During the 3rd Videobrasil, Otavio Donasci enacted several performances. At the event’s opening, he presented Videotauro, a video performance in which a horse with a 20-inch TV monitor instead of a head, trottled around the streets of São Paulo’s Bixiga neighborhood, where the Sérgio Cardoso Theater is located.

At three other moments during the Festival, A Máscara Eletrônica was featured – a video theater project by Donasci that combines a luminous two-dimensional language (video) and a living, lit-up, three-dimensional language (theater). The actor’s facial expression was viewed on their “videoface.”

The Festival also featured Videocriaturas (Videocreatures): one of them rode around on a bike and two others appeared with laboratory-made faces from TV newscasts, fighting with a kendo (Milton Tanaka, from the group Ponkã). They were the first “videocreatures” with their batons attached to their bodies.

At the Festival’s closing, Donasci conducted a "videosymphony."



Essay Otávio Donasci

The Electronic Mask

The mask has always been part of the history of culture: the ritual, the parties, the theater, the dolls, Carnival. It has even been a part of daily life. After all, what does make up mean anyway?

And in every culture, since the primitive ages, the magical process of “wearing" another being was renewed, improved in its techniques, but still retained the same original question: why does the human being have the need to be another?

Theatrical actors interviewed toward the end of their lives often say they made no money at all, worked very hard, but lived many different lives onstage, and " this is wonderful..."

Perhaps the mask and theater itself are exercises in reincarnation?

With the advent of techno-images (photo, flim, video and other modes), man got a new partner with which to create his images: "the black box," (with an input, a button and an output) and falls in love with the two-dimensional realities it creates.

The world starts being seen through these “black boxes.” The photograph brings my father’s presence back to me, film has me travelling without leaving my chair, and video brings the world into my home instantly... And our entire cultural universe becomes dictated by techno-images, including art. Pictures get photographed, sculptures get filmed, theater becomes soap opera.


Video becomes a synthesis of other techno-images, and consequently of the realities they show.

But what about theater? What happens to theater in the age of techno-images? Slide projections replace the set design, and films enrich the narrative. One of the world’s premier theater set designs, Joseph Svoboda already projected onto the set video-images of close-ups of the actor that was on the scene. And this was back in 1952.

Theater, for me, is the actor, all the rest supports his work. Under these conditions, the actor on stage seemed more to me like a strange being in a two-dimensional planet.

Techno-images are and make everything two-dimensional.

How can theater, which is three-dimensional and live in nature, coexist with techno-images without losing its character?

The actor has tried to emulate the language of cinema/TV, showing slow- or fast-motion, most of the time with satirical intentions.

Anyway, it would be a very rich thing for theater if it could incorporate video as a tool of dramatic language.

It would be a very rich thing for human expression if we could incorporate video, which is the synthesis of techno-images, and theater, whose principal focus of expression is the live actor.

It was thus that videotheater was born.

Frankenstein and the electronic sewing

By stripping down theatrical language to the bare minimum, I arrived at the actor. By studying the actor’s job, I focused on two expressions: facial and corporal. And although one is broader than the other in the physical sense, both were equivalent in scenic potential. The facial expression is always detracted from by the distance and placement of the audience.

Hence the exaggerated makeup, the lighting focusing on faces, the slanted seat positions – in short, the entire theater adapted to facial expression.

By stripping video down to the bare minimum I arrived at the tube (cinemascope) and discovered that its proportion was equivalent to that of a face in vertical position.

After that, my job was to sew up a “standing” tube onto an actor, like an orthopaedic head, and the first videocreature was complete, in good old Frankenstein style: scary because it is different. Laughter-inducing because it is different.

More than that, I was trying out a new language, a hybrid of video language and theater language, with own features that neither had.

In the 60s/70s, the heads of mannequins were replaced with television sets showing regular programming at an art show. But this was done as a critique of TV rather than as a tool for theatrical expression. Just as recently, actors carried television sets onstage in a play (Frankstern), but did not form a unit: they were actors carrying TVs.

Videotheater is unique:

It combines a luminous two-dimensional language (video) and a live, lit-up three-dimensional language (theater).

The actor’s facial expression has been replaced with the video-face. The face is basically the most characteristic part of the character, and moves within the space o the head.

The head works on the body, which in turn works on the stage.

Therefore, the space of the face is the smallest space in theatrical expression, hence it being selected to receive the video graftage.

The moment this merging worked, everything that was shown in video was understood as face on the stage, and everything that was placed alongside the video-face was understood as body. The possibilities of interbreeding between these two languages (theater and video) are endless. A huge face can have two bodies as though they were legs, just like an actor can also have several different faces at once. And this can be expanded into all performing possibilities.

A video-face can be attached to the hand to create a glove puppet with all the facial expression possibilities of a live actor. Just like this actor’s face can be attached to a horse or another large animal to create a one-of-a-kind circus number.

With the possibilities inherent to television, such as long-distance broadcasting, one can enact performances on the street, in the open air, without wires, and in several locations at once. Live of prerecorded. And to broadcast a theatrical performance live via satellite to the whole world.

With liquid crystal screens, videotheater takes on the dimension of a true electronic mask, and can be adapted directly to the actor’s face.

In the future, using digital holograms, it will be possible to completely reinvent the actor, with three-dimensional images that could even share the stage with real actors.

The Videotheater Laboratories

First the videocreature and the dramatic context it will be in is outlined. Then a text or script emerges.

The project’s development takes place through successive laboratories. The facial expression lab explores the multiple possibilities of camera, lighting and VT edition for recording any object or even a face, which will finally become the videocreature’s face. The recording is made for a vertical screen. The light this face will have during the performance is determined in this lab. In videotheater, the light of the video-face can be dissociated from the light of the actor-body.

There is also the possibility of creating archives of faces from the media (TV, film, photos), for later laboratorization for performances, which allows the presence on the scene of characters known from everyday information (politicians, artists etc.).

The prototypes lab researches and builds video monitors and their attachments to the actors’ bodies, based on artistic and technical sketches. It is a bona fide Gyro Gearloose lab where knowledge of electronics, physics, chemistry, orthopaedics and others are required in order for the “sewing” to be successful.

In the prototype expression lab, actors improvise while wearing devices and create the features of prerecorded characters. They rehearse using mirrors. The costumes are designed and electronic adjustments are made.

Following these preliminary stages, the performance’s final laboratory is carried out, in which the stage design is explored, the stage cues are placed, the lighting is adjusted, the props etc.

Videotheater performances have been enacted in several different spaces: theaters, streets, beaches, art galleries, nightclubs, stores etc., exploring possibilities of expression such as the theatrical play, the performative event, the concert etc.

I believe we are still in videotheater’s prehistory. Our methods are always experimental and vary depending on the evolution of technology or on new acting techniques.

A Brazilian project. (Who would have thought it!)

Videotheater wasn’t born in Germany or the United States. It does not employ Californian ADO or WAX postproduction.

It uses VHS (the horror!) and is black and white. The founding father of videotheater does not work for TV Globo, not even him.

It has no sponsor or marchand. (yet...) It is not meant to be watched on television ("what, but isn’t it video?").

It is not scholarly, nor hermetic, nor dull. It can be made in Brazil, using Brazilian equipment and labor (or contraband, we will concede to that).

It has no counterparts in France, the USA, Germany, England. Its roots lie on the one hand in the circus, in variety shows, in street performances; on the other hand, in cinema, the musicals, TV programming and radio.

Its field of action is the stage, the theatrical space, the streets. The space of an actor.

It does not fear marketing, it does not flee advertising (there is a project to this end).

It is not afraid to face a larger, less initiated audience. It has plenty of room for other creators to work, as well as actors, producers, technicians etc...

Ultimately, it is a videoperformance project (one of a few that are worthy of the moniker) that is working. And it deserves support.

And it deserves to be shown to people out there.

The Future: A Theater of real images

Videotheater is the beginning of a theater as fluidic as a thought.

Every artist’s dream is to be able to express his ideas, to get his imagination on stage (imagination comes from image, thinking through images) without the need for physical media as heavy as projectors, screens, films, books etc.

Electronics allow man to create images almost as efficiently as his own brain. Only the materials available generate two-dimensional images.

Only now, with holograms, are we succeeding in recovering this three-dimensional world, this expression our thoughts wanted to voice and did not know how.

Theater would be the most complete expression if it did not have such solid physical materials to express itself (stage, set design, actors).

The dream is to achieve a theater where everything flows like a dream and actors interact with incorporeal beings, just solid enough to contain our sensations, allowing an actor to dissolve himself onstage, to fly or become an animal. In short, a theater that could do what our thoughts can today.

Or a theater that was the way we really are, and not the way we look like in the mirror.