David Murakami is a projection designer and film director focused on the union between the cinematic and theatrical. Past designs include Opera Parallèle's Dead Man WalkingChampionFlightLes Enfants Terribles, and Little Prince; Minnesota Opera's Das Rheingold and Elektra; Sun Valley Summer Symphony’s Daphnis et Chloé, the American premieres of Anya 17 and Heart of Darkness; and the world premieres of Luis Valdez’ Valley of the Heart and Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness. Other companies include Opéra de Montréal, San Jose Repertory Theater, Skylight Theatre, SFJazz, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Arizona Opera, and LA Opera. Recent credits include the revival of Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum, the sci-fi musical revue “5-SK1-E-S” aboard Princess Cruises, Singin’ in the Rain with McCoy Rigby, and Gordon Getty’s Scare Pair at the Kaye Playhouse in New York. David also teaches projection design at the University of California, Irvine.
Artist Statement:
As a projection designer, I consider myself as a trespasser, questioning the barriers we erect between media and passionately pursuing new technologies as they intersect in film, theatre, and opera. However, my eagerness to destroy is built upon a purpose of preservation. The integration of digital media and traditional theatre is at once inevitable and impossible. Vast new possibilities are opened up by imposing the digital upon the stage, replacing sets, costumes, props, and even bodies. Though seen by many as the salvation for live performance, the cinematic is, at its core, incompatible with the theatrical. In theatre, we know nothing is real. The actor plays the character. The set represents the place. Nothing is itself…until projections are introduced. The photorealism bypasses the dramatic and is elevated to the dogmatic, much like the director’s statement in the playbill. Projections are both gilded and gelded by the real.

My work serves to conquer this disunion, using new technologies not as fetishized spectacles, but as integrated and borderless scenic elements, supporting and honoring the essential traditions of theatre and opera. As Herbert Blau says in Blooded Thought, “the one inalienable and arcane truth of theatre [is] that the living person performing there may die in front of your eyes, and is in fact doing so.” My work is defined in its own destruction, through fragmentation, negative space, mutability by live gesture, and an abandonment of screens in favor of ghosted and fully immersive projections which can be obscured, bled out, and interrupted. I give my projections a body so that they may die. I walk the line between conqueror and custodian, heathen and acolyte, and am governed above all by an uncompromising passion for the ephemerality of live performance.

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