Sunday, August 25, 2019

Electronic City

Produced by The New Stage Theatre Company
Written by Falk Richter
Directed by Ildiko Nemeth

Nominations: Outstanding Innovative Design for Projection Design - Hao Bai, Eric Marciano, & Ildiko Nemeth; Outstanding Performance Art Production

About The New Stage Theatre Company

Drawing from the traditions of Eastern European theatre, New Stage Theatre Company premieres foreign playwrights' works in New York and creates original works through collaboration between its artists. Over the years New Stage has built a name for itself as a “daring experimental group” [Backstage] that "creates wonder for mature, sophisticated NYC audiences" NYTheatreWire. The company's works are distinguished by their bold visual style and compelling mix of absurdist and physical humor with dark and difficult themes.

Photos by Lee Wexler

About Electronic City
Electronic City is a romance set in the liminal spaces of modernity, exploring the difficulty and complexity of belonging in a world fractured by the pressure of high-speed travel, communication and commerce.  With this work, Richter asks us to consider our isolation and alienation as we are tossed by the whims of global capitalist structures, particularly communication networks and media. Richter’s characters confront what it means to seek identity and belonging in a society where consumption and business have displaced memory, tradition, and spirit.

What first attracted you to working on Electronic City?

Hao: I’ve been collaborating with the lighting designer Federico for a few years and I've always wanted to work with Ildiko. Before she hired me, she mentioned that she just had a feeling about me the first time she met me. That small connection between us was a calling for me to collaborate with her. Also, I’m always a big fan of working with limitations. The venue for this production was a basement theatre that has limited space, limited pipes, architectural columns in the middle of the stage, a strange side wall with the restroom door, no symmetrical structures anywhere in the theatre, etc. I was intrigued by the idea of embracing the architectural limitations into part of the theatrical design and intrigued to figure out where and how far we could go within those limitations. The content also really attracted. I’ve been interested in humanity, human connection, and how one can find out who they are or who they want to be in the world filled with technology, computers, phones, screens etc. It is worthwhile to think about it, and try to use theatrical experiences and story-telling to make our audience think about it.

Eric: The vision of Ildiko Nemeth

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Hao: My favorite part of working on this production was the freedom of choosing which projector to use to project what content. Sometimes we treated all three projection surfaces as one big surface (like a mirror), and sometime we treated it as if it were a continuous surface so that the image could travel along them. It was fun to play with. I’ve never met some of the other artists like Eric Marciano and Chris Sharp who had also been collaborating in the creative process. I appreciated their work and was so glad that I was able to use their film or paint work as part of the footage for the projection design. Making other peoples' art into something else can be tricky, but both of them were so supportive, happy, and impressed with the final product and how everything looked. It was art created based on art. I felt like even though we hadn't met each other in person, we shared something; a connected through the production and the mutual but yet individual art forms.

Eric: I really enjoyed creating the Edward Hopper like visualizations.

What was the biggest challenge of this experience for you?
Hoa: Limitations are always a beautiful part of a project, but at the same time can be challenging. I had to hang the center projector behind one of the side columns to hide it since it was huge and looked really bulky on the low ceiling pipe. Federico, Ildiko and I had to keep talking about sharing pipes between projectors locations and lighting positions since the space and the lighting grid was so limited. The other challenging part was the continuous adjustments on how to keep the performers out of the projection light.
Eric: Time. Because there is never enough of it.

Was was the weirdest part of this experience for you?
Hoa:In the process of prepping the production: load-in, pre-tech, dry-tech etc. we experienced everything that could have gone wrong with the projection equipment. First, we had an old projector that died all of the sudden and had to get a new one. Then we had a laptop break-down when I bumped into a tree outside of the theatre. It felt as if the projection technology was being hunted in the space, and yet the whole production was about technology in the cold electronic world

What was it list working with The New Stage Theatre Company?
Hoa: It was a group of artists who are so generous, patient, and open to ideas, especially the director Ildiko and the lighting designer Federico. Sometimes during preparation, pre-tech, tech time, things can be stressful and worrisome, but we helped each other out as much as we could. We were all working towards the same pure objective: to make an art piece touching, heart-breaking, and breathtaking. We also wanted to create a community of artists who support each other. It felt like we are all part of the art family even after the collaboration.

Eric: They are brilliant professionals.

Did you learn anything new as a part of this experience?
Hoa: One of the most important things I learned is that the concept of passing one’s experience and knowledge to the younger generation or to the people who don’t have that many experiences. Once we finished teching the show, we planned to have the intern running video projection. The intern was very nice and young but didn’t have any experience with theatre or projection tech, nor the program I was using for sound and projection. I trained her. However, during the dress rehearsal, she had a freak-out because the projectors’ mapping got all messed up. At that moment I realized that I had to do a better job of teaching. In the end, not only did she feel more confident with the equipment and programs, but she could start building things herself. The importance of training the next generation and becoming a better mentor is what I have discovered while working on this project.

Eric: The powerful affect that video projections in close quarters can have on the audience.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Hoa: It’s a huge encouragement to me. I’ve been working as a lighting and sound designer for a few years, and have been assisting projection designers for a couple of years too. In the beginning of this year, I had three pure projection deign projects back-to-back and the feedback from the audience and the public wasn't bad. This nomination gives me more confidence to keep pursuing projection designer as visual artist, and a creator.

Eric: It is a great acknowledgment of your time, talent and efforts and that is always a good thing.

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