Layers of Time
Time, layers, and the magic of theater all come to light between Under the Radar's Lula del Rey and Minor Character. The overlap of digital, physical, performers, projections, and live theater creates these two magical pieces that tell familiar by unfamiliar means. These works ask questions about form, spectacle and content. Everything’s different, but it all says the same thing in the end, no?
New Saloon's Minor Character twisted and turned Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in many different directions into a contemporary version more resonant than a traditional staging. Sharing individual characters among many actors, using cross-gender and race portrayals, and competing translations made this well known play from the end of the Nineteenth century into a contemporary story.
The layers of meaning that each translation of text brought to light ultimately said the same thing. Even the use of contemporary gadgets did not alter the meaning. In the scene when Astrov shows Yelana the successive deforestation of the country there was a projector in the downstage left corner. Center stage right, there was a paper sketchbook. Upstage center-right, an iPad. And center stage, actual maps. The dialogue was the same. The degree of deforestation the same. Yelena’s reaction, the same. But the entire context was different. Where does this leave us in terms of the meaning of the play? What is the point of all these different technologies? What new meaning is created?
Luna Del Rey creates meaning within these multiple contexts using various technologies representing different times, including film, projection, puppets, and live performers (actors and musicians), similarly to Minor Character. The story is simple. A daughter grows up and rebels against her outwardly strict but inwardly devoted mother. Using very contemporary physical embodiment in combination with overhead projectors and the ancient technique of shadow puppetry in the not-so-distant past turned time into a fluid realm. Tiny emblems like the momentary projection of a phone book Lula used to cross off each address she visited in search of the Baden brothers signaled days gone by even as the story is one recurs all the time everywhere.
After Lula is gone, glimpse her mother’s turmoil at losing her daughter, tying together the references to different time periods to create an everlasting and timeless connection between mother and daughter, generation to generation.
Both works are odes to all pasts, presents, and futures. So where does this leave us in all these layers of time? Is the present a reflection of the past? Or the future? Or both? Or is it all the same, no matter where you place it? Will our human interactions, our virtues and vices, forever be the same. Our stories shifting only in form, never in content.