UMD welcomes a new class that combines performance and coding

By Ally Tobler

Calling all creatives and coders: the School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) will offer a new class for the fall 2018 semester, Coding for Live Performance (THET328V).

The course will teach students how to use computer science to code lighting sequences that interact with actors on a stage as they move. The class will be open to all students even if they are not enrolled in TDPS, and there are no prerequisites.

Lecturer and graduate assistant Dylan Uremovich, the brainchild of this course, explained visually what his class would focus on at a discussion on March 28. Within a tape-defined box, Uremovich danced to reveal ripples of light that undulated away from him — the product of coding in a program called Processing, found within Java.

Uremovich, who is a lighting designer, taught himself to code through YouTube tutorials — and had the opportunity to implement this new knowledge while working on a dance project.

“Coding has always been at the periphery of project design because it can be used to make fun visuals,” he said.

Students who enroll in the class will also get the chance to incorporate new coding knowledge into three projects of their own, through activities involving video manipulation and physics engines.

According to Uremovich, the projects are “pretty open-ended,” but students will have to submit a proposal first to get them approved.

Uremovich encouraged computer science majors to enroll in his class as well.

The description piqued the interest of sophomore computer science major Camille Stacho, who said although the coding itself seems fairly simple for someone in her degree of study, “the projects would make up for that.”

“It might not be as technically challenging as it is creatively challenging,” Stacho said. “In traditional coding classes you’re not pushed to create different solutions, just the ones that works the fastest. But being in a class where you’re pushed to create stuff like this….challenges a different part of your brain.”

This class is materializing at a time when the intertwining of art and technology is becoming more prevalent. For example, Washington, D.C.’s ARTECHOUSE, which opened in June, attracts visitors with its innovative art space featuring sensory pieces created with the influence of technology.

“I think the technology is just getting to a place where it’s reasonable for people who aren’t on Broadway or have millions of dollars to play with,” Uremovich said. “But it’s a really exciting time. Projection design is still kind of a new art form. And people get really excited by the idea of interactivity.”

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