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Moving Pictures: The Final Track of The Guardians of the Galaxy

By Entertainment, Featured, Series

Zoe Saldana in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ (2023)

In 2013, when Marvel announced their next big Blockbuster was “Guardians of the Galaxy,”  many were stumped. Arguably, building a franchise around Iron Man was a risk too as the character was not a household name when the entire MCU project began. But the Guardians of the Galaxy were characters unfamiliar to even some comic book readers, having first been a group of characters from the 1960s, and then a completely different group of cosmic adventures in the 2000’s comic book event, “Annihilation.” This was not an established IP. It was a leap of faith that also felt like a bad bet, especially for a still-burgeoning empire.

The only possible explanation was that there was some secret about this group of vagabonds that we weren’t privy to, a secret sauce stashed in Marvel’s back pocket. Was Rocket Raccoon designed to sell plushies? Were Drax action figures going to move like hotcakes? Or maybe it was the team’s leader, Star-Lord, and the surprise casting of the bumbling oaf from “Parks and Recreation,” Chris Pratt. Turns out it was none of these things. It wasn’t something about the property, the characters, the comics. It was the film’s writer-director that Marvel was taking a chance on. And now ten years later, James Gunn remains the only director in the MCU to have helmed an entire trilogy, let alone written one too.

Over the decade, directors have come and gone, sometimes in the middle of a project,  occasionally at its onset. The Marvel Machine sucked them in and churned them out, with directors of MCU films acting almost as the facilitators of a grand corporate design, rather than innovative artists allowed to flex their creative muscles. Perhaps that is why Gunn could flourish in this ecosystem. Not because he’s a wonderful facilitator but because he was working with a property that had very little at stake. “Guardians of the Galaxy,” if it was Marvel’s first flop, could be blamed on how unknown the characters were. That also gave Gunn the freedom to propel the characters in a brand new direction, because there was so little to reckon with in the public imagination. And he succeeded. The characters were propelled into the stratosphere, and became a major pillar of the MCU earning 770 million dollars at the box office, and made the phrase “I am Groot” a more popular catchphrase than “Avengers Assemble.”

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is the last installment of Gunn’s vision of this team, who, like him, are no longer the scrappy underdogs with nothing to lose. Instead, they are a financial powerhouse; and with that comes higher stakes and presumably more corporate oversight. So going in, I had several major questions: Could Gunn maintain what made his original vision special amidst a flat sea of MCU movies? Could he persevere with his verve and irreverence and keep his losers from falling apart at the seams? Could he juggle the weight of two prior films, one holiday special, and eight characters and end the trilogy on his own terms? And most importantly, will he finally include a needle drop for a song written in this century?

The first of this trilogy was about bringing together this ragtag team, each on the outskirts of polite interstellar society. The second installment was largely about Star-Lord and his planetary father. This time, Gunn shifts focus to one of the MCU’s weirdest characters, Rocket Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper. Rocket’s experiences with genetic manipulation and cybertronic alterations have been alluded to in prior films but were mostly glanced over. This film returns to Rocket’s past, digging deep into what made the surly mammal who he is today. The primary strategy by Disney of late is to find an uncovered backstory and build a TV show around that gap, primarily for fan-service and easter eggs. However, Rocket’s subplot is as far as you can get from this, with his time in a cage providing the emotional throughline for the entire movie. It’s an affecting story, despite it involving an eight-legged mechanical rabbit, and more importantly, the fact that we already know its ending. This is precisely the domain Gunn thrives in: strong characters and emotional tension in freaky and bizarre situations.

It’s for that same reason, Drax, the film’s other beating heart, lands so solidly at the end of this trilogy. Drax began as a stoic, bloodthirsty character who could not understand analogies. The character flitted between clown and brute, often leaning on the former much to the chagrin of Dave Bautista. These two poles of the character were in constant conflict, but in this film, Gunn brings Drax the Destroyer’s arc to its natural conclusion. It embraces the character’s roots and contradictions and is a loving tribute to Bautista’s fantastic tenure on the character. Nebula, played by Karen Gillen, is also offered the same spotlight, despite being primarily a tertiary character in most of the MCU’s other films. This is the first film where she is firmly a member of the team, and with that comes growing pains for the cold-hearted android. The twin arcs of Nebula and Drax, with their seriousness and silliness, and their cynicism and simplicity, mirror Gunn’s own ethos with these stories. They may be goofy, they make you laugh, but that doesn’t mean they won’t pull on your heartstrings by the film’s end.

Not every character’s arc is as convincing, especially the film’s newest addition. The golden-skinned Adam Warlock, played by Will Poulter, felt like an afterthought or obligation to the prior film’s post-credits sequence. Poulter is serviceable in the role, but there simply isn’t enough in the role for him to make it work. The opposite can be said of Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana, and Star-Lord. Both characters have simply too much baggage, making their scenes feel like refurbished moments from prior films, potentially due to the way their stories became absorbed into the larger MCU.

Despite all its charm and humor, there is a distinct bloated feeling across the film. It’s only natural considering how many arcs Gunn sought to close. But the film’s other elements, like its villain and its world-building, suffer, for many of the same reasons other Phase 4 MCU movies do.

Chukwudi Iwuji’s performance as the film’s villain, The High Evolutionary is a bellowing good time. Yet his power set is so indeterminate, that it becomes impossible to feel any stakes in his fight scenes because we literally have no idea what he can do. The film also sends us through multiple settings at a quick rate, which leaves us ungrounded. It’s not necessarily disorienting, but some of the worlds felt extraneous while others perhaps deserved more time. Just like with every other Phase 4 MCU project, the VFX could have spent more time in the oven. Gunn compensates with a neon palette that masks some of the smudges, though there are still a few too many shots with little visual clarity or clouded in shadow. That said, it’s probably the best an MCU movie has looked in recent years. But that’s not saying much at all. It feels almost trivial to point out that it is perhaps the best film of Phase 4 because though it soars over the many duds of Marvel’s newest slate, it doesn’t feel as remarkable as the trilogy’s first entry.

When the first film was released, it was fresh, like someone new was entering the field. It was the feisty young kid fighting for a spot at the table. But now that kid has grown up, and it’s time to say goodbye. It’s no longer the irreverent dad rock radio tune. It is the final swansong of a creative team bidding farewell. Maybe the Guardians will be back in other Marvel movies. But it won’t be the original weirdos that injected some zest and eccentricity into the MCU. It won’t be Cooper, Bautista, Gunn, or the many creatives Gunn has worked with over the years. At best, it’ll be a cover song. Or maybe the stars will align, and it’ll be a reunion tour with every member of the creative team returning. But it still won’t be the same.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” marks a definite ending, both for its characters and for an era. The Marvel Gunn joined is a far cry from the behemoth it is now. The playing field has changed drastically since 2013, with Disney hiring less established directors who can’t push back against the corporate vision. We probably won’t get another idiosyncratic romp like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” nor will we get another director like Gunn who is able to play the game and maintain his style along the way. He’s the first writer-director to have helmed a trilogy in the MCU. And he’s also probably it’s last. I’m just glad he got to close on a high note.

Myle Yan Tay (MFAW 2023) cares a lot about movies and comic books. One day, maybe they will care about him. Find more of his writing at

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Anatomy of a Night

By Comics, Literature


Panel 1: Title panel. A collage of tree branches against the sky at night. The text says, “Anatomy of a night.”
Panel 2: Bare leafless branches shining in streetlight against a night sky. A poem spread out on the panel says: “You devour the sky and I polish my fingernails. Fear, a repulsive person. Foot chained to the
ground, you run. Fade, before I die, you say. Noisy night, bass drum, a monotone, a constant misinformation, a non interruption. purple fur ball that behind you. Does it regard you highly, or is it afraid?”
Panel 3: New leaves springing on a branch shining against the night sky. The text says, “A season’s decision. To leave the bed, To slowly open its eyes. To hear and not listen. To be it’s own savior. Hands
folded old grumpy man. You’ll throw your arms up. You’d like to be a fish. But first you’ll need to know. Do fish swim more often than they flow? You’ll not say which one you prefer.”
Panel 4: Buds on an otherwise bare tree shining against the night sky. The text says, “A hundred hands and a hundred more finger hands. Apathy. I see you. Who are you? You have eaten too much. Push the air out of your windpipe. Tell it a lie. Don’t ever admit it was a lie. Be stubborn. Be narcissistic. Before your voice is devoured by the finger hands.”
Panel 5: Blurred out branches spread out on the panel visible against a faded sky. The text says: You say a prayer. You say it in letters, in broken syllables. You make sure it’s comprehensible. You fold it and
hang it on to a cherry tree. You know it has probably reached. A to-do folder. An assistant’s folder. Who has forgotten. Forgotten. Forgotten. White cherry. Raw cherry. You wake next morning and it is gone. Was it the wind? Was it God?”

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Denial is a Diease

By Comics, Featured, Uncategorized

“Denial is a Disease” by Marcus Emdanat


A six-panel comic depicting the US Government– represented by a blank white figure with sunglasses, a bow, and a US flag top hat– responding to various situations regarding COVID.
Panel one: The US government character kicks down the hospital room door of an intubated and comatose COVID patient with a slam, shouting, “WAKEY WAKEY COVID IS OVER”
Panel two: A woman holding a COVID test says “why are COVID tests so expensive now? I can’t afford these,” to which the US government responds, “no worries!! COVID is over now, so no need!!” while giving a thumbs-up.
Panel three: A woman is holding her child’s hand in one hand and holding an $8 carton of eggs in the other; the US government is there saying “you can’t afford food?? Well that’s not right, COVID is over! What’s a supply shortage–“
Panel four: A wheelchair-using man wearing a mask says “COVID made me permanently disabled and now I can’t work, can I get some help please?” and the US government responds with “just declared COVID over, that should help!” while making finger guns.
Panel five: A person with shoulder-length hair says “I can’t work for a week cause of a positive test, can you help me?” to which the US government, lying back in a pool chair and sipping a martini, says “nah COVID’s over”
Panel six: A family of three stands in front of their destroyed home; the mother says “a hurricane destroyed our home and there’s COVID in the shelters, can we get some better aid?” The US government, hanging from a helicopter ladder, says “good news!! covid is over,” with a 🙂 (colon-parenthesis) smiley face emoticon.

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11:24 A.M., Tuesday

By Comics

“11:24 A.M., Tuesday” by Veronica Timble.

Panel One: A girl is lying in a bed, staring at the ceiling with a blank expression.
Panel Two: The upper corner of her room, where the ceiling and wall intersect. A window can be seen.
Panel Three: A closer shot of the girl, with the same expression.
Panel Four: The ceiling miraculously talks. It says: “Somewhere, a baby is born.”
Panel Five: It continues. “Fog rolls into the countryside. Everything is covered in a fine mist. It smells of moist earth.”
Panel Six: It continues. “A predator catches its prey after day-long chase.”
Panel Seven: It continues. “Two people fall in love.”
Panel Eight: A shot of the girl, now with a pillow on her head. End.

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Fat Cat Pays a Visit to the Print Studio

By Comics, Featured Comics

“Fat Cat Pays a Visit to the Print Studio” by Cam Collins


Panel 1
Voice from Off Panel:

Panel 2
Monitor: Hi Miss Gun.
Miss Gun: We’reoutofemulsionitwasn’tmethistimeitwasthicatandhe’slikedrinkingsomuchofitimsorryimsorr-
Monitor: Oh, relax, it is fine…please calm down. Thank you for telling me. I will see how I can fix this
Panel 3
Monitor, thinking: 
I don’t know why she cries everytime we run out of emulsion…anything. I don’t really care if it’s her fault or not, if we’re out, we’re out.Panel 4
Let’s see what’s going on here…Panel 5

Panel 6
A large purple cat with shoes drinks a large container of Emulsion Remover: 
Glug glug glug glug.

Panel 7
The large purple cat licks the inside of the bottle.
Panel 8
Monitor: … Stop drinking that, you can get sick.
Panel 9
Large Purple Cat: 
?Panel 10
Large Purple Cat: 
Too late. I love drinking chemicals. Burp.Panel 11
Large Purple Cat: 
And I have to say, the printmaking department has quite a fine selection. I will reimburse you.

Panel 12
Large Purple Cat: 
Here’s $5000. Keep the change.

Panel 13
Uh, who are you?

Panel 14
Large Purple Cat (Fatcat): 
Oh, I’m Fatcat. I’m a champion chugger who started with milk. Now I’m in the big leagues. I’m in your studio! Let me guess, you’re Monitor? They told me I’d see you, nice to meet you!

Panel 15
Nice to meet you, too! Thanks for telling me all of that…but who are “they”?

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Starr Ramone #11

By Comics

Panel 1. The Starr Ramone logo, a green gemstone, is placed in the upper left corner with the letters "SR" inside. Panel 2. Starr looks over her shoulder with her gemstone eyes exposed. There is a round aura around her and a vague building behind her. CAPTION: "LIVE" Panel 3. Under the gemstone logo is a note in mostly legible handwriting. NOTE: "Note to Starr I'll remember you no matter what comes of us in the coming years. Maybe we'll meet again. Maybe we won't. But I hope we do." Panel 4. Two figures stand, looking out of the sides of their eyes to a skeleton. The figures have sad expressions on their face, the second of which is visibly crying and holding onto the first. Panel 5. The first figure from the previous panel is crying on Starr's shoulder. The number "79" is repeated in the background. Panel 6. The Starr Ramone band is depicted (left to right: Bebe, Karl, Starr, and Dave) with a skeleton standing off to the left. Starr is standing tall above the others, equal with the skeleton, with a hand on Karl and Dave's shoulders. Bebe watches the skeleton nervously, with a hand around Karl's waist. Karl and Dave watch Starr.

“Starr Ramone #11” by Mae Lyne.


Panel 1. The Starr Ramone logo, a green gemstone, is placed in the upper left corner with the letters “SR” inside.
Panel 2. Starr looks over her shoulder with her gemstone eyes exposed. There is a round aura around her and a vague building behind her.
Panel 3. Under the gemstone logo is a note in mostly legible handwriting.
NOTE: “Note to Starr I’ll remember you no matter what comes of us in the coming years. Maybe we’ll meet again. Maybe we won’t. But I hope we do.”
Panel 4. Two figures stand, looking out of the sides of their eyes to a skeleton. The figures have sad expressions on their face, the second of which is visibly crying and holding onto the first.
Panel 5. The first figure from the previous panel is crying on Starr’s shoulder. The number “79” is repeated in the background.
Panel 6. The Starr Ramone band is depicted (left to right: Bebe, Karl, Starr, and Dave) with a skeleton standing off to the left. Starr is standing tall above the others, equal with the skeleton, with a hand on Karl and Dave’s shoulders. Bebe watches the skeleton nervously, with a hand around Karl’s waist. Karl and Dave watch Starr.

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Life After Art School

By Comics, Featured, Featured Comics, SAIC

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Celebrating the Black Experience

By Multimedia, SAIC

On Friday, Apr. 21, 2023, [email protected], a student group organized an event at the Maclean Ballroom with speakers, performers, live music, and food to celebrate and honor the Black community of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

The group has historically run this event since 2016. To organize this year’s event, [email protected] collaborated with other groups within the school, from Campus Life to Student Multicultural Affairs and the Career and Professional Experience (CAPX). They also partnered with the Coalition of Black Restorative Artists (COBRA), a student organization that seeks to cultivate community hangouts for Black Graduate Students at SAIC and the larger Black community.

Photo by Bella Miller

The event, while open to the general public, was meant for Black students, staff, and faculty at SAIC. j, one of the organizers and a student in the Fiber Materials department told F Newsmagazine. “The focus is for Black people to just get a moment in the year to celebrate, to come and get some free food, to hear some cool talks and hear some cool music,” j said.

Another organizer and co-leader for [email protected], Mya Jones, said organizing the event was also important to “help facilitate getting the group back up on its feet” after the COVID-19 crisis.

Photo by Bella Miller

Organizers told F that they wanted this event to employ and connect Black people together.

“It’s a nice opportunity to connect with Black people that we know, to get them paid to do a speaking event, to get them paid to perform. [It’s] a way to support people in our community that we care about,” j shares. “It’s good for us to have resources to put something on for ourselves, as opposed to someone else putting on something for us.”

“Just being here at SAIC, which isn’t a predominantly Black school even though the school is very diverse… I think having the opportunity to just celebrate being Black and taking up space as Black students, I think that’s really important,” Mya adds.

The night, Mya described, was meant to “represent not just African American culture, but the entire Black diaspora.” This thought went into many details of planning – down to the food, which not only served African American, but also Caribbean delicacies. 

Photo by Bella Miller

During the event, a group of distinguished alumni and faculty from SAIC also spoke about graduate studies and the world beyond, and what this entails for Black students. The speakers were Ayanah Moor, Jordan Barrant, Alexandria Eregbu, and Saida Blair. 

From left to right: Jordan Barrant, Saida Blair, Alexandria Eregbu, Ayanah Moor. Photo by Bella Miller

In her opening remarks, Ayanah Moor, an associate professor at SAIC, said she was “really happy to be a part of this conversation” before talking about how she prepared for the event. “I spent time considering my relationship to forms where Black identity and culture are centered, in the context of our school.”

She acknowledged how this event, while highlighting the school’s support for underrepresented student populations, such as Black students, simultaneously allows the school to boast as a form of virtue signaling. “The school’s role in hosting is for me to tell,” she proclaimed, demonstrating that the true power resides in the voice of the people. 

In their panel, the speakers discussed the idea of “Post-Black” as a way of redefining blackness and identity within art. Alexandria Eregbu, a faculty in the Fiber & Material Studies department at SAIC, shared notes on different authors, theorists, and artists who’ve broken down the form of Blackness in their art, such as Alexis Pauline Gumbs, who investigates the social narratives within the Black experience. They went on to discuss the defining issues and moments that occur for students after graduating.

Photo by Bella Miller

The night continued with live performances by Mello.Unn, Spliff Anyev Ans, Ctrlzora, Miss Twink USA, and more. As the night went on, the crowds grew larger; eventually, everyone was on the floor dancing to the music. The event ended around midnight.

In times when the loss of Black lives to police brutality and violence feels ongoing, the idea of grief becomes intertwined with the fetishization of suffering. When asked about this, j describes: “It happens everywhere… there is a certain liberal fetishization of Black death and Black trauma.” They continue by saying: “The sad stuff exists, but it doesn’t have to exist in isolation. It’s good to have something uplifting, you know? To just get together.”

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“Galileo’s Daughter”: A Play of Time Travel

By Arts & Culture, Featured


Chiké Johnson (Galileo) and Emily Bosco (his daughter) in one of the scenes of the play.  Photos by Jose Uribe

Remy Bumppo Theater Company presents a new work “Galileo’s Daughter,” directed by Marti Lyons, from April 5 to May 14, 2023. Jessica Dickey, the playwright, wrote the script based on Dava Sobel’s novel “Galileo’s Daughter” (1999) — a novel that draws references from the collection of 124 letters between Galileo and Maria Celeste, his daughter. The story narrates a heartbroken playwright traveling to Florence to research the letters. This journey also navigates across an alternate timeline where she encountered Maria and Galileo. 

To enable this time travel, this piece skillfully employs projections to set scenes. John Boesche is the projection designer of this theater work. He is an associate professor of Media Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an alum of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). In this extensive interview, Boesche shares his experience with the design and collaborative process.

GF: How does your study at SAIC inform your practice? How does your collaboration with Remy Bumppo progress?

JB: I’m an alum of the SAIC, and my study was in interior architecture. I had two professors who used the media a lot in their lectures. It kind of got me interested in that. While I was there, there were lots of people who were doing performance art and at the same time, I was dating a young woman who later was my wife of 38 years, who was a dancer. I started meeting all these people in performance art or dance. And so they started doing media for those kinds of things. I often do more experimental kinds of work and performance rather than strictly speaking theater-based work. 

Collaboration with Remy Bumppo, though follows more of the model of a traditional theater production where we start with a script and the director reads and decides to take on that script, they audition both performers and design team and start to pull together the team that is going to be both on the performance and then on the design end. I was very happy to meet and be invited to work with Marti Lyons, who is our director. That’s an exciting part of this project, was to work with both a new director and a playwright who was new to me on an original script. The process with Marti was great. She likes to bring the whole design team together. There were exchanges of ideas about what we thought this piece would look like, and how we might approach telling the story. From there, I begin to make images of some ideas of what I think my projections might look like on the set based on photographs of the set model. And then I could communicate that with the rest of the team. There’s a lot of give and take in the preparation before we get into technical rehearsals.

This particular show does one of the features of projections or explores a part of its potential, and that is to project locations and landscapes, sometimes real and physical, but also sometimes kind of the internal landscape or the psychological landscape of the characters. This piece changes locations a lot. I think there’s one stretch where in less than two minutes we change locations five times. So that is a part of the storytelling where to keep the momentum of the story moving forward. We need to establish those locations very quickly with projections.

Once we were in the theater, we discovered that the imagery that we decided on is not as impressive in the space with our team. So we start making changes very quickly. The process of technical rehearsal is both bringing what we think we wanted to see to the stage and, and realizing that. It’s also being open to recognizing that what we thought was going to work doesn’t. 


GF: What was the previous collaboration like?

JB: Remy Bumppo, like many other theater companies, has had a lot of changes. In the past two or three years, the pandemic caused a lot of theaters to close. A lot of people did a lot of examinations of where they were in their careers. How did they want to try and make ends meet? This was a time when you were taking a break and reconsidering. Many theaters have had a lot of changes in who’s working in the theater, who the creative team is, and who’s providing the artistic direction. 

I had worked with the previous artistic director, Nick Sandys and we had a great collaboration together and worked on a number of projects, even outside of the theater. I also admire Marti Lyon’s work, the new artistic director. She brings a lot of great experience and a wealth of interesting creative relationships with other folks. She is a new person to work with me, and I was very excited by her energy and she really digs deep into the script, as most directors do.

She does an outstanding job of directing what to bring to the designers, what to bring to the cast, and what to bring to the audience and pulling all of those threads together. I loved her energy and her innovation and just a very fresh sort of point of view on how she approaches theater-making.


GF: How does the story of Sister Maria Celeste and Galileo connect to our contemporary world? 

JB: The relationship between Galileo and his daughter was first made known to the public in 1999 by Dava Sobe’s book called “Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love.” And I read the book when it first came out. She’s a brilliant writer and a really serious researcher. This book inspired our playwright Jessica Dickey. Her innovation was to combine the story of the relationship between Galileo and his daughter and a journey of a playwright, female playwright who goes to explore those letters and it has some autobiographical resonance with the playwright’s own experience.

The contemporary interest in that story is the comparison to the options that were available to Galileo’s daughter, who we learn is brilliant, passionately committed to her relationship with her father, and a very, very ardent worker and was particularly ardent as a writer, both a writer of letters, but also in corresponding with her father and on behalf of her father, but also she transcribed and copied many of his own ideas and writings, and so was his assistant, functionally.

Her life became very different from the life that’s represented by the writer in the play in that the recognition is that this playwright has so many greater freedoms and opportunities as a woman in today’s world, but she still has the challenge of creating her own freedom by taking control and using the power that she has.

One of the analogies that’s used between the two is there is an imagined meeting between Galileo’s daughter who lived in the 1600s and the contemporary playwright. In that exchange, Galileo’s daughter looks at this modern playwright and says, “You’re wearing pants! That’s brilliant!” Suddenly she realizes how liberating it would be simply to be able to not be stuck in the gender role of needing to wear a dress or a robe at all times and the freedom that would provide.


GF: How does projection design connect to this piece of history? And how projection helps to amplify this kind of narrative?

JB: The challenge for this particular storytelling was to be historically accurate in many of the locations; and at the same time be narratively accurate, meaning to have something of the mood and the character and the psychology of what’s happening emotionally in a given scene. When the main character talks about going to the Museo Galileo, that is slightly altered, but basically it is a photographic view of that museum in Florence, but modified and the proportions changed a little bit to fit our set.

When we are in the San Matteo Convent, where Maria was forced to become a nun, that is definitely imagery from convents. But it is more important in that case to be accurate to the emotional character of the scene rather than specifically.

So there’s a balance moving back and forth between making a historically or geographically accurate representation. At the same time, trying to find the emotional and psychological space where this scene is taking place.


GF: Theater Wit is really an intimate space to depict the intimacy between a daughter and a father. What would be the major difference when designing projections for theater and opera?

JB: Yes, I agree with you 100%. I love that piece. In that intimate space in theater Wit, where there is that proximity and physical intimacy between the audience and the performers. I think that works very well for this piece, much of which is extremely fast-paced. So a part of what I’m doing is sort of bringing the audience along for the ride. Now we’re here, now we’re there, now we’re moving very quickly through one place to another and trying to feel like we authentically occupy that space or those characters do. But other times we need to step back a little bit and just let those actors do what they do best and tell the story and share the intimacy that they have found in their characters with the audience. 

An opera house situates three to four thousand people. The importance of the projections is very, very different. The audience is very often quite distant from the performers. In opera, their craft is developing a kind of intimacy with the audience, but it’s mostly getting a huge voice that can communicate that part of the character for this enormous room for a very large audience. That’s physically distant. So the projections need to have scale and power and the ability to draw the audience into the story in a more emotional way, possibly a more abstract way. 

I actually encourage my friends who are going to see this piece in that space, that theater with to actually be back a little bit, because even if you’re in the back row there, you’re still closer to the performers than you would be if an opera singer was all the way downstage and you were in the front row. It’s just such a nice, intimate space that you never lose the performers in the theater. But in an opera house, the performer is going to be a tiny little speck a long way away. We need to create something of scale and power to draw the audience in and focus them on the story and the voice.


GF: Do you consider site specificity in your work?

JB: I’m happy that you mentioned that. That was actually where I started as an artist. When I was at SAIC, I was doing specific installations using media, typically using projectors. When I got started, I was using slide projectors and film projectors. And then, digital video sort of happened as I was practicing.

So I incorporated that into my work. I was very excited to be able to explore that. I started doing analog video and editing, etc. But yes, specificity is very important to me. And I think more scenic designers are addressing more and more those venues that a theater with, look very neutral, but in fact, they each have their kind of personality and quirks that need to be incorporated into the set.

That looks very kind of symmetrical but with just a little subtle asymmetry. But that is in part motivated by how to get the actors on and off. We’re working to make a crossover not visible to the audience. Where can they go to make a costume change? So all of that needs to be considered. And I consider that too, when I’m programming and seeing the images on the set for the first time, I move around in every seat in the house, basically to understand what someone sees from this point of view.

What do they see from that point of view? Every person that’s going to see this will have a different experience. Every person is important. I need to ensure that what they’re seeing makes sense or at least will help frame the story. So the story comes through to the audience from every seat. 


GF: What are some advantages or challenges you have encountered using projection over a traditional theatrical background?

JB: I also design scenery, but typically it’s scenery where the idea is that a lot of it will be projected. But there are things that the projections do very, very well. And there are things where I have more respect for people who are artistically developed to create beautiful work that doesn’t involve projection.

So more than once I’ve had people come to me and say, we need to project a really big, beautiful sky for this production and we’re doing it in this venue and we want you to do that. And I have, again, on more than one occasion said, you know what, in that venue is not a good place to park a projector.

And some people paint beautiful sky backdrops and the names of three that I would recommend. The producers are always shocked. I’m talking myself out of a job. But I think it’s important to respect that there are different qualities and characteristics of each of those disciplines. Scenic art painters, sculptors who do that work for creating work on the stage, or visual artists who are creating work for performance art.

They are building things out of either found objects or they’re fabricating something completely original. But that kind of sculpture and creation of an immersive environment is its art form and discipline that I have a lot of respect for. Sometimes projections are part of that. The times that projections do not work or when you simply don’t have the budget for a bright enough projector to create a compelling image.

I think you’d be better off building and painting some of this and let’s work on another project when the specificity of the site we’re working on and the budgets and all of those things, and then the timeline can all come together to make this a successful projection project.


GF: Have you made any production with multiple projections for a more immersive theatrical environment?

JB: I often will combine the scrims, and LCD monitors with some projected media, certainly multiple projections on multiple surfaces, combining imagery so that it may be projected on a scrim and an actor may appear behind that scrim. Or that’s when this stuff gets interesting when you can’t quite tell where the scenery ends and the projection begins and where the projection ends and the lighting begins and where the lighting ends and the scenery begins.

When all of that becomes blurred is where it becomes much more interesting to your specific point about multi-channel video and work like that, I’m just starting work now with a performance and media artist named Dick Weaver, who also teaches at the University of Illinois. But he does these performance works that are enormous in scale.

He’s conceiving a piece right now that will have two screens that together are 100 feet wide. And then there are two auxiliary screens on the edge of that. So this will be two very large projectors and then just large projectors, but multiple video sources for that. So sometimes we want all of that to be a unified image.

But parts of that piece will be inserting little images and text and realistic imagery, abstracted animations, etc. So building up different layers of media is definitely of interest and it kind of depends on what the work is.

What’s the nature of storytelling? How much narrative do you need and how much of it is more about letting imagery and performance and spoken word and sound just kind of wave over the audience and create a world and an impression without necessarily having to be specific about a story that starts at point A and ends at point B, right?

GF: How do we create a balance so that we are not competing with the narrative or acting or like other works of artists? 

JB: Usually the first time I start working with a new choreographer or performance artist or director, I start by saying, I think it’s my job to create something interesting, but not more interesting than what the performers are doing.

There are times when that is our job, and there are many times when you refer to how important it is to recognize just the practicality of the situation we work in more than once. I have and I often have advised students that it’s okay to have to do this. I’ve more than once been asked to produce a piece of media to cover a one-and-a-half-minute costume change or a two-and-a-half-minute scenic change. What can you do that’s going to distract us and keep the audience interested? There are times that we need to move to the foreground and then other times that we need to pull back.

I often, as a strategy when we’re changing from one scene to another, include motion video, and then when the scene begins, slow that down and then pause on a still, because we don’t want to have motion running continually through a scene. It’s important to pay attention to the words that the performer is saying so that we don’t lose what they are either saying or what their performance is.

It’s important to know when to be in the driver’s seat and when to be in the back seat. I often tell students that I like all the seats in the car. I like to be in the driver’s seat sometimes. I like to be in the passenger seat reading the road map and telling the other person where they should be going. Sometimes I like to be in the back seat and generally take a nap and wake up occasionally to say, “Oh, did you see this?” 

I think what a media designer should do in collaboration is to continually think about which seat is in. Is it time for you to drive? Is it time for you to sit in the back seat and just kind of ride along with someone else who’s in charge? It can change many times during a given performance work and may change from one piece to another.

GF: What advice would you give to a younger generation of new media arts? 

JB: One is continually looking forward, learn as many new tools as you can. Pay attention to the technology, and try to understand it. Don’t get lost in spending all your time dealing with technology. But the other one is to also look over your shoulder just as you are and look at what were the ideas in art that created innovation at an earlier time.

What is still fertile? What are the artistic ideas of, for instance, Cage and Cunningham that you can bring to your contemporary practice? It is that combination of looking forward and looking back at the same time to derive inspiration and understanding and focus on the ideas, but at the same time to become aware of the tools and the opportunities that are continually evolving and becoming available for you.

“Galileo’s Daughter” is the directorial debut of Marti Lyons, who’s also the new artistic director of Remy Bumppo Theatre. Photo by Jose Uribe

Linda Gillum (the writer) and Emily Bosco (the daughter) in one of the prominent scenes where they meet each other in the play. Photos by Jose Uribe

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How to be the Strongest

By Comics

A tall caped girl (P-Girl) stands next to a small chef (Small Chef). P-Girl flexes muscles while Small Chef is at the counter with a pot and spoon in front of him. P-Girl declares, "Strong!!!" Small Chef replies, "Don't go eating my nutrients."P-Girl says, "What? Then who are you making them for? You know I need those." Small Chef stirs a spoon bitterly. P-Girl says, "Spoons do not weigh much." Small Chef replies, "They weigh quite a lot, actually." P-Girl says, "Give it to me. Your spoon." Small Chef says, "No. I'm making nutrients." He lifts some of the nutrients out of the pot and says, "Taste test" before proceeding to taste his nutrients. Small Chef declares, "I'm filled with Stronger!" He flexes his new strength. Suddenly, P-Girl holds the Small Chef by his shirt and begins to put him inside of her mouth.

“How To Be the Strongest” by Cam Collins.


A tall caped girl (P-Girl) stands next to a small chef (Small Chef). P-Girl flexes muscles while Small Chef is at the counter with a pot and spoon in front of him. P-Girl declares, “Strong!!!” Small Chef replies, “Don’t go eating my nutrients.”P-Girl says, “What? Then who are you making them for? You know I need those.” Small Chef stirs a spoon bitterly. P-Girl says, “Spoons do not weigh much.”

Small Chef replies, “They weigh quite a lot, actually.” P-Girl says, “Give it to me. Your spoon.” Small Chef says, “No. I’m making nutrients.” He lifts some of the nutrients out of the pot and says, “Taste test” before proceeding to taste his nutrients.

Small Chef declares, “I’m filled with Stronger!” He flexes his new strength. Suddenly, P-Girl holds the Small Chef by his shirt and begins to put him inside of her mouth.

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Just the Weather

By Comics, Featured, Featured Comics

Panel 1: a woman walks toward a bridge, her figure small against a huge blizzard Panel 2-4:  she looks around and casts her eyes to the ground Panel 5: she waiting atop the bridge. “I should have known not to wait up for you” Panel 6-8: her footprints in the snow begin to fade as the blizzard blows. “I’m sure it’s just the weather” Panel 7: she walks, kicking snow. “You’d have to be pretty stupid to go out on a day like this anyway.” Panel 8-10: the storm fades her body as she walks away

“Just the Weather” by Ruby Carter.


Panel 1: a woman walks toward a bridge, her figure small against a huge blizzard

Panel 2-4:  she looks around and casts her eyes to the ground

Panel 5: she waiting atop the bridge. “I should have known not to wait up for you”

Panel 6-8: her footprints in the snow begin to fade as the blizzard blows. “I’m sure it’s just the weather”

Panel 7: she walks, kicking snow. “You’d have to be pretty stupid to go out on a day like this anyway.”

Panel 8-10: the storm fades her body as she walks away

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Starr Ramone #10

By Comics


Panel 1. The Starr Ramone Band is lined up at a table for a press conference. Bebe Davenport is bored as Karl Ritchie rocks back and forth in their chair. Dave Lyne and Starr Ramone sit plainly. A reporter asks a question from the crowd, asking, “Would the Starr Ramone Band ever consider opening for a hologram or AI of Sid Vicious or the Ramones?”
Panel 2. Bebe and Karl look over at Dave, who looks uncomfortable.
Panel 3. Starr speaks up, angrily. She says, “As someone who knew them, I am personally insulted by the continued exploitation after their death, and my spite has kept me alive over these long, long years…so no. We wouldn’t.”
Panel 4. The band walks off set. Karl has a hand on Dave’s shoulder. Starr walks ahead, her hand balled into a fist. Karl says, “Don’t mind that reporter. They can’t actually do that sort of thing…I think.” Starr replies, “If I see a Sid AI I’m personally unplugging the computer responsible.”

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