OVERVIEWRUPERT'S ROOMLISTEN

comatheatre

the ulti-media ensemble

by Chad Evans

Around 1993, after years of apartness, I hooked up with old friend, Adam Armstrong, to play a gig at Grinders Coffee House on lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas. We invited David Darnell to come along with his projectors, carousels, and moving scrim. It was there that I happened upon yet another former band-mate, Kim Corbet. He and I had worked together in Flash to Bangtime several years earlier. New to him, though, was my electronic setup, which I suspected would be well received. We soon began regular jam sessions in my studio space at Keith Turman's Cosmic Workshop in the Meletio Electric Building, just on the southeast edge of downtown.

Kim was focusing on bass and experimenting with looping. My cyber-drums were apt complement. Several videos were shot wherein different guests were included: poet Tim Cloward; the final third of gOUgE, guitarist Kevin Hanlon; a couple other musicians whose names I can't recall; vocalist, mover, videog Amy Seltzer, who had worked with Kim in The Cheese; and theatrical sound designer Bruce Richardson. I knew Bruce from old art/musician friend circles, and as a fellow scenic painter. Kim and Bruce had worked together on numerous projects.

Not long thereafter, Coma Deluxe, was formed.

A short time later, adding also the talents of artist/projectionist David Darnell; lighting designer, Deb Reitman; and dancer, Michelle Manley, (also Mrs. Hanlon) -- the project was renamed.

comatheatre dot com hit the internet in 1996, and went through a series of five "look and feel" changes over the course of the next eight years. All manner of web fun was utilized: interaction with band gear, space cars flying around buildings, looming aircraft drones, and many cartoons. - some of these aspects survive in Rupert's Room, wherein performance clip videos are available, and band members swim across the scene [click on the ladder in the aquarium].

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The troupe achieved two summer residencies at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, receiving much applause and press. They also performed at The Dallas Museum of Art, sponsored by The Video Association of Dallas; The Undermain Theater; and at Dallas Cable TV, in addition to shows at Richland, UTD, and SMU.

Bruce, Chad, and Kim resumed playing at local clubs and art festivals, at last producing some discs and mp3s. The tune "Joy Joy Joy" made it to MP3's Top Ten list (for about a week)

Scooter Smith, motion graphics artist, created a series of videos from coma tunes, and was then recruited to be a coma video producer and projectionist. Skooch produced the notorious "Stinkwad" video and the retina party that is "Joy Joy Joy".

Kevin Hanlon composed "comaconcerto", a work for orchestra featuring an improvisational approach, which premiered at Southern Methodist University in the Caruth Auditorium - first by The SMU Wind Ensemble, and again a year later, with The SMU Percussion Ensemble.

"Bush Bash", a presentation inspired by the idiocy of the Bush 'leadership' then came forth: (which then lead to "Bush Bash II") - a series of juxtaposed images set to recordings of speechifyin' administration folk with live musical interpretation, performed at the Undermain Theater.

Mysteriously then, the comatheatre website was visited by offices of the military sector, and suddenly stats reporting on non-North American countries abruptly ceased for a six month duration...

Ironically, about that same time, the funding which made comatheatre dot com possible was lost.

we're now on hiatus grande. gone republican. praise god. amen. now please, leave us.

it's very likely though, that we'll see some more regroupings in November...

oH! there are still comatheatre recordings available - check out the discography page.


Stuff
click on description to view:


Bush Bash
set photo

Bruce
work station photo

Chad
work station photo

Darnell
projecting at DCTV photo

Kim
work station photo
on VidFest stage photo
as Sargeant Kim portrait

Scooter
work station photo
Scooter and Tim Cloward at the bash photo
video project Alpha State
(116K Quicktime)


Biographies


Kim Corbet
produces multimedia events, performs in a wide spectrum of styles and sound designs for theater and video. Formerly a member of Beledi Ensemble, The Cheese, Flash to Bangtime, and Rotten Rubber Band. He currently plays with BL Lacerta, and The Tidbits. He also teaches improvisation and music history classes at SMU.

Chad Evans is a percussionist, graphic designer, scenic painter, mixed-media and performance artist. Past groups include Man in the Reign, A Few Hits Left, Poetry Circus, Dancing Tongue, and Flash to Bangtime. Currently a member of BL Lacerta, Tao Jonesin' and gOUgE, Chad is also a flash animator who asks, "What's it do?".

Bruce Richardson is known for his critically acclaimed sound design work at Dallas Theater Center, Undermain Theater, Shakespeare Festival of Dallas and Addison Theater Center. He appeared on Austin City Limits with Sara Hickman, and has performed and recorded with No Parking, Leroy Shakespeare, The Dudes, Dallas Jazz Orchestra, T-Buck, Chuck Rainey and Tim Kobza.

David Darnell received his BFA from North Texas University and is currently Art Director at Walden High School in Dallas. He was a member of Dancing Tongue and produces a variety of sculptures, prints, paintings and graphics from his studio situated on 10 acres in Altoga, Texas.

Michele Manley earned degrees in dance from University of Arizona and TCU, and has studied choreography and technique with Ann Carlson and Bella Lewitzky. In tucson, she performed with Orts Theater of Dance and Tenth Street Danceworks. In Texas, she has performed with Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth and Dancers Unlimited, and has danced and choreographed for the Dance Consortium. Michele's choreography has been presented locally by the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, The Dallas Dance Gathering and Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth. She is also currently co-artistic director of Elle Danceworks.

Tina Parker is one of our good buds from The Kitchen Dog Theater. Primo director and outrageous actress, her "Mad Gypsy" installation in The Lorca Project stole the show.

Raphael Parry is an acclaimed actor and director whose biography has yet to be tracked down. Raphael's and Chad's sons are in the same class.

Deb Reitman lighting designer, moved away to Boston, but now she's back in Dallas. Her list of credentials is on our "things to get from Deb" list.

Amy Seltzer is currently working with Elle Danceworks. A vocalist and movement performer, Amy was part of the original "coma deluxe", and some of her video work remains in the coma archives.

Scooter Smith is a multi-talented computer video/animation artist, highly respected in the broadcast field. He is co-founder of DreamLab, a creative and post-production studio in Dallas, specializing in media for print, television, film, and the web.



The following are reviews
of comatheatre events:


Re: Fwd: ComaTheatre CD

Put this on tonight

05/21/1999

By Chraig Schropshire

"...I put this on tonight, and was trying to proceed with all the many things i have to do, but I couldn't pull myself away. It's frighteningly good! So I just sat there, attentively listening, absorbing it all, for the full eighteen minutes. I especially loved the sequenced synths in the beginning interlocking with all those pad sounds. Fantastic! Oh, and tell Chad he's elevated those lowly pads to an art form. I'm sure I'll have more input once I delve further, but suffice it to say it was excellent throughout. Thanks!


comatheatre - Altered States of Unreality
as seen in The WORD:

Reviewed by Tim Cloward


A coma is the ultimate form of altered state. From the Greek koma [a deep prolonged unconsciousness], it is the most intense and danger–fraught form of psychological submersion. It is the greatest betwixt and between, the longest dream. It is common now to speak of the arts, music and theater in particular, as also a type of psychological submersion––a type of descent into a communal liminal state where the culture plays out its unconscious conflicts.

EnterMind, the weekly performance series presented by comatheatre, takes this connection between performance and psychological submersion as its main premise and principle of operation. In the course of their premier performance, the troupe created a rigorous evocation of the dreamstate.

Using fluid transformations made possible by the constant intermingling of media, the group built up an environment full of surrealistic juxtapositions and realtime serendipities.

From the beginning of the first Entermind show, the amorphous form of the coma made itself evident. The spectacle unrolled itself in a slow ritualized time that was somewhat akin to the sensation of gradually falling asleep. After leaving the audience for some time with multiple large–screen video projections (including realtime monitoring of the MAC box office and coffee bar) and the intermingling of various images from odd–angled slide projections and TV monitors, there was the subtle introduction of an ambient electronic soundscape. As two Wizard–of Oz–like technicians twisted knobs in the shadows, troupe member Chad Evans fumbled towards the stage in a contortionistic saunter. A few moments later, the masked dancer, Amy Seltzer, wandered in through the audience and added her voice to the developing commotion.

From there, playing without pause, comatheatre presented a consistently liquid and rigorously dreamy amalgamation of image and audio. Finally, after two hours, troupe leader Kim Corbet stumbled over his exhausted troupe mates who were strewn prone and comatose across the stage, mumbling "How do you shut this thing off?" By then, there was the feeling that the layers of projections, the various gestures and verbal gymnastics of the players, and the looping, self–replicating electronic fuzz from the sound system had grown into a presence in its own right, something beyond four individual performers.

As befits its pedigree, comatheatre's manner of presentation was fluid and seamless. The nominal successors of the noted new music ensemble BL Lacerta, comatheatre continues that ensemble's honored tradition of combining rigorous concentration with a playful, Cageian sense of improvisation. Realizing that the easiest way to shape an environment is with sound, the troupe's primary emphasis is aural, and they have mastered an impressive range of musical idioms, moving in and out of each without getting stuck in a predictable groove.

The general comatheatre tactic of mixing things up made for a number of memorable moments. After lurking in the recesses between equipment most of the night, Kim Corbet emerged to perform a couple of truly impressive trombone solos and, later, provided a hilarious running dialogue over the video projection of Victor Hugo's character Quasimodo. After spending the evening inconspicuously providing a coma–evoking array of percussion and subtle rhythms, Chad Evans suddenly burst forth with a savage, Kabuki–like spree of vocal gibberish. At one point, Bruce Richardson, who showed himself to best advantage with his deft atmospheric embellishments and percussive accents, joined with Corbet in a moody melodeon duet. Occasionally Amy Seltzer, who spent much of her time wondering among the audience, returned to the stage and inserted herself into the beam of the video projector––joining her body, her projected shadow, and the obscured image in a multilayered dance.

The MAC, an institution that has been more than willing to mix it up in the past, is offering the current Entermind series in its lobby every Saturday at ten o'clock throughout the summer. From all initial indications, it should be a fortuitous match. The combination of media and consciousness that is comatheatre cannot help but benefit from a healthy, symbiotic relationship with Dallas's most forward looking gallery space. The first show brought a full house and an audience that was uniformly rapt for the length of the performance. With its demands for utter concentration and its subtle blurring of the distinctions between art and life, the premier performance of comatheatre had the sense of a Zen rave.

Tim Cloward is a Dallas poet, writer and performer.


Blood Wedding

The Lorca Project is a union of experimentalists

07/10/1997

By Matt Weitz - Dallas Observer

"In the past, shows by avant-garde performance group ComaTheatre, could approach a delightful stimulus overload as musicians played tape loops, sequencers, actual instruments, and prepared tracks while a series of images -- clips from movies and newsreels, paintings on a slowly advancing roll of transparent film, and still photos -- flashed about them and the dancers who dart through the audience.

Now they've gone one step further with 'The Lorca Project,' an experimental performance production that 'adds literature and theater design to their expressive blend. Based on the fiery, imagistic work of Spanish painter, playwright, and poet Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936), the show will be 'multi-media, wtih some interesting twists.' says ComaTheatre member and local musician Kim Corbet.

Members of ComaTheatre have long been inspired by the magical imagery and challenging nature of Lorca's work -- which often pushed the boundaries of what was considered art -- and will be basing the pieces that make up 'The Lorca Project' on specific poems and plays that he wrote. The group will also be imposing a bit more structure on their usually freewheeling shows.

'We want to keep that sense of circus-like cafe at The MAC,' Corbet explains, 'but this is also going to be serious theater. By showtime we will have put in three weeks of intensive practice, and we even have directors.'

Indeed, the introduction of the Undermain Theater's Raphael Parry and the Kitchen Dog Theater's Tina Parker may help tone up ComaTheatre's presentation... 'We'll act out those portions of Lorca that the directors choose onstage,' Corbet elaborates. 'And in support of that, we'll have our multi-media production, but with some interesting differences: we'll be using music pre-recorded for an upcoming album, with the musicians sitting at [computer] workstations rather than instruments. We've also recorded various things on different CDs, and the artists will have CD players that they can drop these into and start and stop them according to what's going on.'

The ComaCrew includes Corbet and fellow musicians Chad Evans (who also dances and designs sets) and Bruce Richardson (who also composes for the group). Michele Manly choreographs and dances with Amy Seltzer, whose videotapes may well be shown by projection artist David Darnell, working alongside lighting designer, Deb Reitman.

'One of the things that we're going to do is assault the audience with this incredible light show, just blind them to the point of submission. It'll be more surreal than usual,' Corbet says."


Lights, action, music push dialogue to one side - 'Lorca Project' minces words in play about poet
as seen in The Dallas Morning News:

Reviewed by Lawson Taitte, Theater Critic


Comatheatre, dedicated to reaching the unconscious, runs the risk of jokes: " If this is what it feels like to be in a coma, just shoot me."

Actually, the show that ComaTheatre opened Friday at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, The Lorca Project, managed to be both brilliant and the longest 70 minutes anybody ever spent.

Visually and musically, it's often stunning. The set pieces sculptured out of styrofoam, the lighting and the projections, the beautifully textured videos are 100 times more interesting than the exhibition next door in the MAC's art gallery.

The musical improvisation, mostly drum and electronics, derives from one of North Texas' unique artistic traditions. The Denton-based group B.L. Lacerta pioneered this kind of music more than 15 years ago. With a comparably strong visual accompaniment, it becomes all the more hypnotic.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, though, some theater is going on. The events are supposedly inspired by the great Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. But the few times some of the poet's words actually got spoken they were lost among the musicians' whoops and howls.

A few incidents were memorable, nonetheless. An incense-burning robot stole the show - even Sojourner isn't nearly this cute.

People sensitive to theatrical design will enjoy even the slowest parts. ComaTheare does reach deep parts of the psyche, and it's fascinating to imagine how all this talent might serve an actual theater piece.

I'd love to see a ComaTheatre King Lear - if they'd turn down the volume and let us hear it.



END