a graphic novel play by Jennifer Haley
directed by Matt M. Morrow
music by Nathan Leigh
video by Bob Bonniol
In June 2012 playwright Jennifer Haley and director Matt M. Morrow worked with media artists to develop a visual language for the play at The Banff Centre as part of their I.D.E.A. project (Interaction, Design, Experience, and Audience). Video designer Bob Bonniol was at the helm, heading up a team of graphics mavens to create animated visuals for the various worlds of FROGGY and execute these using a combination of rear and front projections. Owen Brierley constructed actor-responsive 3D graphics for the video game world using a Unity gaming engine. Visit Owen's I.D.E.A. blog for more info on the workshop.
When I sat down to write FROGGY, all I knew is I wanted to write a play "in the style of a graphic novel." However, I had no idea what that meant. I holed up in my barn studio at the Millay Colony with several graphic novels, opened my copy of In Design, a publishing program, and started writing a cartoon-looking piece using voiceovers and images. I was also influenced by the noir aspect of many graphic novels; the brooding quality, deeply psychological journey of the characters and chiarascuro illustrations influenced my story. Freed from the conventions of dialogue-driven narrative and single-scene action, I was able to free associate, and found myself developing a narrative of psychological connectivity. All kinds of themes rose to the surface during Froggy's search for her ex-lover - addiction, consumerism, warfare - in a way I sensed was uniquely American. However, after completing the first draft, I had no idea how it would function as a theater piece. Enter Matt...
When I first read FROGGY I was immediately sucked in, connecting to it on a purely visceral level. The challenge as a director was clear: how could I conceptualize this story in a way that allows the audience to experience the alchemy of Froggy's journey through her mind, her history, and the literal adventure she embarks on to find her lost love. Ultimately, to find a way to represent the show in space for developmental purposes, I conceived three worlds within the larger Noir world of the play: Froggy's Fantasy World, her Memory World and the parallel universe of the Videogame World. Each of these worlds are represented inside the panels on the page; everything outside the panels is in the real time of the Noir World. This concept allowed us to look at narrative in a more cogent way, and help develop musical and visual styles that are integral to any story told by way of a graphic noir novel. What excites me most about FROGGY is that it is brand-spanking new; it's experimental in form, but it's core story is one we can all recognize as a part of our own lives as Americans and lovers.
My challenge when developing music for FROGGY was to find a sound that was both contemporary and traditional. I started with a few key melodies, then experimented with them in different genres. Like Matt developing different spacial worlds for the play, I developed different aural worlds. There is the Noir Theme, which is modern and brooding, the Video Game Theme, which includes sounds from 8-bit video games, and the Memory Music, which features a traditional fiddle. The Flashy Intro required a sound akin to the opening credits of a television show from the 1970s, so I used the music of Henry Mancini as an inspiration. The melodies come back through all of these themes and genres, unifying the overall soundtrack.
The thing I like about FROGGY is that the interactivity is integral to the script, so we are able to use these media tools in a way that's built right into the narrative. One of the technologies that we're implementing is a Unity gaming engine. Gaming engines create the entire scenic construct of video games, so it seemed natural to take this technology and use it on the show to create our scenery and have it be reactive with the performers. This is not something that's pre-cued and called by a stage manager - this is scenery re-building itself based on what the performers are doing.
FROGGY is currently in development with American Conservatory Theatre, The Banff Centre and 3-Legged Dog Media and Theater Group. Our upcoming video design workshops will be at 3LD in New York City in June 2013 and January 2014.
is a Los Angeles-based playwright whose recent work deals with technology and virtual reality. She won the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for best new play written by a woman in English.
Matt M. Morrow
is the new Associate Artistic Director at City Theater in Pittsburgh. He splits his time between New York City and Pittsburgh, focusing on developing new plays that are highly theatrical and push conventional boundaries.
is a prolific composer, songwriter, and producer. Mixing folk, punk, classical, electronica, and world elements, Nathan draws from a wide array of influences to create unique musical atmospheres and soundscapes.
is a Visualist, Screens Producer, Projection Designer, Pixel Mapper, Video Content Designer, Interactive Artist, and VJ. He creates live experiences on stages and in installations using video, imagery, digital lighting, and interactivity.
The Banff Centre
Sundance Institute Theatre Program
American Conservatory Theater
Page 73 Productions