Back Stage

The brave new world of E-Showbiz: cutting-edge technologies create a host of new opportunities.

We have met George Jetson and he is us. It's stating the obvious to say that technology in recent decades has changed the ways of living and working for everybody. Those of us engaged in the performing arts are, of course, no exception to the rule.

These days, actors, singers, and dancers rely on cellular phones and voicemail instead of old-fashioned "Bells Are Ringing"-style answering services. We have the capability to submit or receive headshots and resumes electronically. We can download sides for an audition--or even entire scripts. An actor can perform a voice-over in Anchorage for an orange juice commercial to be produced in Miami.

True enough, we may not yet zip around Manhattan from casting office to rehearsal studio using strap-on flight packs. But otherwise, the world in which we operate probably wouldn't seem very alien to Jetson and his cartoon neighbors.

All this new technology has also opened some (automated) doors for performers in terms of new job prospects. After all, talent is needed to record voice prompts for interactive phone systems. Dancers are required by animators to help create movement via motion-capture systems. And somebody has to furnish the voices, movements, and facial expressions for all those gangsters, androids, and space aliens that populate the world of video games.

Such opportunities continue to grow as we move further and further into the 21st century. However, there are areas that have only begun to be tapped, especially in and around New York City. Back Stage recently spoke with a number of industry insiders about what kinds of work currently exist for performers in these brave new areas and what possibilities may be opening up in the coming years.

THE GROVES OF TECHADEMIA

If there was ever any doubt that e-technology had arrived, it quickly disappeared when "e-media studies" programs became part of the curriculum at major universities. According to Peter DePietro--a professor of e-media at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.--institutions around the world have jumped on the digital bandwagon. Interestingly, at New York University, where DePietro did his graduate work, the interactive telecommunications program is housed not in a business tech program but within the Tisch School of the Arts. DePietro also notes that Lehman College in the Bronx and Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh boast programs that are known as "entertainment technology" (or "ET").

Dance, acting, and other performance-studies programs are starting to morph right along with the new technologies. DePietro says that the Lehman and Carnegie Mellon programs represent the "high-art end" of the digital revolution. …

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