From the Leid Center web site:

Tree of Life – Origins and Evolution, is the product of a two-year collaborative Creative Campus project, culminating in an exciting evening of music, dance and theatre.

•The initiative explores the intricacy, challenge and revelation involved in bridging sciences, humanities and performing arts.

Tree of Life features the contributions of several academic departments at KU, the Lied Center and a number of resident and touring artists including the commissioned involvement of two-time Grammy Award-winning David Balakrishnan, founder of the Turtle Island Quartet.

•The work will explore a creation story involving the “Tree of Life” that raises and approaches key questions basic to understanding what makes us essentially human: “Why are we here?”, “How can I be an individual of both faith and science?” and “What is truth?”

•The “Tree of Life” is a biological concept connecting all life through genetic relatedness.

This project has an official web site which outlines all the various partners and the 

events that occurred during a two year span and culminated in this stage production.

For this production we rtied a few new technologies and some variants on some previously used techniques.  This was our first virtual-reality based scenic elements created  with Quest3D software.  This software provided the means of creating  more detailed and dynamic simulations than we had with previous applications. Check out the Quest3D web site and look here for our review of thr software.  

We also experimented with using layers of sharkstooth scrim in front of the mqin projection screen in order to give some 3-dimensional depth to the projected images.  This a variation on the multiple projection screen we used in The Magic Flute and rendered a 3D effect without the use of special glasses such as were used in  several of our earl;ier productions.
By moving between the layers of translucent scrim, the performers  moved within the front-projected scenic elements.  This was particularly effective in the second movement which consisted largely of a real-time rendering of a turbulent ocean..

The first movement "The Cultural Tree" consisted of a surrealistic lanscape populated with artifacts from many cultures that depict teh Tree of Life.
Tapestries from Belgium, rugs from Persia, tiles from France, wall paintings from pre-columbian Mexico were just a few of the images that appeared as teh computer operator navigated through the landscape.

At the center of the world was a 3-dimensional depiction of the tree from Gustav Klimpt's famous  fresco/collage "The Tree of Life"

The second movement "The Scientific Tree"  depicted a turbulent ocean, the source of all life on the biological tree of life.  As the action progressed pictures of Charles Darwin and another huge Klimpt-inspired tree rose from the water.  This tree was adorned with many pictures of the myriad life forms on Earth.  Finally a huge, moving, smoke-belching machine rose of out of the water to represent the imbalances that are putting unatural and dangerous pressures on our ecosphere.

The Third movment,"The Intertwined Tree" used a single tree on the prarie, blown by the wind. This tree was projected onto a white, 3 dimensianal scenic tree made of plywood, muslin and scrim.  After moving in on the tree until it filled the stage, two spherical collages one of cultural icons the other of many life forms circle the tree, growing and converging until they envelope it.
If you are veery ambitious and have a fairly powerful PC you can download and run the scenic simulations from this show by CLICKING  HERE! (70 MB!)
The instructions for operation, such as they are, are HERE.


Composer: David Balakrishnan: violinist, Turtle Island String Quartet
David Balakrishnan graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in music composition and violin and earned a masters degree in music composition at Antioch University West.

Choreographer: Muriel Cohan: KU faculty
Muriel Cohan teaches modern dance technique, composition, repertory, dance for children, and approaches to world dance.

Director:John Staniunas: chair, Department of Theatre and Film
John received his degrees from the University of Arizona: a B.A. in Dramatic Theatre with a minor in Musical Theatre Performance and an M.F.A. in both Acting and Directing.

Scenic Designer: Mark Reaney: KU faculty
Mark Reaney is a Professor in the Department of Theatre & Film at the University of Kansas. He received his M.F.A. in Scenic Design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and taught for three years at the University of Tulsa before moving to Kansas in 1987.

Poet/Playwrite: Dennis Christilles: KU faculty
Christilles is a 1975 graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He received his B.F.A. in Directing from Southwest Texas State University in 1979 and his M.A from Southwest Texas State University in 1981. In 1990 he received his Ph.D. from The University of Kansas.Dennis Christilles is a member of the theatre design faculty at the University of Kansas. He has been a member of the faculty at KU since 1994  

Costume Designer: Delores Ringer: KU faculty
Delores Ringer has been a scenographer and faculty member at KU since 1984.

Choreographer/Dancer:  Patrick Suzeau: KU faculty
French born Suzeau's early performing career includes: Les Ballets Modernes du Canada and Contemporary Dance Theatre while in Montreal and Grupo Espacios while in Mexico.

Lighting Designer: Delbert Unruh: KU faculty
Delbert Unruh is a Professor of Theatre and Film. In addition to his stage design work at the University of Kansas, he maintains an active professional design practice in the Kansas City area and his work has been seen on the stages of The Missouri Repertory Theatre, The American Heartland Theatre, and Dinner Playhouse Inc.

Click on the pictures above for larger images!

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