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TED2009

Natasha Tsakos: A multimedia theatrical adventure

Filmed:

Natasha Tsakos presents part of her one-woman, multimedia show, "Upwake." As the character Zero, she blends dream and reality with an inventive virtual world projected around her in 3D animation and electric sound.

- Artist
The president and founder of NTiD inc., Natasha Tsakos brings a creative, innovative vision, and the art of orchestrating and synchronizing various disciplines, to the execution of high-leveled productions. Full bio

I love theater.
00:18
I love the idea that you can transform, become somebody else
00:21
and look at life with a completely new perspective.
00:24
I love the idea that people will sit in one room for a couple of hours and listen.
00:27
The idea that in that room at that moment,
00:35
everyone, regardless of their age, their gender, their race, their color, their religion,
00:37
comes together.
00:44
At that moment, we transcend space and time together.
00:46
Theater awakens our senses and opens the door to our imagination.
00:50
And our ability to imagine is what makes us explorers.
00:55
Our ability to imagine makes us inventors and creators and unique.
00:58
I was commissioned in 2003 to create an original show,
01:04
and began developing "Upwake."
01:09
"Upwake" tells the story of Zero,
01:12
a modern-day business man, going to work with his life in a suitcase,
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stuck between dream and reality and not able to decipher the two.
01:18
I wanted "Upwake" to have the same audiovisual qualities as a movie would.
01:23
And I wanted to let my imagination run wild.
01:27
So I began drawing the story that was moving in my head.
01:30
If Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of "The Little Prince," were here,
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he would have drawn three holes inside that box
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and told you your sheep was inside.
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Because, if you look closely enough, things will begin to appear.
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This is not a box; these are the renderings of my imagination
01:50
from head to paper to screen to life.
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In "Upwake" buildings wear suits, Zero tap dances on a giant keyboard,
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clones himself with a scanner, tames and whips the computer mice,
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sails away into dreamscape from a single piece of paper and launches into space.
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I wanted to create environments that moved and morphed like an illusionist.
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Go from one world to another in a second.
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I wanted to have humor, beauty, simplicity and complexity
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and use metaphors to suggest ideas.
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At the beginning of the show, for example, Zero deejays dream and reality.
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Technology is an instrument that allowed me to manifest my visions
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in high definition, live, on stage.
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So today, I would like to talk to you about the relationship
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between theater and technology.
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Let's start with technology.
02:45
(Fuse blowing)
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All right. Let's start with theater.
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(Laughter)
02:55
(Buzzing)
03:19
(Click, click, bang)
03:29
(Laughter)
03:58
(Applause)
05:50
Thank you.
05:56
"Upwake" lasts 52 minutes and 54 seconds.
05:58
I project 3D animation on all the four surfaces of the stage
06:02
which I interact with.
06:06
The use of animation and projection was a process of discovery.
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I didn't use it as a special effect, but as a partner on stage.
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There are no special effects in "Upwake," no artifice.
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It's as lavish and intricate as it is simple and minimal.
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Three hundred and forty-four frames, four and a half years and commissions later,
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what started as a one person show became a collaborative work
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of nineteen most talented artists.
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And here are some excerpts.
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(Applause)
09:22
Thank you.
09:27
So this is, relatively, a new show that we're now beginning to tour.
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And in Austin, Texas,
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I was asked to give small demonstrations in schools during the afternoon.
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When I arrived at one of the schools, I certainly did not expect this:
09:37
Six hundred kids, packed in a gymnasium, waiting.
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I was a little nervous performing without animation, costume -- really -- and make-up.
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But the teachers came to me afterward and told me
09:50
they hadn't seen the kids that attentive.
09:53
And I think the reason why is that I was able to use their language and their reality
09:55
in order to transport them into another.
09:59
Something happened along the way.
10:03
Zero became a person and not just a character in a play.
10:05
Zero does not speak, is neither man nor woman.
10:08
Zero is Zero, a little hero of the 21st Century,
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and Zero can touch so many more people than I possibly could.
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It's as much about bringing new disciplines inside this box
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as it is about taking theater out of its box.
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As a street performer, I have learned that everybody wants to connect.
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And that usually, if you're a bit extraordinary, if you're not exactly of human appearance,
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then people will feel inclined to participate and to feel out loud.
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It's as though you made something resonate within them.
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It's as though the mystery of the person they're interacting with and connecting
10:45
allows them to be themselves just a bit more.
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Because through your mask, they let theirs go.
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Being human is an art form.
10:55
I know theater can improve the quality of people's lives,
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and I know theater can heal.
11:00
I've worked as a doctor clown in a hospital for two years.
11:02
I have seen sick kids and sad parents and doctors
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be lifted and transported in moments of pure joy.
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I know theater unites us.
11:11
Zero wants to engage the generation of today and tomorrow,
11:14
tell various stories through different mediums.
11:18
Comic books. Quantum physics video games.
11:22
And Zero wants to go to the moon.
11:25
In 2007, Zero launched a green campaign,
11:27
suggesting his friends and fans to turn off their electricity
11:29
every Sunday from 7:53 to 8:00 p.m.
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The idea is simple, basic. It's not original,
11:36
but it's important, and it's important to participate.
11:40
There is a revolution.
12:30
It's a human and technological revolution.
12:33
It's motion and emotion.
12:36
It's information.
12:38
It's visual. It's musical. It's sensorial.
12:40
It's conceptual. It's universal. It's beyond words and numbers.
12:43
It's happening.
12:46
The natural progression of science and art
12:48
finding each other to better touch and define the human experience.
12:50
There is a revolution in the way that we think,
12:55
in the way that we share, and the way that we express our stories,
12:57
our evolution.
13:02
This is a time of communication, connection and creative collaboration.
13:05
Charlie Chaplin innovated motion pictures
13:11
and told stories through music, silence, humor and poetry.
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He was social, and his character, The Tramp, spoke to millions.
13:23
He gave entertainment, pleasure and relief to so many human beings
13:28
when they needed it the most.
13:34
We are not here to question the possible; we are here to challenge the impossible.
13:37
In the science of today, we become artists.
13:43
In the art of today, we become scientists.
13:46
We design our world. We invent possibilities.
13:50
We teach, touch and move.
13:54
It is now that we can use the diversity of our talents
13:59
to create intelligent, meaningful and extraordinary work. It's now.
14:02
(Ringing)
14:09
Thank you.
14:12
(Applause)
14:14

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About the Speaker:

Natasha Tsakos - Artist
The president and founder of NTiD inc., Natasha Tsakos brings a creative, innovative vision, and the art of orchestrating and synchronizing various disciplines, to the execution of high-leveled productions.

Why you should listen
Natasha Tsakos is a conceptual director, show creator, and performer who works in a brave new form of theater, where sound, computer-generated images and the performer move in sync to create a dreamlike yet sharply real stage environment. Within this space of total possibility, the Geneva-native muses on the deepest questions of the human soul.

A Swiss-born artist living in the US, Tsakos's works include the cross-disciplinary spectacle ZO, with a cast of 355 young performers; Up Wake, a live 3D animated show about a clown named Zero; OMEN, which covers five billion years of history in twenty minutes; and many, many more.
More profile about the speaker
Natasha Tsakos | Speaker | TED.com