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Category archive for: Designing for Live Performance

Designing for Live Performance – week 04 : Hedwig And The Angry Inch

(group) EF Sentences 

Hedwig and The Angry Inch is about freedom through completeness.

Hedwig and The Angry Inch is about a transgender woman struggling to transcend above dualities – east vs. west, woman vs. man, independent vs partnered – in her quest to find freedom through completeness.

Hedwig and The Angry Inch is about a man in East Berlin, who innocently goes through a botched sex change operation at the behest of her first lover, an american sergeant, to seize the freedom and completeness. After moving to the U.S., the sergeant leaves her and she is boggled by the duality of the world– east vs. west, woman vs. man, independent vs partnered. She tries to find her a new love, but sees the error in her ways so she finally gets closer to completeness by accepting herself.

Visual Research – to be posted

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Designing for Live Performance – week 02: The Completeness


The space in the play is interior. Is contained within university labs & apartments in a city (I’d imagine New York but it could easily be an university city such as Providence, New Haven etc). Time behave in a nonlinear way; the big arch of the plot happening in a linear way but are currently intervened by different times (the appearance of their former lovers in the apartment as well as the simultaneous scene of them kissing future lovers). It is mostly a slow time, grounded to real life pace. It’s also seems that the story happens during a few months. The environments look a bit empty; the university environment and Elliot’s apartment seem cold, while Moly’s apartment looks a bit warm with the sunset light. The mood of the play is of naive intimacy being constantly hurt by the distance the characters end up building. Most of the mood and tone of the play are created by the alternation between scientific dialogs & philosophical / life reflection ones. It portrays life as it is, people building relationships and the consequences of time & intimacy. The characters are seeing as isolated characters for the majority of time – the conversations points out a lot how each of them have their own small planet. The tensions happen in pair but it’s clear to see that the main characters have internal conflicts that lead to their conflicts with other characters. There is a valorization on the intellectual interaction constantly happening in the play and is through them that Molly and Elliot quite often speak in metaphor about their own perception of love. The are a lot of silences (beat) and there are not a lot of changes in the scene, but it just goes with the pace of the play: as life it is and as thought in our mind come and go: a lot of scenes are representations of the main character’s minds, taking them to different places, times and partners.

It’s a story about relationships.

It’s a story about grad students with commitment issues trying to build relationships.

It’s a story about two grad students that meet each other and start a relationship while collaborating on a software development. The software goal is to help analyzing a scientific data set related to DNA proteins, trying to filter it to a most accurate data set. The search for this perfect algorithm in many ways relate to their quest within relationships, always trying to find a pairing (like the proteins in DNA) in their love lives & questioning if past or present partners are/were “home”.





When I designed my cornell box I had in my mind how the stories happening in the play were being dealt with their obstacle. The idea of having a software running a data set to refine it and make scientific research more objective (and in some way more simply) is very similar with the mental moment that both of the characters are going through: of analyzing past and present relationships/behaviours in relationships in an attempt to simplify the search for love. Elliot and Moly and Don and Lauren and Katie and Dan are like DNA Proteins and the possible combination of these people could generate a “true love/true home”. The repetition of the names and the combinations of unlikely couples tries to reflect all the possible combinations a software might generate – but also showing the “offsprings” and “recessive” combinations, how the combination problem is way more complex than the characters want it to be. Inspired on a computer screen, I’ve done the box as a reflection object for the characters of the play – as if they are expecting some kind of solution to pop out of the blank blue screen.

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designing for live performance – week 01: readings & reflections

This week’s readings were Eleanor Fuchs’ Visit To A Small Planet and Peter Brook’s The Empty Space first and last chapter. On the first class Andrew mentioned how concepts of time and space are important to design for live perfomance and I think that this is some way influenced my perception, conclusions and questionings regarding both texts.

On Visit To A Small Planet we are presented to a drama teaching tool based on wanderings the author finds relevant to designing the space(and in a more metaphorical sense the “planet”) where the story lives in. She keeps on teasing the reader by asking about a wide range of elements of any play. How physical elements can translate sensations, seasons, emotions and time? How and does the passage of time influences changes in the play world ?How time is perceived in this world? Perceiving the stage/set design as a world of its own made me conclude how her relation between time and space is limited to the space where the play will take action, and how the space can translate two different connotations of time: time as a period to context (how space translate a certain time) and as a sensible dimension (the passage of time). In a sense, all of her concern regarding the space is to stimulate the perception of each single aspect/piece/object/lightning/costume of this world as a character itself, how all of them can relate to the storyline of the play.

Eleanor Fuchs made me feel like designing for the stage is a very internal process in the sense that you are always reaching the play itself to find your answers. On the other hand, Peter Brook’s theatre philosophy goes in a very opposite way because he shows the process of design a play as a external and collaborative one – making the proper differentiations between the kinds of relations built within the agents that are rich(immediate theatre) and the ones that dulls the theatre(deadly theatre). The latter relies on reproducing, on the attempt of keeping the dead alive. Brooks argues that going back to the original text of the play has to be in an inspiration/reference perspective rather than a replication – considering it will always be out of its original context. For older plays there is the aggravating factor of not having the actual reference (the original play) documented – in the same sense as a history of soundscape is very recent due to lack of documentation of soundscapes during the decades. What is written is not enough to make a play; to make it work it has to become more contemporary and more “real”, it should be updated to cultural changes and context in which it’s still relevant.

The Immediate Theatre, pointed by Brooks as the most compelling process is all about interations & interactions between all the involved parties. It’s an on going process that potentialities how the crew can co-create together from the moment it’s a writing to the repercussion it might have outside the stage.The play itself is in constantly evolution and the first time it concretizes itself is in the moment it happens. Set designer, play writes, directors, actors and (especially) audience get involved in the process of designing the play. He talks a lot about how having a plan is good to have but they are only validated when all parts face together the challenge of the moment/ live performance. Once they start rehearsing, they will see how theory can works, what can me improved and how everyone involved in the play can collaborate to make it happen. The audience takes a great part in the process because only when the designed piece interacts with the audience that you have the real feedback. He exemplifies by comparing european vs american audience & big cities vs small villages to illustrate how a successful play will always take in consideration the context in which the public is.

Living in Brazil for most of my life, I’ve seen a few international plays coming to town and failing or succeeding depending on how much weigh the context had on the design of the play. Cats was a big temporary production and was very true to it’s original play. Set design, music and choreography impeccably replicated the original ones, but it was clear there was no effort in adapting the content of the music to the audience – all we had was a subtitle screen to follow the story. On the other hand the college adaptation of The Book of Mormon was so successful in considering the context of the audience (specially adapting the lyrics to Rio de Janeiro’s reality) that they had to extend their tour from 2 weeks to 3 months.

Both of the theatre types portrayed by Peter Brooks considers the time spent on the design process and what is the context in which the play takes place – and how these notions of time reflects on the play itself. The play is born the moment it is being written; it grows while directors, choreographers, set designers, actors & other agents are collaborating among each other and building an identity for it; it reaches its first “adulthood” when it faces the audience and it keeps on transforming accordingly to the context it is.

How far can you go on designing a play just relying on the written piece? how to work with a multidisciplinary team and keep a concise direction? how much influence can the audience have over the design of the play and how the design of the play can engage the audience in a more empathetic manner? It is clear to me there is a matter of boundary and balance in the two ways of designing a play presented by Fuchs and Brooks and I hope I’ll be able to experiment a bit of both during this semester.

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