This innovative duo enriches local theater and turns nightlife spots into sensory playgrounds
We’re inside the Loman household — that stifling box of middle-class dreams gone sour in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. And then we’re not. What happened? The physical set inside Art Square Theatre never budges, but with technology and sound cues delicately segueing projected images of patterned wallpaper, then silhouetted tree branches upon it, we move in and out of the home without a single awkward, lights-out transition.
The men behind the projector and other tech are Benton Cordor and Brett Bolton. The late-April opening of the revamped Death of a Salesman wasn’t just a statement-making season finale by Cockroach Theatre. It was also the official introduction of Space Cadets AV, Cordor and Bolton’s new creative audio/visual service partnership that aims to create multi-sensory installations. Their images sense, feed off and contribute to the energy in their host room — imagine a screensaver with a mind of its own, or a wall portal to paranormal reverie.
Death of a Salesman director Troy Heard dreamt of incorporating the technology into his then-gestating production. So Cockroach Artistic Director Erik Amblad summoned his friend Bolton, who brought along Cordor, to meet Heard. “From that time on, we were like third graders bringing their toys to the playground — the possibilities were limitless,” says Heard, whose conceptual images provided a springboard for the duo to enliven a spare physical set. “The script’s final scene calls for a graveside funeral. With just a little projection magic and well-designed sound, they created a cold, wet day that elevated the emotional impact through the roof. ... Our next collaboration can’t come soon enough.”
He’ll have to join the queue. Though Space Cadets AV is a newer venture, Bolton and Cordor have significant network of creative pals and corporate clients have them busy working on projects, most of which they can’t reveal just yet. One they can share involves local filmmakers Jerry and Mike Thompson’s next feature-length movie, Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West, for which they are sound designers. And after a successful party installation at Ghostbar, they’re eagerly pitching ideas to various nightclubs, ideal settings for the duo to VJ (imagine Skrillex and David Fincher ruling over the same booth, synchronizing tunes and video clips in real time) or act as ADD-addled interior decorators transmitting various “patch” screens that mutate along with key shifts in the dance anthems and the motion of the revelers.
If projection-mapping sounds complicated, it is. At downtown bar Velveteen Rabbit, it takes four different apps and programs to bring Space Cadets’ digital tapestries to life. While Bolton, a business major, taught himself via online forums — “There’s a great community online who are happy to share what they’ve figured out, and let everyone else take that knowledge and use it for whatever, maybe expand upon it,” says Cordor, learning the art form himself — it still requires a considerable technical pedigree to suss it all out. The app mastery. The computer coding. The trial-and-error mixing and matching of programs and hardware.
But when Cordor and Bolton sit back at Velveteen Rabbit and watch patrons “play” with the duo’s wall wonderland, you can see the payoff of all that brain strain — and the promise of ingenuity to come. “It’s all my favorite things rolled into one, with my best friend,” says Bolton. “So, it’s nice.”