Project details: GuestWriter is a computer program conceived and created by Kansas City-based researcher Colin Bright Eagle O’Keefe to generate sitcom scripts. After 300+ hours of programming, GuestWriter is ready to get out there and write! To fully test the capabilities and possibilities of his program, O’Keefe is teaming up with Kansas City performers Charlie Mylie and Lindsey Griffith to present GuestWriter’s Revenge, a special series of performances utilizing GuestWriter to generate scripts for performances on the fly. The program creates the unique opportunity to see a script being performed almost simultaneously with its creation. The computer does not save the scripts, making each performance ephemeral and truly one-time-only.
GuestWriter is a complex program that learns how to tell stories by digesting a large number of samples of dialog-driven narratives. From this text it learns language, similar to the way that people learn to speak from digesting pop culture. The text is initially manually annotated, so the program can also learn the principles of storytelling. For instance, by digesting a lot of sitcom scripts, GuestWriter can learn the formulas of sitcom comedy. Or by inputting crime dramas, O’Keefe can teach GuestWriter what combination of dramatic elements make a mystery a mystery.
A lot of GuestWriter’s importance to the artists derives from this ability to create “mash-ups” of the pop culture nuggets that have influenced them. They see the program as a mirror (albeit mechanical) of the artistic process of curating and distilling an individual or group’s interests and influences to generate new work. Here, a computer program replaces artistic sensibilities, but inputting Star Trek: A Next Generation and Pee Wee’s Playhouse together with My So-Called Life and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, will produce a result that is nonetheless familiar, nostalgic, and very much human.
Then Mylie and Griffith will perform the script with puppets! Using puppets expands what it is possible to perform and scales down the production to a manageable level. A computer in a director’s chair will spew out the script, so the audience will be in on the joke as puppets fly around the tricked-out portable puppet booth, enacting the script as it appears on the screen! The team will put on four of these shows at four different locations: Reading Reptile, Hoop Dog Studios, Garrison Community Center, and Kaw Point Park. Tickets will be free or low-cost, and advertised by flyers, postcards, and a video commercial. These venues have disparate audiences that range drastically in age, class and education, and are not primarily performance venues. The team hopes to be a surprise at them all.
Charlie Mylie* is an artist, illustrator, gardener, teacher, learner, and clown. He likes to think that we wear many shoes rather than many hats because it’s shoes that keep us moving and dancing! He danced out of the Kansas City Art Institute (2009, Interdisciplinary Arts) and down the Mississippi River in a canoe. You may see him drawing around town as Pop-Up Charlie, offering visitors ink-and-watercolor drawings of whatever they’d like, on the spot. He is a founding member of Rad School, an experimental learning program and community of committed life-long learners in Kansas City.
Lindsey Griffith is a Kansas City-based performer, writer, and fabricator. She is interested in building her creative community and is always exploring possibilities through community events, group projects, and lifestyle choices. Lindsey studied creative writing at Rockhurst University with a focus on playwriting, and has produced many of her plays herself with the help of her community. She makes props, sews costumes, and performs as Wet Clown on the traveling faux public-access kids show Whoop Dee Doo. She currently works as a freelance fabricator and is organizing the Spring Session of KC Free Skool.
Colin Bright Eagle O’Keefe is a researcher and programmer interested in computational creativity, the story-timeline distinction, and knowledge modeling. His work revolves around an ongoing investigation of how artificiality molds personal and cultural introspectives, questions of identity, and ideas about humanity’s niche in the world. He graduated from University of Nebraska, Lincoln in 2007 with a B.S. in Mathematics.
A common friend of the trio has a saying: “we are all working on the same project”. Over the past few years this has been true of Charlie, Lindsey and Colin even if, at times, they have all been in different States. Whether hosting bizarre food parties, creating spontaneous performances, or inventing new games, they have been focused on creating temporary, playful communities around novel experiences. Making things for other people has become a way for them to communicate – they speak in gifts. This project will be the first time Charlie, Lindsey and Colin have all formally worked together, bringing all of their strengths into one project. Guest Writer’s Revenge is a dream collaboration for all three. Colin is an innovative researcher and programmer who needs help seeing his program realized as a live performance. Lindsey and Charlie are the perfect fit. They have spent the past two years generating improvisational performances in surprising places, driven by the real-world algorithm of games and chance. Guest Writer’s Revenge will be a challenging yet rewarding step forward for all three