Theater Max

There seems to be a lot of initiatives for making “higher-level” abstractions for working in Max/MSP these days. Now, I just came across a project at UCLA intended mainly for theater productions:

Theater Max is the result of several years of work, lots of trial and error, and far too many hours of programming for us to count. What we now call Theater Max got its start in 2001 with a production of Eugene Ionesco’s Macbett. This was the first production in UCLA’s Theater Department to incorporate interactive technology into a mainstream theater production. The purpose of the interactive system was to give the actors the ability to control and influence various aspects of the lighting and sound during the performance. David Beaudry, one of the authors of Theater Max in case you missed that, was asked to do the sound design for the production.


The program allowed David to make edits to levels, mixes, fades, and even processing parameters at any time during the rehearsal or performance, even, or rather especially while the cue was playing. All of this power was contained within a single on-screen interface, triggered by a keyboard and mouse, with no need for any outboard gear other than the audio cards used to get the sound out of the computer. The beauty was that no matter how complex the cue, each one was executable at the click of a button or the press of the space bar. This gave the sound design tremendous agility in a live environment, and therefore created a much stronger relationship between the sound and the action on stage, while allowing a high degree of complexity in the design. In the interactive sequences, Max/MSP proved to be a perfect match.


We have come a long way since this first production, and it hasn’t always been an easy path. However having a system that contains playback, mixing, processing, and control in a single interface, combined with its tremendous flexibility in all stages of the production process, are only a couple of the points that have drawn us (and now you) to using Max/MSP as a program for sound design in the theater.


What we’ve been affectionately calling Theater Max is a collection of patches (abstractions, really) for control of sound in a performance environment,


This software is offered free and as open source (i.e. patches and abstractions versus compiled applications), but not without conditions.

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Alexander Refsum Jensenius is a music researcher and research musician living in Oslo, Norway.

One thought on “Theater Max”

  1. hi there,

    i want to write my thesis about interactiv controlling in theater with max/msp an similar programms. also i´m using max in a theater show to control video and audio. so i´m realy interestet in the abstraction bundle “theater max”. unfortunatly the link doesn´t work. is there a reason for it? is it possible to get it another way?


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