Written and Directed by Ildiko Nemeth
Produced by The New Stage Theatre Company
Nomination: Ildiko Nemeth, Isabelle Duverger and Laia Cabrera are nominated for Outstanding Innovative Design
Photos by Lee Wexler
About this Production
Cosmicomics, is an original multimedia theatre piece based on the novel of the same title by Italo Calvino. Adapted, directed and designed for the stage by Ildiko Nemeth, this stunning new work comprises a captivating series of vignettes involving our narrator, Qfwfq, as he evolves across the history of the universe. From his innocent childhood before the Big Bang, when everything he loved was packed into a single point, we continue on to his love affairs and nostalgic middle age. Along the way we witness wondrous things: the birth of light and color, the identity crises of creatures that move from sea to land, the inner lives of mollusks, and more. We recognize fundamentally human experiences in these whimsical, passionate tales: obsession, neurosis, love and transformation, played out against an exquisite cosmic backdrop.
Designers Ildiko Nemeth, Isabelle Duverger and Laia Cabrera talk about capturing the vision and drama of an epic tale and reimagining it for live performance.
What attracted you to this project?
Ildiko: The novel moved me because of the wisdom and wit Calvino brings to observing our humanity. I was captivated by the structure he employs and his playfulness in expressing human feeling through scientific concepts. The non-human characters that populate the stories -- particles, mathematical formulae -- recognizably represent us; the dynamics of the forming universe parallel the dynamics of our own lives, but we need Calvino to show us that. He juxtaposes the epic journey of the cosmic with one’s own personal evolution, a theme that is central in many of my pieces. I was drawn to his analogies between the living and the inanimate, and how the stories navigate between the deeply personal and the universal. I loved the novel's multi-layered resonances but also its poetic quality and poignancy, and these aspects compelled me to adapt it for the stage.
Isabelle: I had previously worked with the New Stage Theatre Company, and was looking forward to a project that was as challenging as Cosmicomics, with very visual stories, and a true interaction between the actors and the projection design.
Laia: The challenge of telling a story in theater with such a cinematic point of view
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Isabelle: We created from scratch the visuals, animations and the projection design, so there were a lot to create beforehand, but also worked with the actors to have a seamless connection and make the visuals part of the action and not only an illustrative element.
Laia: Covering the whole stage with projection, the floor, the wall, and creating an immersive experience for the audience and the actors.
Ildiko: The material wasn’t easy to adapt, but the most exciting part for me was to unleash my imagination in this process of picturing it on the stage: letting ideas, images come to me to shape its form.
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Ildiko: The same: how to adapt and stage this material that eschews physical boundaries. I had to design a stage that could accommodate the intertwining stories of galactic and personal transformations that could take us across oceans and galaxies, time and space with elegance to avoid constant, busy set changes. I formed a visual concept of a virtual landscape that can change with the action and represent the many times abstract settings. I did not want to just paint the stage with crafted images, but I wanted projection to be a pivotal part of the action, not only accompanying it but corresponding to the complexity of the themes and issues raised by the material. As is often the case when producing on Off Off Broadway, it was a great challenge to execute many of the ideas on the scale I wished under financial and spatial limitations.
Isabelle: The play is about scientific theories, like the big bang, or the absence of color, or the moon being closer to the earth, or atoms traveling through space. Translating it visually was indeed challenging, so the story is comprehensible, but also so the audience can understand and be transported into these scenarios. For that, we not only projected on the walls but on the floor, so the space become limitless, and used live feed cameras so we can change the perspective in which we see the actors.
Laia: The technical complexity of the installation and the challenge of the language and universe of the play.
What maked Cosmicomics so innovative and unique?
Ildiko: Its visualization of the text.
Isabelle: Since we were playing video, and theater is very much live, we had to be exactly in synch with them without showing any jump from one moment to the other, we were basically vijaying every night in synch with the actors, which requires a lot of tricks...
Laia: The complete integration of the video with the live action. One day shooting at the theater for one of the scenes. We had the actors upside down pretending they were surfing the universe and we were with the camera in a vertical position almost about to fall from a mezzanine above them. But it was fun.
What did you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?
Ildiko: The play shows our aspirations, relationship fumbles, and longing to achieve fulfillment, tragicomically; our desire to find connection to others and to realize ourselves as part of the whole. I hope people come away with laughter, or at least some bittersweet feeling, recognizing themselves in the characters' tragicomic efforts to find fullfilment. And I hope to transport people, as they might be transported by stargazing, to contemplate our common past and future, and our mysterious sense of connection- perhaps inexplicable – to what has been and will be, to the spirit that connects us all. It may sound rather ambitious, but I want them to experience a feeling of being part of the great, timeless melody of existence.