Archive for January, 2011

Mobile Telephones – Past, Present and Landfill

Friday, January 14th, 2011

In anticipation of our opening next week for Sarah Rhul’s biting satire Dead Man’s Cell Phone here are a few heady facts about the evolution of mobile phones:

The first mobile telephone call was made from inside a car in St. Louis Missouri on June 17, 1946, but it was far from what we think of as a portable handset today. The car mounted equipment weighed 80 lbs, and the AT&T service, basically a massive party line, cost $30 per month plus 30 to 40 cents per local call.

Father of the handheld

The first handheld mobile phone was demonstrated by Dr. Martin Cooper (Born 1928) of Motorola in 1973, using a handset weighing 4.4 lbs. Cooper, then general manager of Motorola’s Communications Systems Division carried the hefty cell phone through New York City and placed a call to his rival, Joel Engels at Bell Labs via a connection to Engels’ land line. Dr. Cooper later revealed that watching Captain Kirk talking into his communicator on the tv show Star Trek inspired him to research the mobile phone.

Producing that first phone in 1973 cost Motorola the equivalent of $1m in today’s currency and the battery lasted 20 minutes, after which you needed to recharge it for 10 hours.

Ten years later Motorola released the first commercially available mobile phone, the DynaTAC 8000x. The cost was equivalent to more than $10,000 today and the phone weighed in at 2.5 lbs. Luckily yuppies had shoulder pads on which to rest the hefty devices.

Today 71% of Canadians either own a cell phone or plan to buy one in the near future.

“The cellphone in the long range is going to be embedded under your skin behind your ear along with a very powerful computer who is in effect your slave”. – Martin Cooper, inventor of the mobile phone

Re-use, Reduce – and please Re-cycle

40,000 cellphones are thrown out across Canada every day, according to the Recycling Council of B.C. Only 12% of used mobile devices in Canada are currently being recycled; the rest are stored, sold, gifted or thrown out.

Mobile phones contain toxic substances that need to be disposed in a safe manner. Some dangerous components include cadmium, copper and nickel, which should not be normally disposed of as trash. Each phone contains about a dollar’s worth of precious metals, mostly gold. More than 95 per cent of the materials in an average mobile device are recyclable.

If you want to know where to recycle your phone go to and enter your postal code to find the closest drop off centre, or call 1-888-797-1740 for more information. Nationwide this re-cycling program collected 345,694 cell phones collected in 2009 alone (its first year) – that’s 69.1388 tonnes of cell phones.

Note: Dead Man’s Cell Phone opens January 20, 2011. To see production photos, designers’ portfolio and more go to the Dead Man’s Cell Phone show site. Tickets are Reg. $22/Senior $15/Student $10 and are available online.


Friday, January 7th, 2011

A Guest Blog post by MFA Design student Mandi Lau who’s set designer for our upcoming production of Sarah Rhul’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone ~

The use of the arena configuration in the Telus Studio Theatre is an honest and direct response to the existing architecture. From my recent lighting design experience in the space for The Madonna Painter, I noticed a lot of great qualities, as well as unique design potentials that set apart the Telus from all other black box or conventional proscenium style of theatres.

The Telus has quite a few flaws as a theatre in terms of practicality (ie. the lack of an overhead grid and efficient rigging system etc.), but nonetheless, it is a very interesting and special piece of architecture. For example, the unique “flexibility” of the Telus comes from the 12 movable towers that hold the audience seating, but such quality is only true to the extent that half of those remain attached to each other to form a semi-arena of box style seating, which there is no escape from.

The fact that there are three separate floors of seating in each tower creates an enormous sense of height and closure within such a small space. This imposing sense of height is not only to be felt by the performers but most importantly impacts greatly on how the audience perceives the space for the duration of the performance.

Most often for the audience members on the towers, they have to sit on the edge of their seats and lean on the ledge that surrounds the seats (in groups of 4) for the entire show in order to be able to see what is happening down below on “stage”.

If those unique spatial features of the theatre are appropriately utilized and appreciated, it could reward any production with a great theatrical experience rather than imposing a rigidly fixed set into the already limiting space. For this reason, I want to take this special opportunity and emphasize designing on the ground, embracing the floor that is already existing as the central focal point of the space.

This, in turn, will create a theatrical experience that is unique to the Telus. It is also an exploration and experiment to challenge the conventional “forth-wall-picture-frame” perception of theatrical spaces with a minimalist set and projected stage floor. The use of light and multimedia imagery from multiple projectors will morph and sculpt the space into different locales as the story unfolds. The design of the set and the stage itself only exist for the duration of the play, making all a temporal experience just as any live performance. ~ Mandi Lau

Note: Dead Man’s Cell Phone opens January 20, 2011. To see production photos, designers’ portfolio and more go to the Dead Man’s Cell Phone show site. Tickets are Reg. $22/Senior $15/Student $10 and are available online.

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