About the Grant

$40,000 to support The Demo (MAP 2014)
$3,500 to general operating expenses for Ben Neill and Mikel Rouse
$2,500 to general operating expenses for Ridge Theater

About the Project

The Demo is an electronic opera by composer/performers Mikel Rouse and Ben Neill. The piece is inspired by the remarkable story of computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart and his prophetic vision of computing. His 1968 demonstration rolled out virtually all that would define modern computing including videoconferencing, text editing, and something called a "mouse." The Demo reveals the origin of computing and the internet as a unique hybrid performance event, re-imagining the sense of wonder that Engelbart's audience experienced through electronic and acoustic music, spoken and sung text, interactive digital video and lighting. Using the original 1968 video as a 100 minute sample, The Demo depicts Engelbart dreaming forward and backward, evoking memories of his personal journey and visions of where his ideas would lead.

Rouse portrays Engelbart in The Demo, while Neill plays Bill English, his assistant. Rouse's live performance mirrors Engelbart's movements in the original video projected on an overhead screen. As Rouse performs, live cameras capture his image and mix it with the Engelbart video using a replica of Engelbart’s original keyboard or Neill's unique instrument, the mutantrumpet, as a control source. The audience perceives the video as being seamlessly merged with Rouse's live performance. Throughout the work the text and code from the original demo, displayed on the main screen, are transformed into a libretto/chant which acts as a metaphor for Engelbart’s imaginative approach to technology, literally turning the code into poetry. A chorus of local actors/singers represents the remote site with which Engelbart connects in the demonstration.

Related Websites

Ridge Theater

Ben Neill

Mikel Rouse


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