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Man hangs dead from the ceiling, remains online

Computer maintains facade

A play about a man who hangs dead from the ceiling of his apartment while his computer program maintains the facade that he is still alive was among the top entries in a new competition for plays about science and technology.

That play, entitled On-line and submitted by Minneapolis playwright Mark Steven Jensen, earned finalist status in the first Stage (Scientists, Technologists and Artists Generating Exploration) competition. The contest, which featured a US$10,000 (about £5,400) first prize, was organised by the Professional Artists Lab and California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Another network-oriented play earning special recognition was called Bot, and is the story of a teenage computer genius obsessed with how technology can blur the line between humans and machines. It was written by C Michele Kaplan.

The winning play, Splitting Infinity, tells the story of a Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist seeking evidence of God. It was written by Jamie Pachino, and beat about 150 plays submitted by writers in dozens of countries.

The next round of Stage is under way, with entries due in January.

Naturally, networking has worked its way into a number of plays in recent years as the technology has gone mainstream. A play called Alladeen, staged at Dartmouth College in 2004, explored the cultural issues involved in US companies housing call centres in south Asian countries. The play included call-centre workers in Asia adopting American identities based on TV sitcom characters.

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