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The (Game)Play’s the Thing at a Cutting-Edge Theater Festival

The (Game)Play’s the Thing at a Cutting-Edge Theater Festival (photo)

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Video games and movies, for better or worse, seem to be a natural pairing for artistic crossover by virtue of their shared heritage in the moving image family. Theater, on the other hand, with its emphasis on the synergy between live humans to create once-in-lifetime performances, may not seem to be a great fit for a medium focused primarily on disembodied entertainment.

But that kind of fusion’s exactly what’s happening at the Brick Theater, the Brooklyn art space that will host the second annual Game Play Theater Festival, where performers try to meld live acting with elements of video game play over the span of three weeks. Game Play’s the brainchild of Gyda Arber, a New York City-based theater actress and director.

This year, Game Play will stage five productions from July 9th through the 25th. Eddie Kim’s “Grand Theft Ovid” uses machinima to adapt some of the ancient Roman playwright’s stories, while “Theater of the Arcade,” a collaboration between Arber and Jeff Lewonczyk, recasts stories from seminal old-school games like “Donkey Kong” and “Pac-Man” into theatrical experiences. “Modal Kombat” features classic guitarists David Hindman and Evan Drummond battling it out in a sonic showdown, thanks to a version of “Mortal Kombat” that’s been rigged to respond to instrumental input.

In addition to the plays, the festival will host several parties, including a “Rock Band” Karaoke Night and a dance fete with wearable, playable indie games from the Babycastles collective. Kim, Arber and Hindman took some time away from preparing for opening night to talk about the inspiration and process behind their pieces.

07092010_suspiciouspackagearber.jpgGyda, theater and technology are two things that people may not associate with each other. Are you coming at this from the perspective of a rabid gamer? Or did something else spark the desire to create and curate Game Play?

Gyda Arber: There are a large number of Brick artists that are big video game nerds, myself included. I think there’s a surprising overlap between theater nerds and video game nerds. The intersection is something that artists we work with have been playing with for a few years, and last year we found ourselves with three shows all involving video games in some way: “Suspicious Package,” “Adventure Quest” and “Thank You But Our Princess Is In Another Castle.” It seemed only logical to create a mini-festival to promote all three, and it was such a success last year that everyone at The Brick agreed we should make it an annual event. We’re happy to return with even more shows and events for everyone to enjoy.

“Theater of the Arcade” uses arcade classics like “Donkey Kong” and “Pac-Man” as a base but the games really had little story, save for the one happening to the player as he or she progressed. Do you feel like video games have stories that can be passed down from generation to generation?

GA: It’s really been fascinating directing “Theater of the Arcade” — Jeff Lewonczyk has done an amazing job recasting these plots as classic dramas, and I’m constantly amazed how well they actually play out. I think the scripts are very funny, but are actually also quite touching in many places, unexpectedly so. We’re sticking with classic old-school games, so the plots are a lot more simple than, say, “Heavy Rain” or the recent “Final Fantasy” titles, but I think they’ll appeal to gamers of many generations.

07092010_ModalKombat.jpgDavid, it seems like “Modal Kombat” could be a way to settle a lot of arguments about which guitar god is actually better. Where did this idea start?

David Hindman: The beginnings of this project have their roots at the Yale School of Music, where both Evan and I were graduate students in classical guitar. I used to go to Evan’s apartment and play old-school video games on his PowerBook, which kind of planted the seeds for “Modal Kombat.” After I enrolled in NYU’s telecommunications program to get another masters degree, I took a class called “Hacking Everyday Objects.” I took apart a video game controller, and figured out that I could rewire it to respond to MIDI commands. The rest is, as they say, historical non-fiction.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…