Romeo Castellucci represents an unusual combination of theatre director and visual artist. This duality can be seen in his recent, 70-minute theatrical exploration, Hey Girl!, which premiered in Europe before coming to North America where it was first seen at the Festival TransAmérique in Montreal last fall, then went on a US tour that culminates this month in the Peak Performances series at Montclair University in New Jersey and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, before heading back to Europe in the spring.
This kind of work — both technically and intellectually challenging — is on the cutting-edge of non-narrative theatre, taking audiences into new realms of the imagination via gesture and strong imagery. Directed by Castellucci (and produced by his Italy-based company, Societas Raffaello Sanzio) with original music by Scott Gibbons, Hey Girl! begins with a fog-filled stage. On a table placed stage right, there is what looks like a soft sculpture that is dripping gelatinously onto the floor as the light flickers softly. The sculpture begins to move, and ever so slowly, a nude female figure emerges as if shedding a primal suit of armor. From there, she progresses through the history of modern woman, from Joan of Arc to Marie Antoinette to the female trappings of red lipstick and Chanel No. 5, from submission to freedom. The final image assaults the audience with a laser beam piercing the room and ear-splitting electronic sound. The laser, which travels with the show, is a multicolor 2W Regus 2.0 with a PC controller using Pangolin LD 2000 software.
“Hey Girl! is like an art installation,” notes J. Ryan Graves, production manager at Montclair University, who worked with Castelluci's Italian crew on the technical aspects of the performance in the university's Kasser Theatre. The visuals include a mix of lasers, projections, and lighting with the rig ranging from four Altman 1kW cyc lights and four Altman PAR 64s to two small pin spots shooting across the stage, with a range of ETC Source Fours in various sizes (from 10° and 19° with irises, to 26°, 36°, and 50°), 18 2kW Altman Fresnels, and nine 1kW Altman Fresnels, as well as 35W custom dimmable fluorescents, three Martin Professional Atomic 3000 Strobes, one Clay Paky Miniscan, and additional 4' fluorescent tubes that flicker in the set.
The lighting designer/board op for the tour is Giacomo Gorini (in the case of Montclair, he will use the in-house ETC Expression 3 console). “Some of the Fresnels replace the European PC fixtures,” notes Graves, who points out that many of the Altman fixtures were in stock at Montclair. “The lighting rig varies from venue to venue, depending on what comes from Italy and what they have in house,” he explains.
There is both front and rear projection in Hey Girl!, with a cascade of words on the upstage wall at one point, bombarding the audience with things to think about, in addition to the evocative imagery on stage. “The production travels with one projector, and we are providing the other,” says Graves. The traveling projector, used for rear projection onto a 3m square gray RP screen, is a BenQ MP620 unit, while Montclair is providing a projectiondesign® F3+ XGA DLP projector used FOH onto a gray muslin-covered wall.
One of Grave's challenges is how to keep all the needed fog in the room and work with the HVAC system. Another challenge inherent in Hey Girl! is the latex used to cover the nude female body at the top of the show and reused for each performance. “It is a custom latex mix that is shipped from Italy,” Graves explains. “The body mold is harder than the liquid version that oozes throughout the beginning of the show.”
On the audio side, playback is via a laptop that comes with the production, as well as a mix of three Tascam 01U CD decks, a Sony mini-disk player, plus a Shure SM58 microphone and a Yamaha LS9-32 digital console for mixing, also in-house at Montclair, as are the 12 DB Technologies DVA-T4 8" line array loudspeakers (flown in four clusters of three, rather than the usual left/center/right configuration) and two DB Technologies 18" double subwoofers. “With the frequency of shows here, there is no downtime,” says Graves in reference to the in-house gear and a recent upgrade of their sound system. “If we want to use it, we had better own it.”