On Spectacle and Storytelling

Lauren Alexander is a senior at American University working towards a BA in Public Communication and Theater. She’s loving working on social media, marketing, and outreach efforts as an intern at Theater J this summer.

Hello readers! I’m excited to finally meet you all (electronically, at least)–I’m Lauren, one of the Theater J interns for the summer. This week, I had the pleasure of attending the opening night performance of The History of Invulnerability, the show which wraps up the 2011-2012 season. After reading a few of the critics’ reviews, it’s clear to see that:

1. they mostly loved the production, as much as I do

2. they think David Deblinger as Jerry Siegel is hysterical, as do I, and

3. they adored the set design, as much as I do.

In both set design and acting classes which I have taken over the years, I have learned the importance of the spectacle. A spectacle is that magic moment where you say “oooh, ahhh.”  Like when the Phantom of the Opera flies over the audience, or Mary Poppins pulls a hundred objects out of her purse. An amazing special effects moment happens, and you question “how did that actually happen, ON STAGE?”

The History of Invulnerability takes no exception to the spectacle rule – it’s chock full of special effects! The entire set lends itself perfectly to creating a spectacle throughout the entire performance. As soon as the projections start changing, and Superman begins to punch projections away with anger (and sound, too) we are transported into the comic book world of the play, which is truly a magical place.

Because I had become so used to the visual aid of projections used in this play; the final scene stood out even more. I would hate to give away the ending to you, but let me say that the transformation of the set in the final scene puts many other theatrical spectacles to rest. This spectacle drew me so far into the world of the play, and really made me say “oooh, ahhh” and question “how did that actually happen, ON STAGE?” The set transition showed how powerful a spectacle can be, and should be – it shouldn’t just be appealing visually, but should speak volumes thematically. It should stand out, flap its arms around, and be impossible not to notice. It’s there. The spectacle. And it spoke to me.

During a tech rehearsal, I had taken a walk backstage. I already knew how the set worked, I knew when this final spectacle was coming, I had even read the play a few times, I was expecting it – yet still in awe when it actually happened on opening night.