Natasha Tsakos
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I love theater. I love the idea that you can transform, become somebody else and look at life with a completely new perspective. I love the idea that people will sit in one room for a couple of hours and listen. The idea that in that room at that moment, everyone, regardless of their age, their gender, their race, their color, their religion, comes together. At that moment, we transcend space and time together. Theater awakens our senses and opens the door to our imagination. And our ability to imagine is what makes us explorers. Our ability to imagine makes us inventors and creators and unique. I was commissioned in 2003 to create an original show, and began developing "Upwake." "Upwake" tells the story of Zero, a modern-day business man, going to work with his life in a suitcase, stuck between dream and reality and not able to decipher the two. I wanted "Upwake" to have the same audiovisual qualities as a movie would. And I wanted to let my imagination run wild. So I began drawing the story that was moving in my head.

If Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of "The Little Prince," were here, he would have drawn three holes inside that box and told you your sheep was inside. Because, if you look closely enough, things will begin to appear. This is not a box; these are the renderings of my imagination from head to paper to screen to life. In "Upwake" buildings wear suits, Zero tap dances on a giant keyboard, clones himself with a scanner, tames and whips the computer mice, sails away into dreamscape from a single piece of paper and launches into space. I wanted to create environments that moved and morphed like an illusionist. Go from one world to another in a second. I wanted to have humor, beauty, simplicity and complexity and use metaphors to suggest ideas. At the beginning of the show, for example, Zero deejays dream and reality. Technology is an instrument that allowed me to manifest my visions in high definition, live, on stage.

So today, I would like to talk to you about the relationship between theater and technology. Let's start with technology. (Fuse blowing) All right. Let's start with theater. (Laughter) (Buzzing) (Click, click, bang) (Laughter) (Applause) Thank you.

"Upwake" lasts 52 minutes and 54 seconds. I project 3D animation on all the four surfaces of the stage which I interact with. The use of animation and projection was a process of discovery. I didn't use it as a special effect, but as a partner on stage. There are no special effects in "Upwake," no artifice. It's as lavish and intricate as it is simple and minimal. Three hundred and forty-four frames, four and a half years and commissions later, what started as a one person show became a collaborative work of nineteen most talented artists. And here are some excerpts. (Applause) Thank you.

So this is, relatively, a new show that we're now beginning to tour. And in Austin, Texas, I was asked to give small demonstrations in schools during the afternoon. When I arrived at one of the schools, I certainly did not expect this: Six hundred kids, packed in a gymnasium, waiting. I was a little nervous performing without animation, costume — really — and make-up. But the teachers came to me afterward and told me they hadn't seen the kids that attentive. And I think the reason why is that I was able to use their language and their reality in order to transport them into another. Something happened along the way. Zero became a person and not just a character in a play. Zero does not speak, is neither man nor woman. Zero is Zero, a little hero of the 21st Century, and Zero can touch so many more people than I possibly could.

It's as much about bringing new disciplines inside this box as it is about taking theater out of its box. As a street performer, I have learned that everybody wants to connect. And that usually, if you're a bit extraordinary, if you're not exactly of human appearance, then people will feel inclined to participate and to feel out loud. It's as though you made something resonate within them. It's as though the mystery of the person they're interacting with and connecting allows them to be themselves just a bit more. Because through your mask, they let theirs go.

Being human is an art form. I know theater can improve the quality of people's lives, and I know theater can heal. I've worked as a doctor clown in a hospital for two years. I have seen sick kids and sad parents and doctors be lifted and transported in moments of pure joy. I know theater unites us. Zero wants to engage the generation of today and tomorrow, tell various stories through different mediums.

Comic books. Quantum physics video games. And Zero wants to go to the moon. In 2007, Zero launched a green campaign, suggesting his friends and fans to turn off their electricity every Sunday from 7:53 to 8:00 p.m. The idea is simple, basic. It's not original, but it's important, and it's important to participate.

There is a revolution. It's a human and technological revolution. It's motion and emotion. It's information. It's visual. It's musical. It's sensorial. It's conceptual. It's universal. It's beyond words and numbers. It's happening. The natural progression of science and art finding each other to better touch and define the human experience. There is a revolution in the way that we think, in the way that we share, and the way that we express our stories, our evolution. This is a time of communication, connection and creative collaboration. Charlie Chaplin innovated motion pictures and told stories through music, silence, humor and poetry. He was social, and his character, The Tramp, spoke to millions. He gave entertainment, pleasure and relief to so many human beings when they needed it the most.

We are not here to question the possible; we are here to challenge the impossible. In the science of today, we become artists. In the art of today, we become scientists. We design our world. We invent possibilities. We teach, touch and move. It is now that we can use the diversity of our talents to create intelligent, meaningful and extraordinary work. It's now. (Ringing) Thank you. (Applause)