering and urban planning, computer science and artificial intelligence, aerospace and astronautics.
The first work, Untitled Mars (This Title May Change), simulated Mars on Earth, coupling material from the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah with the science-fiction visions of Philip K. Dick, Stanislaw Lem and Kurd Lasewitz. The second work, Bellona, Destroyer of Cities, simulates a world that has become stuck in a loop of civil upheaval through Samuel R. Delany's monumental novel Dhalgren. The final work, World of Wires, models one Earth inside of another Earth by borrowing heavily from the fictional backbone of computer science and artificial intelligence. It is a performance about the unveiling of a computer simulation so powerful that it is capable of simulating the world and everything in it. W.O.W was adapted by Scheib after the film Welt am Draht by Rainer Werner Fassbinder; the screenplay is based on the novel Simulacron-3 by American science fiction writer Daniel F. Galouye.
Reeling from the reality of people living their lives inside of machines, the play is an all-bets-are-off homage to the startling possibility that you too might be ones and zeroes in someone else's programmed world. World of Wires is also inspired by the works of Oxford University Professor Nick Bostrom, including his compelling paper, "Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?"
Directed by Scheib, the sold-out three-week engagement in January 2012 at the Kitchen in New York featured Sarita Choudhury, Mikéah Ernest Jennings, Rosalie Lowe, Jon Morris, Ayesha Ngaujah, Laine Rettmer and Tanya Selvaratnam. The scenic design was by Sara Brown (a lecturer in theater arts at MIT), the costumes by Alba Clemente, the sound design by Anouschka Trocker, lighting and video by Josh Higgason, and camera by Jay Scheib. The stage manager was MIT alumna Susan Wilson '08. Kasper Sejersen and Laine Rettmer were the assistant directors, and Tanya Selvaratnam was the producer.
World of Wires garnered an array of rave and insightful reviews, interviews and preview articles including: David Cote's review in Time Out New York; AndrewAndrew's insta-review Papermag; Ben Brantley's review in The New York Times; Alex Zafiris' interview in BOMB; Scott Macauly's interview in Filmmaker Magazine; and Carmen García Durazo's review in Guernica, among others.
Story prepared by MIT SHASS Music and Theater Arts
Photocredit: Naomi White