MCA Chicago presents The Great Outdoors, a performance by writer-director Annie Dorsen that takes place within an inflatable dome on the theater stage where the public can stretch out on mats for a journey through 'inner space.'
A lone performer, Kaija Matiss, reads aloud comments culled from internet discussion boards 4chan and Reddit in the past 24 hours, giving voice to the thoughts of countless individuals tapping away at their keyboards in isolation. With a unique stellar star show designed by Dorsen in collaboration with Ryan Holsopples, The Great Outdoors connects ideas of infinity and the unknown to today's networked, hyper-connected technologies, and reflects on the cosmic nature of the internet. The Great Outdoors takes place at the MCA from Thursday to Saturday, March 21-23, at 7:30 pm, with an additional 2 pm show on Sunday, March 24.
The Great Outdoors is a performance that changes each time it takes place, using a stream of that day's internet comments that are fed through an algorithm produced by Dorsen herself. The algorithm sorts messages by their density, and operates independently of human intervention, delivering a flood of personal and collective thoughts that the artist calls the 'internet's id' - a projection of ourselves unrestrained by ego, and protected by anonymity.
The Great Outdoors invites audiences to consider the internet as both 'inner' and 'outer' space, at once a digital reflection of personal life and a connection to the world beyond the body and its physical location. Dorsen describes the internet as "a new Romantic landscape where we can go exploring, as explorers did in the nineteenth century." As audiences imagine the internet's infinite possibilities, musician Sébastien Roux mixes a live score on stage, experimenting with electronic and ambient sounds inspired by the theory that the universe is always expanding.
Annie Dorsen works in a variety of fields including theater, film, and dance, and is a pioneer of 'algorithmic theater,' in which digital tools shape the script and experience of live theater. Dorsen is the recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Artist Award (2017); an Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (2014); an Obie Award (2008); and grants from the MAP Fund and New York State Council on the Arts. She is the co-creator and director of the 2008 Broadway musical Passing Strange, written by Stew and Heidi Rodewald and featuring their band The Negro Problem, which was made into a film by Spike Lee and premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Dorsen's other music-theater works have been presented around the world in Vienna, Helsinki, Paris, and Hamburg, and in the US at MCA Chicago, Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival, Carnegie Hall, PS122, American Film Institute Festival, South by Southwest Film Festival, New York Film Festival's "Views from the Avant-Garde," and the Nantucket Film Festival. She received her MFA from the Yale School of Drama, and is currently a visiting professor in the Theatre and Performance Studies Department at the University of Chicago.
The Great Outdoors takes place in the Edlis Neeson Theater at the MCA from Thursday to Saturday, March 21-23, at 7:30 pm, with an additional 2 pm show on Sunday, March 24. Seating is limited; tickets are $30 and can be reserved at www.mcachicago.org or by calling the Box Office at (312) 397-4010