ABACUS – Early Morning Opera

ABACUS is a baroque presentation delivered by invented icon Paul Abacus about the future of national borders, the workings of contemporary persuasion, and our evolving relationship to the screens in our public and private spaces, not to mention our pockets. In style, the presentation assumes a TED-talk feel fused with the grand gestures of megachurch media design, all while utilizing emerging technologies and stunning visual effects.

Supported by nearly a dozen artists, this performance/presentation boasts ground-breaking visuals, original musical compositions, and highly choreographed orchestrations of live video (performed by dancers trained as Steadicam operators by the inventor of this camera stabilizing system himself).


In this work, technology functions not only as a textural design element- but as critical content, performance instrument, and infused commentary on the state of our mediated existence. The project creatively challenges conventions of theatrical performance- seamlessly merging theater with video. In fact, the project made its premiere as part of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival (New Frontiers Section).


Audience members are asked to participate not as they would for theater, but as they would for a lecture or sermon. Questions are posed directly to audience members. Cameras catch the audience and images of the audience are projected during performance- as audience members are engaging directly with the performance.


The project actively demands that we consider a politically and socially radical future: one without national borders. In the undercurrents of the performance, audience members are immediately faced with questions about our current screen culture and the level at which our lives are actively mediated.

“Screens are in my work. Technology is in my work. Our lives have so much to do with that relationship. In the way that you would inoculate somebody with a vaccine by taking in a small amount of the virus into your body, in my work, screens are sort of like the vaccination. I use screens in order to put performers and the audience in relationship to the screen. It enables a very active dialogue that’s not formally about screens, but that somehow makes that relationship resonate with whatever the content is. It allows us to meditate on that very contemporary experience.”


Creative Team

Paul Abacus: Sonny Valicenti
Director and Writer: Lars Jan

Video, Scenic & Software Designer: Pablo N. Molina
Visualization Software & Data Narrative Designers: James N. Sears and Jonathan Cousins
Composer, Sound & Software Designer: Nathan Ruyle
Lighting Designer & Logistics: Christopher Kuhl
Steadicam Operators: Nicholas Konow and John Luna
Produced by: Miranda Wright