CAREER: Writer and digital media consultant. Icon New Media, creative director, 1996. Founder of MediaChannel.org (global media Web portal). Web site publisher, including Word.com and Charged.com.
(Editor) Unbalancing Acts: Foundations for a Theater, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1992.
(Editor, with Randall Packer) Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality, Norton (New York, NY), 2001, expanded edition, 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Ken Jordan and coeditor Randall Packer explore the concept of multimedia in their book Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality. The engineering innovations that have made it progressively easier to reach a state of immersion in the interface between humans and machines are discussed, as are the scientists and artists who have done the work necessary to make this kind of computer-human interaction possible. Five chapters treat five separate characteristics of multimedia works: narrativity, hyper-media, interactivity, immersion, and integration. The editors link these categories to the thoughts and aims of some great artists of various disciplines, including composer Richard Wagner, novelist William S. Burroughs, and avant-garde composer John Cage. Reviewing Multimedia for Afterimage, Are Flagan called it "entirely without revelations," but went on to say that the book "remains essential reading." The genesis of multimedia efforts is pinpointed as 1849, when Wagner published "Outline of the Artwork for the Future," a work in which he "envisioned a new kind of stage drama that united music, visual effects, poetry, and dance," commented David Pitt in Booklist. The German composer's ideas about the deeply involving and immersive nature of musical theater were a precursor to the experience of virtual reality.
Jordan edited Unbalancing Acts: Foundations for a Theater, a collection documenting the development of the theatrical work of Richard Foreman, a prominent and sometimes controversial actor and playwright of the late 1980s. Well-regarded and well-reviewed by the critics, Foreman nonetheless was a perpetually dissatisfied person, someone who seemed "so dissatisfied with his own life, ideas, and talent, you would hardly imagine him rising from his couch, let alone writing and directing," stated reviewer Roger Downey in American Theatre. The first quarter of the book is drawn from two years of interviews Jordan conducted with Foreman, and in them "Foreman plays the familiar mumbler and kvetch, deconstructing self and work to irrecoverable conceptual soup," according to Downey. Unbalancing Acts also contains the text of five of Foreman's plays: The Cure, Film Is Evil: Radio Is Good, Symphony of Rats, What Did He See?, and Lava. "Throughout Unbalancing Acts, it is clear that Foreman's consciousness is the foundation of his theater," observed reviewer Jeff Lawson in TDR. "That consciousness is dictated into a stream of unedited notes that become the text of his performances." Jordan's construction of Unbalancing Acts, along with the depth of his interviews with Foreman, provide the means for a student of theater to truly appreciate the man and his work. Downey concluded: "The way Foreman achieves suspense, surprise, fullness of emotion and rounded-off action without a shred of traditional narrative gristle, is an inspiration and a challenge."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Afterimage, September, 2001, Are Flagan, review of Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality, p. 16.
American Theatre, September, 1992, Roger Downey, review of Unbalancing Acts: Foundations for a Theater, pp. 52-53.
Booklist, March 1, 2001, David Pitt, review of Multimedia, p. 1207.
Publishers Weekly, April 2, 2001, review of Multimedia, p. 57.
TDR, summer, 1996, Jeff Lawson, review of Unbalancing Acts, pp. 148.*