Trapped in a digital purgatory with nothing but their webcams for company, three entertainers jockey for status and grapple with mortality as they put on the perfect face for their public. Combining bedroom drag numbers, Warholian repartee, and exploding the aesthetics of contemporary digital platforms, A/B Machines explores how we manufacture our own image — and the vulnerabilities those images are designed to hide.
Andy Warhol’s The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again) was used as inspiration for the theatrical text of A/B Machines. By highlighting Warhol’s obsessions with the human body, interpersonal manipulation, and the self-identity, the show examines how the constant pressure to be seen (and be seen in a certain way) affects our relationship to others and to our self.
What is at stake when we differentiate “me” from “you,” and how does our popular culture participate in these power dynamics? A/B Machines seeks to foster conversation about competition vs care in marginalized communities and the commodification of representation of gender nonconforming persons. The show asks not only how an “us vs. them” culture is created in a rapidly developing tech age, but also how we might resist it.
A/B Machines, originally mounted on stage, made the jump to digital presentation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trading on the stage version’s use of live cameras, A/B Machines was ripe for a digital online adaptation. Pulling from a Warhol quote “I’m everything my scrapbook says I am” the digital production would treat the performers as images to be collaged into an exploded exhibition of identity in two dimensions.
We engaged professional Philadelphia drag performers, and leaders in the LGBTQIA+ community as our cast of Warhol icons, Marilyn, Jackie and Liz. The entire team utilized a remote workflow, including OBS, AfterEffects, Zoom calls, virtual audio and recording sessions and a custom interactive website. The design team achieved the core dramaturgical and aesthetic elements of the original production, and discovered that hosting on a virtual platform elevated the audience engagement and awareness of the images we craft of ourselves everyday.
Philly Fringe Festival – 2020 Online Presentation
Playwright – Wesleigh Gates
Director – Wesleigh Gates
Scene Design – Katy Fetrow
Media Design – Sean Leo
Sound Design – William Lowe
Lighting Design – Ying Huo
Assistant Media Design – Giada Sun
Actors featured in Photos