The Intermedia Performance Studio to Present "Human Trials" for One Performance Only

Release Date: January 12, 2007


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- "Human Trials," a virtual reality drama, will be performed in the University at Buffalo Art Gallery in the Center for the Arts on the UB North (Amherst) Campus at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 15; the one-time-only performance will be preceded by a reception at 5 p.m.

"Human Trials" is a networked, virtual, participatory drama with human actors, intelligent agents and smart sets. It explores the intersection of virtual reality and embodied performance through an event designed both as an immersive experience for one participant, and as a non-immersive production for a live audience. The participant enters the virtual world from a projection-based VR system and is led on an absurd quest by two characters, Filopat and Patofil, played by human actors wearing head-mounted displays (HMDs).  These three protagonists see each other as avatars in the virtual world.

For the participant, "Human Trials" appears to be about control and the choices one makes with power; but the games are rigged, the characters are duplicitous, the quest is a decoy and the underlying test is how to cope with disempowerment. Meanwhile, the larger audience watches the actors and three large projections of the virtual action showing the points of view of each of the three main protagonists in the drama. The actions of the participant and the judgment of the audience determine the ending of the drama.


"Human Trials" is a production of UB's newly formed Intermedia Performance Studio which is focusing on the integration of live actors, virtual avatars, intelligent actor-agents, dynamic sets and live, mobile audience members. The Intermedia Performance Studio is a collaboration between Josephine Anstey, Dave Pape, Sarah Bay-Cheng and Stuart C. Shapiro.

"Human Trials" is based on an original idea by Anstey, a VR artist/dramatist, who constructed the virtual set using software designed by Pape, a VR and computer graphics researcher. Anstey and Bay-Cheng, an actor/performance theorist, wrote an improvisation script for the actors, and Bay-Cheng directed the performance. As well as the human actors, the set contains computer-controlled characters which were built using both Pape's software and following an agent architecture designed by Shapiro, an artificial intelligence researcher.

For more information on "Human Trials" go to


The Feb. 15 performance of "Human Trials" is free and open to the public.


The UB Art Gallery is funded by the UB College of Arts Sciences, the Visual Arts Building Fund, the Seymour H. Knox Foundation Fine Arts Fund, and the Fine Arts Center Endowment.

Media Contact Information

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