The Austin Chronicle

'The Girl With Time in Her Eyes'

Hidden Room Theatre lets SXSW Interactive play with time travel

By Robert Faires, March 8, 2013, Arts

At long last, time travel is getting some play at SXSW Interactive – and by "play," I mean literally a play. The Hidden Room Theatre, which took part in a panel talking about digital interactive theatre at last year's Conference, was invited back this year to actually present a piece of technologically enhanced performance. So master of company Beth Burns sat down with a colleague from her Los Angeles days, Robin Jones, and the pair concocted an unsolved murder mystery straight out of the pulps that might finally be solved with the assistance of a new machine that can pick up sights and sounds from the past. And audience members can use their smartphones and tablets to access those long-ago scenes and help uncover the answers.

In The Girl With Time in Her Eyes, which gets its premiere Sunday afternoon on the Next Stage, scientists George Clayton and Earl Hamner of Beaumont Scientific will introduce their company's latest technological wonder: the AU-370 – aka the Tuner – which is able to tune in "resonant energy left behind from highly emotional events" and make it audible and visible. Clayton wants to apply it to the Pollyanna Murders, a crime that occurred in 1947 on the very spot in Downtown Austin where the Tuner is being demonstrated. When audience members scan QR codes or pick up Aurasma tags, they'll be able to view the past and find clues that relate to the murders. But is it possible that observing an event from long ago can alter history? That's part of this sci-fi/noir mash-up's biggest mystery.

As with Hidden Room's trans-Atlantic romance, You Wouldn't Know Her, She Lives in London/You Wouldn't Know Him, He Lives in Texas, which allowed audiences in Texas and England to interact in real time as a man and woman worked through their long-distance love affair, social media lays the groundwork for the performance long before the curtain rises. You can Facebook-friend Clayton, whose updates tease information about the Pollyanna Murders and a woman named Madeline, and follow the progress of the company he works for on Twitter at @BeaumontScien. It's fun, and even if you can't see the performance, you can enter into the play's past and catch a glimpse of theatre's future.

The Girl With Time in Her Eyes takes place Sunday, March 10, 3:30pm, at the Next Stage in the Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez. For more information, visit

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