By Hurt McDermott
Directed by Joanna Settle
Produced with the support of Flow Arts
Athenaeum Mainstage, Chicago
About the Text:
“I decided to put all my hope in the sawing in half trick. It’s not just that I loved the thought my legs might go running off on their own, exploring the woods while my head and shoulders continue with the mind-reading bit. I also figured that after I was put back together, the two pieces of me would fit together okay, but not perfectly. It would be enough to keep me as one person; but there would also be tiny air bubbles, little holes of forgetfulness, along the seam where I was rejoined.” - Calibana from How to Be Sawed in Half
Hurt McDermott’s poetic examination of a failed magic act, headed by the aging magician Prospero and his rebellious assistant Calibana, delves deeply into the murky psychologies of failure, fantasy, and control. The evening’s performance proves to be their last, as the characters’ recounted regrets sever any last ties to one another, or to the art of illusion itself.
About the Production:
Longtime professional magician’s assistant Sheryl Mitchell was contracted as the production’s magic consultant. Significant rehearsal hours were spent training both Wilson and Sledd for the various tricks required by the script, and a customized sawing-in-half box was designed and constructed by D13’s set and carpentry teams. How to be Sawed in Half was presented as a site-specific work in the Athenaeum mainstage, a vacuous, aging touring house in central Chicago replete with faded velvet curtains and crumbling plaster reliefs. On the stage’s yawning expanse, Prospero and Calibana ran their show from a mini-proscenium with glittering curtains, a stage within the stage.
Even under sell out conditions, this “little” magic act seemed to have only a smattering of audience, a testament to the loneliness of the text and its characters. Voids of space existed between character and character, characters and audience, audience and audience. A small band of professional musicians, headed by D13 Artistic Associate Mark Messing, performed original compositions live from an audience box suspended over the audience’s heads. Playful, wistful, and often interactive, this unique accompaniment (a virtually continuous score) added an invaluable dimension to the production.
In one particularly memorable sequence, a white rabbit was pulled from a hat, and 20 large black hares flooded onto the stage. The rabbits remained, wandering the large empty stage, for the rest of the evening. As if fed by darker instincts, Prospero and Calibana hypnotized each other amongst the hares to get some time alone with their thoughts.
This production marked the first time live animals were housed in residence at the Athenaeum Theatre.
Set Design: Stephanie Nelson
Costume Design: Stacy Ellen Rich
Lighting Design: Gwen Grossman
Sound and Original Music: Maestro Matic
Stage Manager: Elicia Cardenas
Assistant Director: Anne DeAcetis
Production Management: Alex Blunt and Katie Taber
Producer: Philip Faversham
Technical Director: Daedalus D’Alamut
Publicity Director: Karin McKie
Graphic Design: Marianna Levant
Magic Consultant: Sheryl Mitchell
Assistant Stage Manager: Joanna Fields
Assistant Sound Designer: G.D. Smith
Assistant Lighting Designer: Chris Tousey
Assistant to the Director: Markus Kirschner
Master Electrician: Fluffy Blake
Master Stitcher: Mitzi Streeter
Sound Board Operator: G.D. Smith
Fly Operator: Dennis Fiore, Bob Vagnuolo
Box Office: Rich Leff
Ushers: The Saints
Animals: Animal Rental, Bill Hoffman
Rachel Sledd (Calibana)
George A. Wilson (Prospero)
August - September 2000