Travel back in time with HFC’s 3-D ‘Dinosaurus!’

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Photo by George Popovich Mike Cochran (left) of Detroit and Gerry Dzuiblinski of Southfield play oil explorers who discover a lost colony of dinosaurs in the 3-D virtual reality production of “Dinosaurus!” The show runs Nov. 1 to 22 at Henry Ford College in Dearborn. For more information, call 313-845-6478 or go to theatre.hfcc.edu/productions/2014/dinosaurus.

Photo by George Popovich
Mike Cochran (left) of Detroit and Gerry Dzuiblinski of Southfield play oil explorers who discover a lost colony of dinosaurs in the 3-D virtual reality production of “Dinosaurus!” The show runs Nov. 1 to 22 at Henry Ford College in Dearborn. For more information, call 313-845-6478 or go to theatre.hfcc.edu/productions/2014/dinosaurus.

“Dinosaurus!” will match human actors onstage with 3-D virtual reality dinosaurs in November in the MacKenzie Fine Arts Center on the Henry Ford College main campus, 5101 Evergreen in Dearborn.

The show, by Edward Mast and Lenore Besinger, was adapted for the digital stage by HFC film and drama instructor George Popovich, who also directs the production.

The performance, a leap forward in the evolution of the school’s Virtual Theatricality Lab, holds public performances weekends Nov. 1 to 23, with 7 p.m. Friday shows, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday shows and 2 p.m. Sunday shows.

Seating is limited to 80 per show. Tickets are $8, with a $3 discount for children 12 and under.

Daytime performances are available for elementary schools. Call 313-845-6478 or go to theatre.hfcc.edu/productions/2014/dinosaurus.

Humor-filled “Dinosaurus!” is a visual delight, and provides lessons on diversity and understanding others.

“Dinosaurus!” is presented in a immersive environment, with the audience seated onstage, surrounded by a physical set built and painted to match the virtual set, which is projected onto a 20-foot-by-36 foot screen.

Audience members wear 3-D glasses, which will allow them to experience dinosaurs that appear to be up to 20 feet high and as close as 6 feet away.

The technical crew has other surprises in store, and they recommend audience members duck when the dinosaurs sneeze.

The actors performing with the 3-D dinosaurs are Gerry Dzuiblinski of Southfield and Mike Cochran of Detroit. Others in the ensemble include Diana Galante of Canton Township, Carolyn Cajas of Dearborn and Joanna Graham of Westland.

Human actors use motion capture technology to create the movements of the virtual dinosaurs in the show.

“What’s great about motion capture (is) you can be whoever you want,” Popovich said. “You know, if you are ugly, you can be beautiful. If you are beautiful, you can see what it is like to be ugly, and just have all sorts of crazy fun.”

Popovich said people are the primary movers in motion capture.

He said the work involved in building a show with motion capture is very time intensive, and requires team members who understand the computer science behind motion capture and the software.

“This is the most frustrating, nightmarish kind of stuff you’d ever want to do,” Popovich said. “It is also very rewarding. But just the knowledge — if I didn’t have a guy named Alan Contino here — he’s my engineer — I don’t know all this stuff. We would not be talking.

“You gotta’ have somebody – he is crazy – you know, he went in there and he mastered all that software – we have an animator, but Alan’s compositing them, he is creating the 3-D, he is layering the sound in there. There is all this stuff going on.”

Working with Contino of Dearborn, the chief engineer, is Christopher Dozier, of Detroit, who created the digital scenic design and animation, and Anthony Lai of Dearborn, who created the musical score and served as sound designer.

Contino said HFC theater students experience awe and amazement when they begin to work with virtual reality.

“It’s big wide eyes, jaw-dropping, and they realize how similar it is to doing production for film and television,” Contino said. “Even though we are in a live stage production, it’s all become standard now. You cannot really see anything on TV, or film or theatre that does not have all of the 3-D effects, video, projection effects, etc.

Dzuiblinski said a benefit of working with virtual characters is they never miss a cue.

“You have to coordinate your performance to their timing,” Dzuiblinski said. “And once you get used to that, it’s actually in some senses easier because they are always exactly the same.

“But what it demands of you is a little more precision as a performer, because you have to be in the right spot at the right time.”

Dzuiblinski said some timing aspects are more critical than other elements.

“You have to have your lines at the right times, especially when you are talking in a kind of dialogue with the pre-recorded characters,” he said.

Because children are less inhibited, the 3-D elements of the production fill them with awe, Dzuiblinski said.

“They will get engaged, and the willing suspension of disbelief comes easier for children because they exist in a fantasy play world part of their lives, and so they get absorbed,” Dzuiblinski said. “That is one of the reasons why we did the immersive environment — not only the screen, not only the actors, but also things all around them — are part of the scenic environment.”

He said he has fun interacting with the animated characters, which traditionally used puppets.

“That’s been a theatrical form for thousands of years,” he said, “But now we have this animated puppet, who is very precise, and whose timing is exactly the same all the time. And so I can rely on that in my performance and then I try to hone my performance to match what the animated characters are doing.”

Cochran said the show is fun-filled family entertainment, with exposure to the history of dinosaurs that is also entertaining.

He said acting in a 3-D production is an interesting experience, and different from what he has done in recent years.

“This 3-D experience really does motivate me to consider this as a future opportunity,” Cochran said.

‘MOTOWN THE MUSICAL’ AT THE FISHER
“Motown the Musical” returns to its roots in the Motor City Oct. 21 to Nov. 16 at the Fisher Theater.

“Motown” is the story of Berry Gordy, who launched the music careers of music superstars like Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye, and how he changed the soundtrack of America in the process.

The musical tells the tale behind the hits. It also chronicles how Motown music shaped our society, removed barriers, and made the country move to the same beat.

For tickets and more information, go to BroadwayinDetroit.com and MotownTheMusical.com.

EFHS PRESENTS ‘THE CANTERVILLE GHOST’ WITH A HAUNTED THEATER EXPERIENCE
Edsel Ford High School’s performing arts department presents a Halloween-themed play and a haunted theater experience Wednesday through Friday in the school auditorium.

“The Canterville Ghost,” based on the Oscar Wilde story, begins at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 to 24 at EFHS, 20601 Rotunda in Dearborn.

Following the performance, the venue becomes a haunted theater, which the thespians promote as a “horrifying place of blood-curdling sights and sounds to thrill and chill all who dare tread its boards.”

Tickets are $8 in advance for adults and $6 for students and seniors, or $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors at the door. Haunted theater admission is included. Admission to just the haunted theater is $5 at the door. To get group discounts for 15 or more, contact Lisa Nelson at 313-791-8580 or lisa.ozzien@gmail.com with “Ghost” in the subject line.

“The Canterville Ghost” tells of Sir Simon de Canterville, who haunts his ancestral home for centuries after starving to death while chained in his own home for the crime of murdering his wife. After 300 years of haunting, the current Lord Canterville sells his ancestral home to the only bidder, an American determined to stay.

The cast includes Michael Nelson as the ghost of Sir Simon de Canterville, Matt Stover as Oscar Wilde, Sarah Remily as Virginia Otis, Spencer Venis at Hiram Otis, and Teria Berry as Lucretia Otis.

Also in the cast are Garrett Hermen, Jacob Gilman, Ryan Shameri, Rebecca Voorheis and Max Rogula.

MOTOR CITY PLAYERS PRESENT ‘SLEEPY HOLLOW’
“Sleepy Hollow,” a family-friendly musical for ages 8 and up, opens Friday at the Motor City Theatre, 27555 Grantland in Livonia.

Show times are 8 p.m. Oct. 24, 25 and Nov. 1; 2 p.m. Oct. 26 and Nov. 2; and 10 p.m. Oct. 31. Halloween attendees wearing costumes will receive a free treat.

Tickets are $12, with a $2 discount for seniors and students. The Oct. 31 performance will have limited $15 cabaret seating.

For more information, call 586-894-8628 or contact Nancy Florkowski at nancy@mcyt.org.