L’illuminé enlightens the age of technology from the dawn of industrial revolution
Yesterday evening I went to an unusual play at the Dejazet theatre in Paris. Half of it is on stage, the other half on a giant screen. One actor runs the show, jumping from stage to screen with near perfection. Yet, as he crosses the threshold, subtle transformations in his ability to communicate occur. And when he stands on stage and tries to communicate with the rest of the cast on screen, it becomes obvious that we, the live audience, do understand what he means, while his fellow actors miss at least some of it.
From the age of enlightenment, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, L’illuminé envisions a future of all-powerful devices that drive the way people communicate, move, behave and even think. The play itself, an innovative mix of cinema and theatre, invites the audience to deeply feel both the power and the limitations of technology. While we experience the ease (and the business person in me can’t help thinking the low-cost) with which the cinema part of the show brings a full cast in front of our eyes, we are also irresistibly drawn to a much deeper bond with the stage actor because of his presence ‘live’.
Symbolically, and unusually, the stage actor awaits the audience for a handshake and an exchange of words with each one of us as we exit the theatre, reinforcing the point about the power of true presence. As I reflect on the experience, the words breadth and depth come to mind: the breadth of connections that technology enables through the likes of wikipedia and facebook, but the need to meet at a personal level, looking into each other’s eyes, to allow the connection to reach a meaningful depth.
The play is also a reminder that innovations rarely spell out the end of the more traditional ways of doing things. Of course the telephone has killed the telegraph, but Amazon has not killed bookshops, the automobile has not led to horse riding disappearing entirely, cinema does not mean the end of theatre, technology-enabled connectivity does not replace face-to-face conversations. What innovations most often do is to force traditional ways to reposition and sometimes re-invent themselves.
Photo: Author/Actor Marc Hollogne crosses the stage-screen threshold