Dr.Dodgy's Intergalactic Auto-Mechanical Circus

Dr.Dodgy’s Intergalactic-Auto Mechanical Circus blends Big-top tricks with 21st century tech. It's a family-friendly, one-man, variety show recounting the adventures of Dr.Dodgy and his search for the meaning of life. The performance transforms the theater space, through Augmented Reality(AR), adding interactable elements, and transports the audience through story, spectacle, and participation. The show consists of six vignettes: three skill acts (juggling, contact juggling, and 8-rings) and three volunteer bits (magic, spinning plates, and human slackline/tightrope). Each act contains an aspect of AR interactivity, environment, or character. Originally created as an experiment for the 2019 Honolulu Fringe festival the show is being reworked as a thesis for a Masters in Art and Technology from the University of Oklahoma with the goal of touring nationally and internationally.
Using a free cross-platform (IOS/Android) application downloaded on personal hand-held devices before the show, audience members can interact with AR elements collectively and individually, helping immerse them in Dr.Dodgy's tale. Triggered using a web application by the performer and anchored to the stage via an image target (large backdrop), AR Asteroids, robots, alien creatures, and environmental elements hover in and around the audience, anchoring the impossible in reality.
Dr.Dodgy begins his tale after his ship flies over the audience, crash-landing behind the backdrop used as an AR target. After his introduction, he informs the audience of his discovery of quantonium, a substance that allows his ship to traverse time and space. The stage set, he again takes off into the stars, this time audience in tow. His first stop, a planet streaked with bioluminescent clouds, lightning, and floating whale-like creatures, he finds life, but no meaning. Here, the story takes a turn for the worse when through a miscalculation he lands in an asteroid field. Through deft and daring, he weaves his way through icy boulders speckled with glowing minerals, collecting samples on his way to safety. The danger passed, he finds himself lost in the darkest corner of the universe, but a good scientist always looks towards discovery. And discover he does: an ancient alien planet, long abandoned, but well-documented by the artificial intelligence they left behind. With this new companion he plots his way home, stopping on a watery planet of sentient musical bubbles - again, life, but no meaning. Frustrated but not undone, he heads for home, only to face near-death once more at the edge of a black hole. With the audience's help, he recounts the harrowing event and his return to our beloved blue dot, only to find that what he went searching for - the meaning of life - was here all along.
The application is being built using the Unity3D game engine. New music was written, recorded, and arranged in Ableton Live, excluding two songs: the intro, written by William Bellew and used with permission, and Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, which is in the public domain and was rearranged and re-recorded for this performance.
Designed for a quick transition the show uses a single 8ft X 8ft free standing backdrop and trunk as set pieces. The rest of the stage set is created through Augmented Reality. Minimum physical dimensions needed for the performances are a stage/performance space 20ft X 10ft with a ceiling height of 12ft or more for juggling. Flat lighting is best to ensure an optimal AR experience, with a minimal sound system to run audio from a laptop and an outlet nearby. To ensure the performer can control the audience’s experience, either a dedicated high-speed wifi for the audience or sufficient mobile data signal in the performance space is required.
The show uses the immersive power of app-based AR to enhance stage performance and connect with the audience individually and collectively. In doing this it seeks to subvert conventions of art and theater that exclude recording devices by not only explicitly inviting them into the space but requiring them to experience the performance to its fullest. It also seeks to eschew the conception that hand held devices in a public space are isolating by utilizing audience participation through their device, changing a phone from a solo experience to a communal one in a social setting. The goal is to bring people together in a state of joy using art and technology by embracing the escapism of entertainment and irreverence of Dada in an artistic space through spectacle and interactivity.

  • Andrew R Towl
  • Andrew R Towl
  • Andrew R Towl
  • Andrew R Towl
    Key Cast
  • Andrew R Towl
    Lead Artists
  • Andy Cochrane
    Key Collaborators
  • Project Type:
    Student, Performance, Augmented Reality, Other
  • Genres:
    SteamPunk, ScienceFiction, Circus
  • Minimum Runtime:
    50 minutes
  • Maximum Runtime:
    60 minutes
  • Average Runtime:
    55 minutes
  • Variable Runtime Details:
    Certain portions of the performance rely upon audience participation. Depending on interactions with volunteers and minor improvisations the shows running time can fluctuate slightly.
  • Completion Date:
    July 30, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    2,500 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - University of Oaklahoma
  • AT&T and Magic leaps Mixed Reality Hackathon
    San Francisco
    United States
    November 13, 2018
    2nd Place
  • Honolulu Fringe Festival 2019
    United States
    January 10, 2019
Director Biography - Andrew R Towl

Andrew Tow al is juggler turned game developer, avid Augmented Reality enthusiast, musician and artist. Raised in the backwoods of Vermont he has been fortunate to call the northwestern U.S. and the Hawaiian islands his home and is now based in southern California. With a degree in fine arts and a background in visual communication and performance, he is constantly looking to push the bounds of Mixed Reality. Drawing on 15 years as a freelance illustrator he moved into game development in early 2016 and Augmented and Virtual Reality soon after. He is currently reworking his solo show Dr.Dodgy’s Intergalactic Auto-Mechanical Circus for his Masters in Art and Technology from the University of Oklahoma, with a focus on Augmented Reality, performance, entertainment and interactivity.

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Director Statement

Juggling is the art of catching something before it hits the ground. In Augmented Reality a thrown object never has to come down. With a background in circus performance, digital illustration, and game design my current work stems from a career of battling gravity and pushing pixels. With the use of Augmented Reality I seek to explore the space between spectacle and interactivity, and art and entertainment, by creating communal, immersive experiences within the framework of 21st century high-tech vaudeville and street theater.