e-Dentity melds Web with pop culture

But a Toronto theatre troupe has studied these issues and fashioned a production around them that has left IT professionals laughing and been granted by Mirvish Productions a run on the high-profile stage of the Royal Alexandra Theatre.e-Dentity was generated by Theatre Gargantua over 2003 and 2004, and premiered in the fall of 2005, when a Mirvish Productions exec caught the show and picked it up for a re-staging. According to director Jacquie Thomas, Theatre Gargantua spent a good deal of 2006 retooling the production for the new venue, and updating the technology represented.

For instance, chatrooms and forums used to be more prominent. This time around, the company had to integrate innovations like MySpace, blogs, and YouTube into the show. Part of the production, for example, includes a dramatization of the popular viral video of the woman on the subway who refused to clean up after her dog.

“The play deals with the Internet community and the evolution of the Internet and how the Internet is linked to our own evolution,” said Thomas, who feels that the play is ultimately positive about the communication engendered by the Internet.

The production is even structured like the Internet – a series of vignettes (some of which are revisited later in the show) replicate the experience of surfing around on the Web.

Cutting-edge technology is also integrated into the production. Projections showcase multimedia content. “Ten years ago, it was a novelty to have this kind of technology in a show. And now it’s much more commonplace and integrated,” said Thomas. A singer is piped, live from Australia, into the show, courtesy of Web streaming, and there is an interactive online chat with the audience. The production even leaps forward in time to explore technologies of the future, like Philip Emeagwali’s ideas of how PCs will become extinct, replaced by a grid structure and “t(hought)-mails.”

Thomas said that many IT professionals have attended the show and that their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “They see themselves in it,” according to Thomas.

Everybody else does, too, she said. By converting the experience of the Internet into easily accessible stories, everyone really gets it. “It crosses boundaries and barriers,” she said. (Web-related performances are growing in number-just this past winter, Toronto’s Second City troupe featured a hilarious-yet touching-skit about the perils of raising a teen in the Internet age.)

Here, the light-speed at which technology has evolved is easily seen through the storyline of a man who starts off having trouble setting up his computer and ends up simultaneously video-chatting, instant messaging, and playing an online role-playing game. Breaking it down into these easily digested narrative bytes hammers home for IT professionals and laypeople alike just how far those wee projects that originated in a Web development lab somewhere can go.

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