The Internet as Author, Venue, and Performer

A special streaming-video preview of The Roman Forum Project 2003, and an accompanying online discussion of virtual performance

Saturday, January 19th 2002, 8 p.m. EST

Location One
26 Greene Street NYC 10013

conceived and created by Robert Allen and Antoinette LaFarge

direction by Robert Allen
script by Antoinette LaFarge
visual design by Antoinette LaFarge with Amy Kaczur in collaboration with Jon Winet and "Democracy-The Last Campaign"
costumes by Nicole Evangelista
character development & additional text by The Plaintext Players
performances by Pathogen Arts: Kevin Keaveney and David Moo

for immediate release: January 2002

In August 2000, during the Democratic National Convention, artist-writer Antoinette LaFarge and director Robert Allen created The Roman Forum, a theatrical event in Los Angeles whose main focus was the American political spectacle seen through the eyes of five Romans from the time of Nero (ca. 70 A.D.).

"I would like to inquire about what has happened to the Roman Forum project," wrote an audience member some months later. "I saw it several times during the August run and thought it was stunning. In view of the debacle of this presidential election, the work was more than insightful, and it seems there might be a need for a sequel?"

Others thought so too. And so The Roman Forum has returned as The Roman Forum Project (Roman Forum 2). Currently in development, Roman Forum 2 was originally scheduled to premiere at 7° (Seven Degrees) in Laguna Beach, California, but was canceled in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks. It was later picked up for full production in March 2003 by the Beall Center for Art and Technology, University of California, Irvine.

Meanwhile, Location One Gallery in New York will host a preview event entitled "Virtual Live" on January 19th, 2002. "Virtual Live" will include several linked events:

Streaming video: Two brief excerpts from the upcoming Roman Forum 2 will be streamed to the Internet live from Location One. These excerpts feature a live actor shot on site at Location One using green-screen technology and mixed digitally with a preconstructed video environment. These selections from Roman Forum 2 have a special relevance in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster as they feature meditations on the nature of our republic, the character of our president, and America's 'return to history'.

"Our goal is to give people some insight into the political machine that runs our lives," say Robert and Antoinette. "We should not be tempted to marginalize the 2000 election fiasco in the face of the World Trade Center disaster. We are only now dealing with the long-term consequences of the decisions that put Bush into the White House instead of Gore, and as time distances us from the terrorist attacks, our ability to see things in a broader perspective only points more emphatically back to the issues raised in that election."

All of the material in Roman Forum 2 (both text and visuals) was developed from Internet resources, including virtual performances by the Plaintext Players (a pioneering Internet performance group directed by Antoinette), as well as chat rooms, bulletin boards, web pages, email and listservs, archives, webcams, etc.

Online forum: Accompanying the streaming videos will be an online discussion on the nature of virtual performance led by the Plaintext Players using Location One's java chat client. Location One makes it easy for online visitors to experience "́Virtual Live" by combining web video and online chat in one easy-to-use browser interface.

The five Roman characters of Roman Forum 2 -- two of whom will be featured in the streaming videos -- were originally developed by the Plaintext Players in a series of online improvisations. In addition, a significant portion of the script for Roman Forum 2 is based on their online work.

The forum will begin with a brief improvisation by the Plaintext Players in their Roman characters, which will segue smoothly into an open discussion of avatars and online performance in which everyone logged in to the chat area will be welcome to participate.

Like The Roman Forum and another, earlier theatrical work that Allen and LaFarge collaborated on (Still Lies Quiet Truth, New York International Fringe Festival, 1998), Roman Forum 2 is a hybrid multimedia-performance work. It has three closely related features:
  • The Internet as Author: The Web is a source of archival material from the 2000 campaign and postelection period. In particular, the documentary coverage archived by "Democracy-The Last Campaign" is an important resource for Roman Forum 2. In addition, we use texts generated in online improvisations by members of Antoinette LaFarge's Internet improv group, the Plaintext Players.

  • Live Performance: Live performances are being developed by director Robert Allen, costume designer Nicole Evangelista, digital artist-writer Antoinette LaFarge, and a picked group of actors.

  • Digital Multimedia: Video and still projections developed in collaboration with videographer Amy Kaczur are used as interactive set pieces for Roman Forum 2.

Roman Forum 2 draws heavily on the classical tradition of comedy, with costume and mask work and parody of well-known political figures. In its use of antique characters, it also provides valuable perspective on events that are otherwise too close to us in time and space to see clearly. And these elements combine with cutting-edge technology in our use of the Internet to access the collective cultural mind, revealing shared fears, hopes, and honest confusion over the political events that shape our lives.

Roman Forum 2 is grateful for support from the following organizations and projects, which also supported the original Roman Forum: the University of California, Irvine; the Institute of Cultural Inquiry (Los Angeles); and "Democracy-The Last Campaign", a project organized by Jon Winet and Margaret Crane that focused on the presidential elections and was sponsored by a number of venues, including the Walker Art Center and Intermedia Arts (Minneapolis), San Francisco Camerawork, Hallwalls (Buffalo, NY), and the University of California, Irvine. The original Roman Forum was presented at Side Street Live in downtown L.A. and received additional support from Friedrich Wilhelms Universitaet and Global Brain-Bonner Wissenchaftsnacht (Germany). Roman Forum 2 also wishes to thank George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress for their support by way of the 2001 tax refund.