Peter Beudert, Distinguished Professor of Theatre, Film and Television

Six faculty members from four departments – Peter Beudert and Philip Blackwood (Theatre, Film & Television), Norm Weinberg (Music), Jory Hancock (Dance) and Jerzy Rozenblit and Hal Tharp (Electrical and Computer Engineering) – worked together to produce Speed, a large-scale collaborative public performance with computer-controlled machines, where movement, music and set design interacted.

Speed culminated in a live performance in five movements: Accelerate, Slow, Fast, Reverse and Ascending. The music was composed by guest artist Eric Bikales, an accomplished professional composer based in Nashville. He developed the music from his studio in collaboration with musical director Norm Weinberg. Bikales’ music was performed live by the School of Music percussion ensemble CrossTalk. School of Dance faculty Amy Ernst and Elizabeth C. George choreographed the dance for Accelerate and Reverse as part of the performance. Additional choreography was created by School of Dance faculty Douglas R. Nielsen in a sixth movement called Velocity: Quickness of Motion that Nielsen envisioned as an improvisational counterpoint to the five composed pieces of Speed.

The project was performed at the Marroney Theatre in May 2010. The theatre was specially equipped for the event with a number of interactive stage machines and visual devices created for Speed by the teams from Theatre Arts and Electrical and Computer Engineering. The two teams developed interactive devices for audience and performers, along with unique musical instruments used by CrossTalk. The dancers and the inventive electromechanical devices visually expressed the idea of speed.

Speed received significant external support from the Las Vegas-based Fisher Technical Services Inc. FTSI is a world leader in computer-controlled movement for theatre and film. CEO Scott Fisher pledged a gift of FTSI’s proprietary software and computer hardware to help control the many motorized stage units and massive wireless data routing onstage. CrossTalk benefited from significant contributions of electronic musical equipment from the Zendrum Corporation. External contributions to Speed were over $30,000 in addition to support from Theatre Arts and ECE.

This tremendously successful project inspired new artistic collaborations within the university. It involved over 80 students, a dozen staff and faculty; it attracted significant external support and gave UA and Tucson an exciting artistic event.