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James Dennen

Anti-gravity Donuts:

Performance and Mixed Realities: the “place” of digital proximity, mime & mimesis, and the undetermined vector of emerging virtual technologies...in a pandemic

Virtual | Artist Residency

Examine a multiyear experiment in improvised live performance within the context of—and in tension with—digital life onscreen and virtual reality.

This artist talk will present a culmination of Dennen’s work while examining existing presentational paradigms and art practices, such as the lecture-demonstration and documentary filmmaking. As Dennen and his company’s unique mode of play works to destabilize traditional theatrical handrails like character and setting, the avatars representing the performers in this piece begin to rattle long-standing notions of identity, location, and voice.

Written, Directed, and Performed by James Dennen
Cocreated and Produced by Lane Czaplinski
Featured Performers: Lauren Katz and Joey Slotnick
Technology Designer, Unity Programmer, and Editor: Christian Faur
Original Music: ETHEL
Audio Mix and Sound Design: Florence Barrau-Adams
Audio Recording Engineer: Jordan Fehr
Production Assistants: Namu Kim and Armaan Tucker

Support provided by:
Wexner Center for the Arts
Denison University Theatre Department
Denison University Research Foundation
Cynthia Ann Turnbull Charitable Foundation
National Endowment for the Humanities
Parnassus Performance Laboratory

In a computer-animated still a person in a blue shirt and glasses seems to speak into a microphone on a virtual stage; a photograph of two actors interacting is in the background

Anti-gravity Donuts (James Dennen, 2021)

In a computer-animated still a person in a blue shirt seems to speak on a virtual stage, gesturing to a black-and-white animation of a frog interacting with a humanoid rodent

Anti-gravity Donuts (James Dennen, 2021)

In a computer-animated still a person with red hair, purple boots, and a blue shirt reaches for a purple donut while in mid air

Anti-gravity Donuts (James Dennen, 2021)

In a computer-animated still a person with red hair, purple boots, and a blue shirt floats above a brick wall against a starry shy

Anti-gravity Donuts (James Dennen, 2021)

In a computer-animated still a humanoid frog and rodent address a crowd of other animated creatures from a stage on the right of the image; a blank blue screen is at the back of the stage

Marriage: a Work in Progress, adapted for Virtual Reality (James Dennen, 2021)

In a computer-animated still a person in a blue shirt seems to speak on a virtual stage with chairs and desks and a turntable; a realistic black and white drawing of a man appears on a screen behind the speaker in the background

Anti-gravity Donuts (James Dennen, 2021)

In a computer-animated still a person in a blue shirt seems to speak on a virtual stage with chairs and desks and a turntable; a realistic black and white animated still of a humanoid frog and rodent appear in the background

Anti-gravity Donuts (James Dennen, 2021)

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About the artist

James Dennen chevron-down chevron-up

James Dennen is a theater artist and director who has worked in venues and festivals across the US and abroad. He was the founding director of the nationally acclaimed company ED, whose experiments in improvisation—seen at Steppenwolf and Lookingglass in Chicago, among other spaces—explore and expand the limits of presence in the theater. On video, Dennen’s experimental work with live performance, improvisational techniques in narrative development, and documentaries earned a New Television Award through Center for New Television funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. His scholarly work on improvisational theory and practice has been published in The Drama Review and the New England Theatre Journal. Dennen has taught courses on performance theory and practice, acting, directing, devising, dramatic literature, improvisation, documentary filmmaking, expository writing, and public speaking at Harvard and Brown Universities, Kenyon College, and Denison University, where he joined the faculty in 2017. He has an MFA from University of California, Los Angeles, and is ABD in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University.

THIS PROGRAM MADE POSSIBLE BY
Ohio Arts Council

WEXNER CENTER PROGRAMS MADE POSSIBLE BY
The Wexner Family
Greater Columbus Arts Council
The Columbus Foundation
Ohio Arts Council
American Electric Power Foundation
L Brands Foundation
Adam Flatto
Mary and C. Robert Kidder
Bill and Sheila Lambert
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Nationwide Foundation
Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease
Arlene and Michael Weiss

ADDITIONAL SUPPORT PROVIDED BY
Michael and Paige Crane
Pete Scantland
Axium Packaging
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
President Kristina M. Johnson and Mrs. Veronica Meinhard
Nancy Kramer
Huntington
Lisa Barton
Johanna DeStefano
Russell and Joyce Gertmenian
Liza Kessler and Greg Henchel
Ron and Ann Pizzuti
Joyce and Chuck Shenk
Bruce and Joy Soll
Clark and Sandra Swanson
Jones Day

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