Robert Lepage's The Andersen Project

I went to Philadelphia to see the "east-coast US premiere" of Robert Lepage's The Andersen Project at the Merriam Theatre last night, and it was great.  It's another Lepage one-man tour de fource, with Yves Jaques (who I also saw in Far Side of the Moon at ART) now performing instead of Lepage himself. The show mixes the stories of Hans Christian Andersen with a fictional French-Canadian librettist brought to the Paris opera to develop a project. The parallels with Lepage's own life are pretty obvious, and he explores them in a great interview with Philadelphia's CityPaper here.

I wasn't able to shoot pictures, but since the show has played in many other places around the world, there are some nice photos on flickr, like this from "shadowclown" in Austria:

And these from leila1980 in Japan (?):

Mr. Jaques has some interesting things to say in this short video (which had only 9 views when I found it), and there's also a couple clips of the show action:

As you can see, the show relies heavily on some very intense and inventive use of technology. However, as with all of Lepage's work (that I've seen, anyway) the technology works to connect the audience to the performer; to tear down a wall rather than building one up.  The video is sometimes just straightforward playback, but there are some interactive masking effects at the top of the show during an opening credits scene, where Mr. Jaques is black masked out of the projected background in near-real time, and then some very cool effects are rendered based on his movement (I remember talking to Mr. Lepage's engineers about this during my visit to La Cascerne last year).

The projections worked very well in large part because of Mr. Jaques' amazing acting chops, but also because he is actually standing inside the video screen.  Here's a great photo from a Russian Chekovfest blog that shows the upstage screen playing space with no projections:


To do this, the video had to be rendered to stay in proportion to the curves of the screen (which also tracks up and downstage), and where we were sitting (in the middle of the house about 2/3 back) the effect worked very well.  Obviously, this also requires very careful lighting, which was very well done, as was the sound (despite some wireless problems close to the end of the show), mechanized scenery, and costumes (and there are some very quick changes).  Lepage's website doesn't show any other current tour dates for this show, but if it comes back around it's well worth seeing!

This is my second trip to Philly in the last few months (I wrote up the free light/video shows at the Comcast center, Macy's and Franklin Institute back in December), and it was amazing to me that this great show didn't even come close to selling out (as I'm sure it would have done if it played here NYC).  I ended up with two free tickets but there wasn't even a crowd at show time to whom I could give them away.  My friend who went with me is a bit of a foodie, and discovered that last night was famous chef Susanna Foo's last night at her restaruant on Walnut street after 22 years. My friend called Friday and got a reservation!  The food was amazing, but when we left the restaurant just before show time, the place was 1/2 empty.  Foo owns the the building, which she sold so they could turn the site condos and retail. That sale should provide for quite a nice retirement.

I shot one quick picture before getting on the train home (took the Acela down and that was excellent):