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Organic Theatre
the rise of a new art form
by Dan Richards

Home Page, it's director Doug Block, and a new movement.

Every story needs an angle. What if the angle was, that there are many angles, many facets? Many stories and characters all reflecting back into each other. Even I have a small bit part in a radically new type of theatre. Part of that small role is telling this story.

The Beginning

Doug BlockIn the beginning, way way back in the early nineties, a few people began keeping online journals on the internet. The World Wide Web had opened gates for new audiences and a new mode of expression. In 1996, film director Doug Block set out to make a documentary on these denizens of cyberspace. He wanted to know who they were, what made them tick and even more so, why?

To communicate online was nothing new. People had been logging on since the mid eighties through Bulletin Board Services, email and virtual communities such as the San Francisco-based Well and New York-based Echo. People had poured out their lives on everything from births and new loves to dying. Yes, folks were even dying online. With the web, audiences and access suddenly grew, and when Block set out on his journey, even he himself could not have fathomed what would follow. Early in the process, he was directed by his step-son to a student at Swathmore who was somehow getting over 7000 hits per month on a personal homepage, and clogging the schools servers. Who was this guy? The day that Block met Justin Hall marked the beginning of what would develop into something quite new. Something neither of them nor anyone else expected.

Imagine this. A film director gets an idea to shoot a documentary film about the lives of people who are using the internet as diaries. He pitches the idea, gets financed, and is literally left alone to work for two years. He's curious about curious people. He searches out and finds people who pour their lives out online, and in the process, becomes part of their lives. This is where things start to get interesting.

A film director is normally just that, a director, in charge and behind the scenes. Unexpectedly, in the process of filming Home Page, the lens is also turned and focused on Block, his family, and the changes that occur in their lives. The film is focused on the life of Justin Hall who writes in a manner that cyberspace guru Howard Rheingold described as "painfully candid". Daily tales of relationships, friends, sex, school, his father's suicide and even pictures of himself dancing around in the buff on a roof. Raw, energetic and humorously blunt, Hall literally writes uncensored and unedited. Visionary R.U. Sirius has triumphed Hall as the "Gen-X'er of the Decade". As Block began filming, it didn't take long until the director himself began to appear in Hall's online journal. Hall even started grabbing the camera and querying Block. Block joined the cast.

There is, of course, much more to the story of the film, but that part has already been told so well by enough people. It can all be found by merely following the links provided here. Let's move on to present time.

The Middle

Home Page has received much acclaim at Sundance and other film fests as well as a big thumbs up from Roger Ebert. It is now entering the next phase. It will be aired on HBO Signature beginning on July 4th and will reach new audiences. The audience will be able to do something that has never been done before. For the first time ever, after watching the film, viewers can log on to the internet and go to the actual up-to-date hompages and websites of all the different people they've just watched on screen.

Here's where you, a film, homepages, the internet, virtual communities and even television, all begin to appear in the Organic Theatre of truly interactive connections, each influencing the other in a virtual biofeedback loop. This is big! This is different! It has never ever been done before. The entrance to the theatre is any number of places. This is one. You don't have to see the film first, you can begin clicking away right now. If you don't catch Home Page in a theatre or on television, don't worry, the video will be available soon directly from

The End

Well, one of the big differences here, is there is no end, only changes. Changes that may very well be influenced by you if you choose. This really isn't an article, it's a doorway into an interactive world that grows organically every time someone clicks on a new link, tells a new story, or finds an email they've sent to someone published on a site. It's a radically new idea here, and one that requires a little mental gymnastics to understand. This theatre is still in the grassroots stage, but it's growing quickly and at viral proportions. In fact, if you've made it to the end of this story, you may unsuspectingly be taking your first step on to the stage and into your own directors chair.

The humor and the challenge in all this, is that right when someone yells cut!- another yells roll em'! Welcome to the 21st century.


b i o

Dan Richards lives in New York City where he tinkers with trying to place his entire recording studio on the internet.

Lately, he's also been hanging out in Greenwich Village cafes with film director Doug Block.

pictures are from and used by permission

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