URI Honors Colloquium invites community to meet virtual ‘Marilena’

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116

to learn about Mexican factory worker

KINGSTON, R.I. — October 31, 2003 — Come meet Marilena, a computer simulated factory worker from Tijuana, Mexico at the University of Rhode Island on Thursday, Nov. 6.

Marilena is the centerpiece of Tom Sgouros’ presentation, “What do You Think, a show about Globalization and Responsibility,” which will be offered at 2 p.m. in the Chafee Social Science Center, Room 271. Like all programs of the URI colloquium, “The Futures of Globalization,” Sgouros’ presentation is free and open to the public.

“We hear a lot about globalization, about the plight of people who live far away from us,” said Sgouros on his web site. The writer, film producer and performance artist added: “But the question that nobody ever asks is why we should care about people so far from us?”

“Mostly, I ignore people who are distant, and perhaps that is part of the problem,” Sgouros said.

That’s where Marilena comes in. “Marilena is a fake, and a fraud. She is a figment of my imagination, produced from books, news stories, movies. But she exists as an aid to my imagination. It’s hard to be kind to abstractions, but it’s easy to be kind to Marilena. I can think of Marilena when I’m shopping, and avoid the companies that exploit or abuse her,” Sgouros said.

Sgouros used Synthetic Interview technology developed at Carnegie-Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute. “So this is what we can do with our technology. We may not be able in reality to bring people closer, but we can pretend to, and sometimes, maybe that’s good enough,” Sgouros said.

He began his solo-performing career in 1985 as a ropewalker and silent clown. To date, he has written and performed seven solo shows, including Judy, What is it Like to be a Robot? Fish, a meditation on swamps, malls, seafood, and hubris and Sludge, about sewage and French painting, an inquiry into things of value and the value of things. Judy has been performed at 46 colleges in 13 states.

Sgouros is at work on a book about the misuse of scientific metaphor. He is also a freelance video and filmmaker, designing and producing audio and visual contributions to several theatrical productions beside his own work.
Sgouros studied with such masters of solo theater as Fred Curchack, Tony Montanaro, Avner Eisenberg, and Bolek Polivka. He was an original company member and the writer and producer of the Pan-Twilight Circus, a theatrical tent circus based in Rhode Island.

Please visit www.uri.edu/hc for the most current colloquium information and full schedule of events and directions, or contact the URI Honors Center at 401-874-2381 or debg@uri.edu.

The program’s major sponsors are: the URI Honors Program and President’s Office, The Providence Journal, Fidelity Investments, URI Foundation, URI College of Arts and Sciences and the URI College of Business Administration. Other sponsors are the URI Office of Student Affairs, URI Alumni Association, URI Multicultural Center and URI College of Pharmacy.