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K-State Today

October 4, 2018

K-State dance professor choreographs and directs in Toronto

Submitted by School of Music, Theatre, and Dance

Kate Digby, assistant professor of dance in the College of Arts and Sciences, heads to Toronto to direct and choreograph "The Red Horse Is Leaving," a one-act play by Erika Batdorf that will premiere in Toronto's Rendezvous With Madness Festival Oct. 13-20.

After the Toronto opening, the team will travel to New York City for three performances, and later to Santa Barbara, California and beyond.

"The Red Horse is Leaving" is one of a series of works created and produced by an interdisciplinary team of artists and scientists including Digby that integrates biosensing technology into performance and installation work for the purpose of enhancing human connection. A Faculty Enhancement Program award from the College of Arts and Sciences supported Digby’s early participation as director and choreographer of the production in the context of ongoing research in Performance, Art and Cyber-Interoceptive Systems, and the play has now received production and touring funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Toronto Arts Council.

Inspired by the journals of Thaya Whitten, a Nova Scotian painter, performance artist and musician, "The Red Horse Is Leaving" travels through the dangerous territory of creative inspiration, sacrifice and clinical madness in the pursuit of artistic excellence and beauty. In this production, biosensors attached to Thaya's body track her heart rate and breathing in real time and these signals are translated into lighting on a wearable technology costume worn by the other actor, a "Gargoyle" who alternately haunts and supports Thaya as she struggles to paint her visions.

Toronto's NOW Magazine reviewed the work-in-progress showing at the SummerWorks Performance Festival in August and wrote:

"[Batdorf]'s interpretation of Whitten is that of a brilliant, charismatic speaker, a woman suffering from profound mental instability, and a relentlessly driven artist. That drive is physically made manifest on stage by the Gargoyle (a lithe Zoe Sweet), who stalks the studio's fringes when Whitten is coherent, knocks over art supplies when confronted by the painter, and wraps herself around the artist when Whitten's mood is erratic and unfocused.

Speaking of mood, there's some impressive technology on display here, as the Gargoyle wears a back piece and tail that changes colour and flashes based in part on biometric information received from sensors concealed in Batdorf's costume. So when Whitten is agitated, or calm, the colours and flashes of the Gargoyle's 'aura' change."

The School of Music, Theatre, and Dance is part of the College of Arts and Sciences. The school annually gives more than $500,000 in undergraduate scholarships and graduate scholarships and assistantships. To learn more about the School of Music Theatre, and Dance at K-State, visit its website.