Published: March 27, 2017

2013 Gamelan Tunas Mekar performance | Photo by Miranda Fan

Gamelan Tunas Mekar performance in 2013 | Photo by Miranda Fan, courtesy of

Is there such a thing as a live documentary? If a play is based on documentary evidence, is it nonfiction? Can actors be "real" if they are not playing themselves? Why are films that represent other realities less fictional than actors, musicians and dancers? What makes a performance documentary?

On Friday, April 7, the Center for Asian Studies (CAS) Speaker Series presents a unique live documentary titled Tripod: Mead, Bateson, Bali that pushes the boundaries of the documentary form with actors, musicians, dancers and video projection. The mixed-media performance is based on a conversation between renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead and her ex-husband, Gregory Bateson, who collaborated on a photo study and film about trance dances in Bali in the 1930s.

Mead went on to become one of America's most respected public intellectuals, and Bateson quietly helped develop systems theory and cybernetics, which ultimately gave rise to networked computing.

If you go
Who: Open to the public
What: CAS Speaker Series Tripod: Mead, Bateson, Bali
When: Friday, April 7, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Old Main, Chapel Theatre

The performance illustrates Bateson's theory of the ecology of mind, in which the self is relational: a nexus of information pathways located both within and beyond the body. Meanwhile, more than two dozen Balinese musicians and dancers bring the conversation to life.

Mead and Bateson's conversation in Tripod is moderated by Stewart Brand, best known as one of American author Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters during the 1960s and founder of the counterculture publication The Whole Earth Catalogue

Bateson's daughter Nora, just 9 years old, plays the role of interlocutor. The show also features Jennifer Cool as Margaret Mead, Christian Hammons as Gregory Bateson, Matthew Durington as Stewart Brand, Sophia Hammons as Nora Bateson, and the musicians and dancers of the community orchestra Gamelan Tunas Mekar, conducted by Balinese drummer and composer I Made Lasmawan. 

The cast will perform at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Old Main Chapel. Admission is free, but seating is limited. All are welcome.

For more information, visit the CAS event page or email Christian Hammons.

This event is sponsored by the Department of Anthropology; the Center for Asian Studies; the College of Media, Communication and Information; the Center for Documentary and Ethnographic Media; and the Department of Critical Media Practices.