As a media designer, I explore time, meaning and emotion through image and media in the context of performance. Media is understood to be the past captured in a representative form while theatre is understood to be symbolic and played out in the ever present. This tension of representation of the specific brought together with the symbolic makes ethics of media design paramount when considering inclusive and equitable storytelling. As a designer, I research the meaning of any image or video at the time it was created, in the present, and in the context of the performance. These multiple layers of meaning are constantly changing as images are co-opted by memes, social groups, or new research comes to light. This meaning is subjective and varies from audience member to audience member. The research process is on-going, including feedback from the audience of the performances. My design aesthetic attempts to share this complicated aspect of images with the audience through layers of textural detail, shifting and changing to show different elements of the image for interpretation during the performance. I use motion to show emotion and focus on cue structures that allow the immediacy of performance to take precedence.
A Very Williamston Christmas
Directed by Tony Caseli, Williamston Theatre, November – December, 2022.
Scenic Design by Bartley H. Bauer, Lighting Design by Nick Casella, Costume Design by Karen Kangas-Preston, Sound Design by Sonja Marquis, Props Michelle Raymond.
A Hallmark movie spoof.
The Who’s Tommy
Directed and Choreographed by Devanand Janki, Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend, Capitol Theatre – Flint, November 18 – 19, 2022.
Co-Choreographer Cyana Paolantonio, Scenic Design by Jeromy Hopgood, Lighting Design by Mike Billings, Costume Design by Daniella Toscano, Sound Design by Matthew Tibbs, Props Miranda Sue Hartmann.
Rocking concert production of the Tommy starring George Salazar, Janet Dacal and Maurico Martinez.
Pride and Prejudice
Directed by Janet Haley, script by Kate Hamil, University of Michigan – Flint, March 18 – 27, 2022.
An innovative take on the Jane Austen classic with actors playing multiple roles regardless of their gender identity. Images used in projection were watercolors from 1800 – 1835, predominantly from the Thaw Collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. These images appealed to both the general time period of the original work, but also the ideals and modern romanization of that same time period. Images were selected and modified to illustrate the social class difference between the various characters and colors adjusted to align with concepts of partnering and alliance building.
Directed by Jeremiah Davidson and written by Josh Wilder, Flint Repertory Theatre February 4 – 20, 2022.
As the water crisis in Flint, Michigan begins to make national headlines, a young couple struggling to make ends meet scrambles to fight for a better future for their daughter– even if it means losing everything they have. Staged in a combination of realism and magical realism, the projections represent the struggles of the 10-year old Dayla to make sense of what is going on around her. As she continues to drink the lead-filled water she hallucinates ways to fix the problem and the recurring image of the water tower appears again and again as she dreams of fixing the problems with her city and her family. Her parents marriage crumbles under the strain and each crack in their relationship is shown in the media in orange water seeping, dripping, rushing down the walls of the set. All media was projected on a scrim and actors could be seen in the projections as they moved through the projected pipes or imagined worlds. The texture in the projections was built from numerous images of rust, maps of flint, and movement of water. The iconic Flint water tower was layered in ice, underwater, and in Fiji ever present as Dayla dreams of her future. Developed in Flint Rep’s 2020 New Works Festival. Photos curtesy of Flint Repertory Theatre.
“The Wrong River is a definitive, taut, imaginative artistic expression of the tragedy engineered by government officials and foisted upon the already disenfranchised families of Flint. If you think the tragedy is in the past, it is not.” –Encore Michigan
A Contemporary American’s Guide to A Successful Marriage © 1959
Directed by Rob Roznowski, performed at Michigan State University, Pasant Theatre, October 15 – 24, 2021.
An exploration of gender, equality and idealism in the 50’s, 60’s and now. Research explored the funding and purpose of the social education clips of the 50’s and 60’s and material was primarily gathered from the Prelinger Archive. These films, originally crafted to create a sense of homogeny and to redefine what social norms in America, were modified slightly and used to comment on the obvious break with expectations in the scenes of the play. New footage of the actor playing the narrator was filmed and treated to blend with the style of the found footage.
“The prerecorded segments that media designer Alison Dobbins created with the Narrator seamlessly match the style of media clips from the ’50s.” — Lansing City Pulse
The Year of Haydn – Covid Can’t Stop the Music
“Op. 76, Haydn,” produced by Flint Institute of Music under the direction of Davin Torre, Performed at the Capital Theatre, Flint Michigan September 23, 2021.
Media explored the four seasons as a representation of the year of COVID and the impact on the Dort quartet, four teenagers working at a distance to prepare for a performance with the world renowned Dover quartet. Animations focused on patterns of returning, growth, change, and re-invention. Colors pulled from the costumes each performer would wear.
Documentary directed by Nicole Bowers Wallace. Stage projection designs by Alison Dobbins for the performance of the School of Performing Arts Dort quartet with the Dover quartet.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Directed by Michael Lluberes, performed at Flint Repertory Theatre and cut short by COVID, March 2020.
Set entirely inside a glass enclosure, Nurse Ratched and McMurphy battle for control of the hearts and minds of the inmates. Projections illustrated the inner terror and reality for the characters. Projections fell on all surfaces, including actor bodies creating a world where people are made of gears, wires, and grotesque extensions such as hands growing out of fingers. As Chief Bromden leaves in the final moment of the play everything fades away to the stars and the silhouette of geese referenced in the title of the play. Research for the artwork was primarily pulled from the Prinzhorn Collection, a collection of artwork created by those institutionalized primarily between WWI and WWII. Photos curtesy of Flint Repertory Theatre.
“Projection design by Alison Dobbins created sequences of thoughts and daydreams inside the heads of patients after they took meds or just as they let their minds travel to a different place.” –Encore Michigan
Directed by Emily Cornelius, Music Direction by Michael Thomas, Produced by Alyce Mott, Aired through Victor Herbert Renaissance Project Live! November 17 – 22, 2020 and again at the Minnesota Fringe Festival August 8 – 15, 2021.
Video Produced & Compositing by Alison Dobbins, Video Editor Gayle Añonuevo, Audio Production by Shaun Farley. Singers all across the United States recorded songs written by Victor Herbert. These recordings were then compiled, edited and adjusted to create an hour long virtual production of Victor Herbert. Songs inspired and invoke images of Ireland. All singers recorded against white or whiteish walls in their own settings and my goal with the media was to transform these plain settings to locations and filming styles that helped transport the audience from the austerity imposed by COVID, to the visually lush world that augmented the vocal performances.
“Video Editor Alison Dobbins, working in tandem with VHRP’s frequent stage director/choreographer Emily Cornelius, has provided pleasing and clever visuals. Atmospheric Gaelic backdrops, and ingenious video effects such as a moment when a singer seemingly crosses over the virtual line to interact with the person in the next frame, add visual variety and fun.” – Opera Research Center
From Broadway To Obscurity
Written and performed Eric Gutman. Produced by Detroit Public Theatre and aired on Detroit Public Television and WNED Buffalo. Filmed August 2020 and aired October 26, 2020 and re-aired March 28, 2021 on DPTV and WNED.
One man show which traces the path of Eric Gutman from singing on Forbidden Broadway, performing in Jersey Boys, and returning to obscurity in Michigan all the while learning more about what matters most. Projections augmented comedic moments, assisted with commentary, and provided touchstones to help the audience identify the show reference or time period. Performed for television audiences alone but filmed in a theatrical setting, this recording has aired multiple times on DPTV and WNED.
Call Me By My Name
Written by Sandra Seaton and performed by Tracey Bonner, World Premiere Accepted at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, October 3, 2020.
Henrietta Lacks, source of the “immortal HeLa cell line,” addresses the whole of who she was in this monologue. Title and credit graphics provided by Alison Dobbins.
900 Miles to International Falls
Directed by Tony Caselli, written by Annie Martin, world Premiere performed at Williamston Theatre, January – March 2020.
Motherhood and body autonomy set against a global war. This science fiction drama set in the near future takes place during a war between extraterrestrial and humans with children as the prime expendable resource. Projections work backwards in time through media delivery formats with the show beginning with YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter and stepping down to analog and broadcast TV as society and technology fall apart. Media formats themselves are what provide the clues through stepping through time in the opening sequence. Footage recorded of an impersonal news anchor who encourages all citizens to report those who don’t fall in line is used in each transition. Projections also indicate the setting of each scene ranging from a factory floor, to a bus depot. Each carefully crafted to blend with the lighting and the portent of the scene. Photos curtesy of Williamston Theatre Chris Purchis.
“It is Dobbins’ work which opens the action of the show, with a series of newscasts that provide the audience with the history of what has happened between our present day and the present day of the play. She creates ominous projections throughout the play where the Big Brother-like announcer gives the news of the day and leads the women in chanting slogans such as talking about how any empty womb is a missing opportunity and that the sacrifice is theirs to give.” — Encore Michigan
“The clever projections designed by Alison Dobbins are as varied as a brick facade, a silhouetted government figurehead, or a photographic backdrop of machinery in a field. They are all remarkable.” – Lansing City Pulse
Wrinkle in Time
Adapted from the novel by Tracey Young and directed by Ryan Welsh. Set in the round in the Arena Theatre, Performed March 15 – 24, 2019.
Projections in this production were designed by students in Dobbins’ THR219 course. The multiple locations and worlds allowed students to bring their own aesthetic to each scene. Students completed all phases of design; script analysis, design presentation, media creation, cueing and projection engineering. Students worked with students in MI337 – Compositing & Special Effects to create more complex media moments. This production was uniquely perfect for this collective approach to art making.
Out of Orbit
“Out of Orbit,” written by Jennifer Maisel and directed by Frannie Shepherd-Bates, Williamston Theatre, May – June 2018.
A troubled mother/daughter relationship is played out against the Mars Rover Exploration missions. Primary research sources for the production were the NASA archive and photos of the Curiosity and Spirit rover expeditions. Locations were indicated with key textural details (vinyl flooring patterns, concrete cracks, wallpaper) with moments of communication with the rover being represented with a confusing overlap of data, telemetry and images of the rover itself. This illustrated the separate worlds that the main characters inhabited, figuratively. All photo credits thanks to Williamston Theatre.
The Geranium in the Windowsill Just Died But Teacher You Went Right On
Written and directed by Michael Lluberes with music by Jared M. Dembowski, based on the book by Albert Cullum, world Premiere performed at Flint Youth Theatre, April – May 2018.
The magical realism of childhood eventually defeats the dogma of the educational establishment in this whimsical musical. The projections bring the magic of pretend alive as letters dance, chalkboard scribbles fight, and a rainbow of color appear in the classroom. Photos curtesy of Flint Youth Theatre.
Choreographed and directed by Brad Willcuts, music direction by Dave Wendelberger, performed at the Pasant Theatre, Michigan State University, April 2018.
The angst world of Green Day’s musical from the 90’s translated to today. Students in MI337 – Compositing & Special Effects created the animations and media for this rock concert musical. Each song had a main theme and touchstone imagery that students then expanded upon. Texture and motion were the key elements explored and how the visual rhythm reinforced the elements on stage.
“Hockey,” is a tongue-in-cheek musical where six brave souls must save hockey from being obliterated. Written and produced by Mitch Albom and directed by Peter Albom. Premiered in May 2016, Michigan Tour summer 2017.
“Ernie,” follows the life of Ernie Harwell, famous baseball announcer for the Detroit Tigers, written and produced by Mitch Albom, directed by Tony Caselli. The video design was used to interweave famous moments in baseball history with Ernie’s life. Footage was donated by Major League Baseball. Premiered April 2011. Michigan Tour 2012 – 2017.
Wrinkle in Time
“Wrinkle in Time,” written by Tracey Young, from the book by Madeline L’Engle and directed by Michael Lluberes of the Flint Youth Theatre. The classic young adult fiction translated into a reimagined play with locations in space and time illustrated with projections. Flint Youth Theatre, October 2016.
“The Tempest,” Shakespeare’s magical play. In this production, directed by Deric McNish for Michigan State University, the magic of the island is illustrated through media. Performed at the Pasant Theatre in November 2016.