“America Live!”

April 25, 2011

Premiering Tuesday, the Department of Theatre Arts presents “America Live!” – an original political satire written and directed by Slane Scholar in Residence, Jeff Wirth.

Wirth has attracted a list of clients including Cirque du Soleil, Disney Imagineering, Blue Man Group, and Ringling Brothers Clown College. Now, he is adding Bradley University to his list. As Slane Scholar, Wirth has been engaged in a combination of creative work and classroom teaching.

“America Live!” was developed through Bradley’s award-winning InterMedia Center in partnership with the Department of Interactive Media. Shows will be presented daily through May 1 in the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts.

Wirth’s collaborative production showcases the work of students and faculty from the theatre arts and interactive media departments. Not just for entertainment, the show also has an academic element.

“Collaborations between theatre and interactive media are our research. They enable us to explore how audience experiences are going to evolve and change with interactivity and performance,” said Jim Ferolo, chairman of the Department of Interactive Media.

The premise of “America Live!” is a comedic look at political television.

Wirth explains that directing a live show is challenging because one has to anticipate what will happen during the performance and adjust based on what is happening in the moment.

“There is a lot of picturing what might happen,” Wirth said. “When you write for traditional theater, you write for what will happen. But when you write for a show in which members of the audience can become a part of the show, then you wind up picturing in your mind all the various kinds of possibilities that may happen, knowing that there will be other things that you haven’t even imagined that are going to happen.”

Wirth said preparing for the show has been an educational experience for everyone involved in “America Live!” According to Wirth, Bradley has presented interactive shows in the past, but this is the first time the audience has been utilized as an active participant in the show.

“America Live! continues our tradition of developing and presenting some of the most innovative theatre in the region,” said George Brown, chairman of the Department of Theatre Arts. “Our students are learning to view the creative process as one that is unlimited, entrepreneurial, and dynamic. It is through imagination and creativity that dynamic theatre happens and our students are at the forefront of possibilities.”

Hope Grandon plays Gloria Rosen, the host of “America Live!” She said working with Wirth, a pioneer in the field of interactive performance, has added breadth to her theater training.

“It's great working with Jeff because he brings a very different perspective to theatrical work,” said Grandon. “As actors, especially in educational theater, we are used to a specific formula, but since Jeff's background is in interactive performance he is constantly pushing us to think outside the box and push ourselves out of our comfort zones.”

Tonight's special premiere of “America Live!” is at 8 p.m. The show runs through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.