Friday, November 7, 2008

Helping to Build a Dream

Just wanted to take a minute to put in an early plug for the new Vitalist Theatre show. Even though I haven’t even seen it, nor read it. But I can already get a sense of its grandeur . I’m posting this now because the next time I am able to visit the Theatre Building, much more will have been done with the set. For I know what is yet to be done. And it shall be nothing short of magical.

To give you some idea, center stage is a 14-foot dreamcatcher. Yes, you read that right. Laughter built a dreamcatcher that large. Even better, it spins 360° (Vertically…not circularly.) Plus, it can also swing pendulum-like. And be easily lifted and tilted to any desired angle. It’s amazing. It looks terrific, even without all of the “dressing” (wrapped fabric and a painting treatment around the ring) that will go on it.

I should explain that I do know the basic idea of the plot. I also saw Laughter’s model quite some time ago. But watching it come to fruition is causing anticipation to build, right along with the set. Last night while I helped secure platforms, they had a run-through of sorts of the projection elements. Lovely, ornate shadow work…and continuous! As in landscapes scrolling by and by and by and…birds flew in, the moon rose. Just wonderful. Then, the drummers thumped a bit. The sound moved right through the core of the space. A deep, resonant bellow. I thought how the drums would demand attention during a performance. Later, Laughter, one of his former students and I painted the floor - in phase one. Okay, technically I did not paint this time. My job had been to wield the water in a spritz-adjustable bottle. You see, the painting had also been done with spray bottles. The water helped diffuse the color and splatters of the mist. Why on Earth, you might ask? Well, because it is not on Earth! The floor will reflect the amazing colorful gases and nebulae and stars that comprise the Cosmos. It’s the Dreamtime.

Here are some examples of what I am talking about. These are actual photographs, people. Taken by the Hubble Telescope. Behold the mystical, magical glory of the Universe! No, these are not specifically the pictures being used in the show design. Laughter has dozens to inspire him. But it will give you some idea.

Perhaps from the poster (and the mention of a giant dreamcatcher and drums) you figured out this show deals with Native American legends and philosophies. The script is adapted from the novella by Carl Nordgren (as told to him by former Tribal Council Chief Steve Fobister (Baminowekapo) of the Keewatin Ojibway, Grassy Narrows First Nation, Canada). And who is writing it? No, not me. It's penned by the co-founder of Vitalist Theatre, my college mentor. Thus, the production has a special significance for me. He’s quite the poet, so the language of the play will be exquisite and beautiful.

This time Vitalist is pairing up with one of the members of Redmoon Theater, a company here in Chicago acclaimed for their masterful work using masks, physical performance, and an international range of puppetry style. I’ve seen some of the masks while at Knox for Homecoming. And I’m sure they will be further developed and even more spectacular and haunting.

The World Priemere of Anung’s First American Christmas, even in this stage of development, is damn impressive. The little white model is paling in comparison to the marvels that are taking shape. It just didn’t show the true scope of the vision.

I’m not sure how much more I will get to help out before it’s completed, as much of it will probably be accomplished over the weekend. Bart and I have previous engagements all weekend, so my time there might already be spent. I hope not. (But then, for their sake, I do hope they have a speedy completion.) Plus, this time I had the “thrill” of working on a Vitalist show at Knox! All the previous shows I saw the fruits of labor that came from the college which needed assembly here. But I spent some of my time at Homecoming making myself useful, such as grommeting the 40-foot silk curtains-strips as well as the fabrics on which the shadows will dance. But I do know that the next time I see it, I will be “w0w”ed even more. And I’m pretty damn excited to see this show as it is.

Information about the show can be found on the Vitalist Theatre website, here.

No comments: