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Professor’s poems transformed to stage

Kevin Stein’s poem “On Being a Nielsen Family” is currently undergoing a process to become an interactive presentation that will embody the poem’s meaning in a digital, technological way rather than just as a poem on paper.
“The project is still taking shape,” said Stein, the Illinois Poet Laureate and an English professor at Bradley. “It is still very much in flux.”
The project, still in the beginning stages, is a collaboration between many different people, Stein said. The finished product will contain technological, digital and artistic aspects from several different viewpoints.
“The project involves several different approaches to embody what a Nielsen family is,” Stein said. “Nielsen families write what they see on television for a week, but there are times the speaker lies about what they watched. It will be pretty humorous in these places.”
The art program, intermedia center and theatre will all be producing sections of “On Being a Nielsen Family” to embody what the poem says and means.
This includes a piece called “We are watched watching, watching ourselves watched” directed by George Brown, the chair of the theatre arts department.
In his piece, participants will be able to use a remote control to watch “preselected programming,” which will be the viewers watching themselves on the television. One or two cameras will be set up for this purpose.
Gary Will, a professor of graphic arts and design, will have a four-part piece set up as a Linocut and Photoshop montage about society’s overall obsession with television. More specifically, reality TV and talk shows.
Chad Udell from the interactive media program will have a piece called “What are you really watching?”
Participants will be able to choose cards with media content examples. When the cards are shown to a camera, the screen in front of them will display, for everyone in viewing range, what the participant really chose through animation or video clips.
Jim Ferolo, associate professor and director of the interactive media program, said he’s been interested in the idea of tapping into a stream of consciousness and using a set of wires as a metaphor.
“So, imagine this scenario,” he said. “Coming out of the ground appears to be a piece of pipe that is shaped in an upside down U. The two ends are planted into the ground and they arch up into a single piece that has been hacked open. Inside are a bundle of wires.”
These wires will contain several different signals, including visual, audio and text, and they will need to be attached to the correct parts in a metal Halliburton case, he said. If the wires are connected correctly, a video or audio signal will play back.
Some leads contain what appears to be a mysterious “agency” that is monitoring a family. The agency heard is really the Nielsen company, but it is acting more like the CIA than a consumer research company.
“This is going to be a very fun piece and is based upon the sketches that I completed for an idea nearly three years ago,” Ferolo said. “I am excited to have a chance to see it come to life.”
Ferolo said they plan on opening the exhibit from December 7-18 this fall in the Hartmann Gallery.
“It’s about how a poem can be taken off a page and recreated with an artistic interpretation,” Stein said. “We see what poems can do on a page, but what can they do off page?”
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