M. Jack Steckel's 21st Century Vaudeville
"While at Apple, Tad Williams developed an interest in interactive multi-media, and he and his colleague Andrew Harris created a company, Telemorphix, in order to produce it. The result was "M. Jack Steckel's 21st Century Vaudeville", which was broadcast on San Francisco Bay Area local TV in 1992 and 1993. People at the station and viewers were asked to provide images of themselves, which were then animated primarily at the mouth: viewers phoned in to the show and could then be these characters. The action was a mix of improvisational performance and storylines which Williams created (along with secondary, non-interactive characters.) M. Jack Steckel himself—the host—was played by Andrew Harris."
I was a college student at SFSU in 1992-93 living with roommates in San Francisco when in channel surfing one night came upon a strange show on local cable access. They were driving around familiar tunnels and streets of the city while the host was interacting with callers. It was fascinating to all of us and we ended up contacting them. Since we all had Macromind Director and graphics skills we started working with them. I created Ms. Savage Fear who was this chain smoking punker chick and an ample home shopping network woman who you could animate by calling in. I hosted some shows as Ms. Savage Fear coming after local cable access show, The Lavender Lounge. People would send in random videos we would play, including a dark and strange video of a train passing Auschwitz and someone speaking in Polish.
As host, not knowing what would come next in the program required improv skills whether it was commenting on a video or interacting with random people who would call in. It was interactive television that was before its time. We would get paid for our time when Telemorphix got money, but that never happened, which was fine. It was worth it because it was fun to try to do something no one has done before and to use technology in creative and artistic ways.
As soon as it entered our lives, M. Jack Steckel's 21st Century Vaudeville, disappeared. The above video is the version of the show when it was in Boston.
When you live long enough, you find that places you worked are gone. Not all of your work gets preserved. Sometimes you feel that you are just painting with butter or sand that is impermanent. Digital work on 3.5 inch disks, hard drives, or IOMEGA Zip Drives gets corrupted. For so many years, I was on a PC platform which can crash hard drives. Sometimes what you do is like a butter or sand painting that gets experienced at the time only to be wiped away over time and erosion. Digital work is often lost and also the work you do in the analog world isn't captured either. Not everything has been saved in files, photographed, or caught on video. If I come across any of my art from 21st Century Vaudeville, I will certainly post it.