On April 18, 1995 the University Theatre of the University of Kansas brought live theatre to cyberspace through the use of "virtual reality" in a fully mounted theatrical production.
The script chosen for this audacious experimental production was Elmer Rice's THE ADDING MACHINE. Ironically, this classic American expressionist play focuses on the plight of one Mr. Zero as he tries to find happiness in a dehumanized and mechanized society. First produced in 1923, before the dawn of electronic computers, the play contains uncanny and dire predictions of the current information age. However, by using these foretold computers not as a dehumanizing force, but as an artistic medium, the production company sought to simultaneously illuminate Rice's story even while it embraced another, more sympathetic, view of technology.
Under the guidance of designer-technologist Mark Reaney and the show's director Ronald A. Willis, this production of THE ADDING MACHINE attempted to demonstrate ways in which virtual reality technology can be used to illuminate an existing dramatic text. Used not merely as spectacle for its own sake, but as a new and exciting scenographic medium in the service of the script, virtual reality becomes another component of the collaborative theatre art.
Scene 2, in which Zero is fired by his boss. In this scene, the live actor (Zero) interacts with another actor (Boss), who performs off-stage in front of a video camera. This technique made it possible for the Boss to grow larger as he becomes more of a threat to Zero. In the end, the Boss's laughing face fills the entire screen.