(extended version) - March 12,13 - 2020
Switching to the staged version was not easy and there were many challenges to face along the way. We had three weeks to get ready and I needed to re-think how I can convey the same ideas in a very different setting. Even though we have practiced the Extended Version earlier in the process, the dancers were so connected to the structure and order of the Boxed edition as well as the intimacy of the small room that they felt a bit lost when we came to the first rehearsal on the big stage. Setting up the objects on the stage on tables was also very different and many of the objects could not be seen from far. We ended up with less objects but still found a representation for each technological device and generation.
While trying to give the dancers room for freedom and improvisation within the development of the piece, seeing it from a distance was much more chaotic then in a small room where the audience could be close to the action. In this version we had all five dancers together on stage so I had to find the balance between creating a chaos that can still be viewed from far without completely overwhelming the audience. The solution was to have more set assignments for each dancer while the others slow down their activity, so each gets some attention. We managed this by connecting the activity of each dancer to specific timings with the soundtrack, so the dancers had the challenge to be more specific with sound and learn different cues
I also had to carefully balance all the video images coming from the projectors and how it will work against the backdrop. The images on the back screen looked quite amazing, they were really big and empowered the piece but I had to cut some of the video time so the visual stimulation will not make the audience chose to look only at the video images. I particularly enjoyed the images of the dancers walking in the streets of New York City against seeing them on the stage. It gave the audience more information about the dancers and presented them as people, not only performers who exist and live in this world outside the stage
I also had to deal with stage lighting. It was complicated to light the stage in a way that will still show the videos very clearly. Emmanuel, the lighting designer did a great job using side lights and very simple lighting. I liked his approach for this piece when he said that it should look as if there was no lighting for this piece. He also created a nice pool of warm light at the front of the stage where the dancers ended up sitting in the conversation section at the end of the piece. Since we had a very big space, I wanted to create the same atmosphere as in the boxed edition, that will project the sense of intimacy. The dancers had to be close to the audience so they will be heard and the intimacy can be shared with an added warm pool of orange light, I felt that we archived this goal.
The dancers were very challenged with their conversation and ability to project their speech towards the audience. While in the room they could speak normally, on the stage they had to learn how to speak louder and clear. In many of the rehearsals it was hard to understand them, but finally by the time they performed, it became clear. We also added a live stream element in which one of the projectors was streaming the phone screen of one of the dancers. This was a great addition but the Wifi signal was not always strong in the theater and this was a perfect example of being completely dependent on the technology to make this work. In the first show it wasn’t working very well but it did in the second show and the dancers just had to learn to continue with the piece weather the technological elements are working or not, which is what the piece is also about.
As we headed towards the week of the shows the threat of closure due to the covid-19 crisis was putting a dark cloud over the production and there were rumors that we might not perform.
As Broadway Theaters were closing and news broadcasts announcing the beginning of the “stay Home” policy, we ended up moving the performance dates one day earlier. The effect of the crisis and the unknown future was creating more stress when we told that the rest of the semester is going to be canceled and we will move into remote online classes.
With the effect of the crisis we had a small audience but we all felt grateful that we still get to perform the creation we worked so hard to produce and with the news of isolation and quarantine, this work about technology and intimacy was getting an added meaning and felt more relevant to our present time than ever.
The last show was lived streamed on Zoom so many audience members who feared to come to the theater could still have the opportunity to see the performance. Who could guess that days later Zoom will become an integral part of how we communicate and conduct our social life.
The piece was received with a lot of enthusiasm. All the elements came together, and the dancers were spectacular. As the school was closing and we didn’t know when we will be able to perform again, the dancer gave it all on stage. They became very comfortable with all the objects and tasks and managed to find room for spontaneity within the more tricked structure. Of this version. Somehow in this version there was a lot more humor in the way the objects were presented and how we treat our devices and how our devices control our life. With the tension of the present crisis, laughter was a good release and it also elevated the ideas of the piece.
While the Extended Version went very well, it seems that audience members who got to see both versions felt more connected to the personal Boxed edition. I also felt that the boxed edition ended up being a stronger experience for the dancers as well. It was a very different experience for them that brought them closer to the audience in a way they haven’t experienced in the past.