The Underpass: Immersive Multimedia Work-in-Progress Explores Use of Video Game Technology to Train and Rehabilitate Soldiers

A collaboration between leading guest professionals, Georgetown theater faculty and students, an innovative workshop showing runs Nov. 19 and 20 at GU’s Davis Performing Arts Center

October 28, 2010 — Washington, D.C. — Georgetown University’s Theater and Performance Studies Program presents a workshop showing of The Underpass, a fictional, multimedia work-in-progress based on research into the use of video games and virtual reality environments to both train soldiers for battle, and in experimental rehabilitation of those who return with post-traumatic stress disorder, notably through the use of the virtual reality program “Virtual Iraq.” Written by Christine Evans, a Harvard faculty member known for her explosive work including plays about the suffering war inflicts (such as Trojan Barbie, Mothergun), the piece will be performed on Friday and Saturday, November 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. at the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Gonda Theatre. Evans’ work has been praised for its “powerful visuals and wrenching personal drama” (Oakland Tribune). Joseph Megel, who returns to Georgetown where he previously staged Jim Grimsley’s Dream Boy and Sister Helen Prejean’s The Death of Innocents, directs this groundbreaking play, featuring interactive video design by Jared Mezzocchi.

A ghost story for the digital war age, The Underpass pits the cyclic structure of both video games and traumatic memory against the struggle of its protagonist Michael, a head-injured Iraq war veteran, to break these cycles and move on. Playwright Evans says, “We’re incorporating live video feed and effects triggered by the actors, as well as pre-recorded video, to create an immersive world of memory that Michael must navigate within the ‘real world’ setting of a homeless village.”

In an October 16 posting on her blog, playwright Evans notes, “It seems to me that the absence or erasure of bodies from the technology of warfare is a development whose consequences bear urgent consideration. It leaves a psychic and physical residue that requires accounting. Video game versions of warfare are realistic to a fault–and that “fault” or fault line is the question of consequence. Actual death, injury, and aftermath do not visit the player–and yet accumulate apace, here or elsewhere, as a consequence of actual war, whether pursued by virtual means (drone strikes, robot soldiers) or embodied ones (fighting in the trenches).”

The piece has most recently been developed and workshopped with American Repertory Theater and continues its development at Georgetown with intensive student involvement. The time at GU will help shape the complex dramaturgy of a work that combines live and virtual elements, and the play will be produced at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011.

Davis Performing Arts Center Artistic Director Professor Derek Goldman says, “We are so thrilled to be hosting this extraordinary project, which brings leading artists from around the country together with our students, faculty, and staff. Having followed the development of this work through its earlier iterations in North Carolina and at American Repertory Theater, I so admire not only the cutting-edge exploration of technology and multimedia design on stage, but the fact that unlike other applications I have seen, here the technology has an essential and urgent dramatic function, woven into the fabric of a powerful and timely narrative about trauma, homelessness, and the economy of human lives in the context of the Iraq War. Audiences will encounter a theatrical world and language unlike any they have seen before.”

The Underpass cast includes Craig Wallace, Helen Hayes Award nominee for Angels in America (Signature Theatre) ; Georgetown Theater and Performance Studies Professor Nadia Mahdi; and student Nikki Massoud (COL ’11).

Tickets to The Underpass are $10 general; free for full-time students with I.D. To order or for more information, visit or call (202) 687-ARTS (2787) Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Georgetown University’s main campus is located at 3700 O St. NW, in Washington, D.C.


Originally from Australia, Christine Evans is an internationally produced playwright now resident in the U.S. Her work has been produced and developed at the New Vic (London), Belvoir St. Theatre (Sydney), the Adelaide International Festival of the Arts, Deck Chair Theatre, Vitalstatistix, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, the Magic Theatre, Theater Simple, Live Girls!, Kitchen Dog Theatre, hotINK Play Festival, Bricolage Theatre, Synchronicity Theatre, Perishable Theatre, New Jersey Rep, Crowded Fire, Ohio Theatre (NYC), Rattlestick Theatre, the Women’s Project and Cutting Ball. In 2009, the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.) produced the world premiere of Trojan Barbie.
Her honors include a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, a Millay Colony Fellowship, the 2007 Jane Chambers Playwriting Award; the 2009 Playwrights Theatre “Plays for the 21st Century” Award; the 2009 Rhode Island State Council for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship; a Fulbright Award in Visual and Performing Arts; the Rella Lossy Playwriting Award; the Monash National Playwriting Award (Australia); the Weston Award in Dramatic Writing; and Perishable Theatre’s Women’s Playwriting Award (2000 and 2001). Christine holds an M.F.A. (Playwriting) and a Ph.D. (Theatre & Performance Studies) from Brown and lectures in playwriting at Harvard.


Joseph Megel has spent the last 20 years focusing on the direction and development of new works, for theatre, film and video. He is currently a visiting artist in Performance Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is Co-Artistic Director (with founding artistic director Derek Goldman) of the StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance, a company out of Chicago now operating in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. He holds an M.F.A. from the Peter Stark Motion Picture Producing Program at the University of Southern California, a Master of Arts from the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music, a B.S. in Speech from Northwestern University and is a member of SSDC. Megel directed Jennifer Maisel’s The Last Seder (winner of numerous awards including the Kennedy Center and, in its screenplay form, the Nantucket Film Festival) in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and in readings in NYC, LA and elsewhere and Guillermo Reyes’ Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown in its Off-Broadway production and in LA and elsewhere. He has directed countless developmental readings of new plays and screenplays and is the author of The Dramatist article, Reading Hell.


Jared Mezzocchi is a multimedia director and designer for live interactive performances. He holds an MFA at Brooklyn College for Performance and Interactive Media Arts and a BA in Theater and New Media from Fairfield University. As a director, he has directed at Andy’s Summer Playhouse for two years (Donkey Xote 2009, Dick Tracy 2010), and is in the workshop stages of his newest original work THE PROJECTIONIST (Powerhouse Theater, Summer 2010) As a video systems designer, Jared has programmed video systems for performances by Caden Manson’s Big Art Group (FLESH TONE, SOS and THE SLEEP) and Rob Roth (Screen Test), touring much of Europe as well as in the Vienna Festival in 2008. For the past year, he designed video and lights nightly as the Director of Visuals at Santos Party House, a two-story dance club/concert venue in Lower Manhattan. He currently teaches multimedia courses at NYU’s Playwrights Horizons studio and the Performance and Interactive Media Arts program at Brooklyn College.