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Posts Tagged ‘Geoff Sobelle’

A Good Balance of Comfort and Discomfort: An Interview with Steven Dufala

Posted September 12th, 2017

This week, two Philly Fringe favorites are returning to the Festival with two very different shows. Absurdist theater artist Geoff Sobelle will mount HOME on September 13, an ambitious new piece that ruminates on the transitory nature of dwelling, the impossible structural demands of a house, and the absurdity of making a home. Meanwhile, on September 14, theater maker and performer Thaddeus Phillips will premiere his latest work, A Billion Nights on Earth, a fantastical show for all ages that dives into the realms of parent–child relationships, as pair stumble through alternate realities in search of a beloved stuff whale. Though both of these shows are starkly different, they do have one thing in common. That would be artist Steven Dufala.

Dufala has been creating work in a variety of media for decades now. He has regularly collaborated with his brother Billy, under the name The Dufala Brothers, and together their work—often humorous, hyperbolic reimaginings of everyday or iconic items—has been exhibited widely. They’ve also organized absurdist artistic happenings, including a toilet-trike race through Old City during the 2005 Fringe Festival.

Recently, Steven Dufala has lent his exceptional talents to some ambitious works of theater, designing sets and making some larger than life visions a reality. Perhaps most notable among these collaborations was his work on Geoff Sobelle’s widely lauded show The Object Lesson, which had its premiere during the 2013 Fringe Festival and has since been taken all over the world. Turning theaters into storage spaces with boxes stacked high to the ceiling and filled with the usual household wares, the kind of miscellanea that does little but collect dust but somehow stays with you for years, as well as some more surreal keepsakes—”moss to mystic” designated actual moss with a strong whiff of incense, “acorn collection” ought to be self explanatory—his design and installation work on the show was critical to achieving its uncanny yet strikingly down to earth vibe.

We recently caught up with Dufala to learn more about his artistic practice and what it’s been like splitting his time between these two aesthetically divergent shows.


FringeArtsTell us a bit about your background. 

Winslow Fegley in A Billion Nights on Earth

Steven Dufala: I grew up in south Jersey, the middle of five boys in a creative household. Our parents were pianists and teachers, and all the brothers make things. So I’ve always been making things.

FringeArtsWhat was the Philadelphia arts community (or communities) like when you first arrived at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts? 

Steven Dufala: I used to like to say the scene was mostly living rooms and basements, and I guess that’s still kind of true, but everything was really DIY. Pig Iron was making shows in basements, the best music was at peoples houses, the best parties, the best art shows didn’t really look like shows, but were kind of one or two night show/parties. Old City was kind of too fancy, and no one really went north of Spring Garden. 

When I got to Philly, I didn’t go straight to the academy, I was at UArts for two years in film and animation. That basically cracked open a whole world of creativity I’d never really explored and that’s why I went to PAFA—to try and get a better foundation for making things in general.

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A House is Merely a Container

Posted September 11th, 2017

This is a guest post written by writer, editor, critic, and professor Stefanie Sobelle. She is also the dramaturg of HOME, the latest work from Geoff Sobelle. Her book The Architectural Novel is forthcoming from Oxford University Press, and her criticism has been published in Bookforum, the Financial Times, BOMB, Words Without Borders, Jacket2, and the Review of Contemporary Fiction.


What do we mean when we call a place “home”? Home might be the place where we live. It might also be, in game terms, the place we are trying to reach—the goal. We often associate with “home” concepts of comfort, safety, family. When we add an article, home can become more dire: they took her to “a home.” Home is not a house per se; a house is merely a container. It holds residents and furnishings, performances and privations. A house has identifiable limits—walls, doorways, staircases. A house can be discomfiting, sinister, cold, hostile, welcoming, familiar, secure. A house can be empty or full, dead or alive. A house can even be a dream.

We clean these houses to ward off chaos from the outside world; we remodel them and decorate them to bring them closer to our idea of who we want to be; we move into them and out of them; we buy them and we sell them; we take them and we lose them; we raise them and we raze them; we rent them and are rent from them. More often than not, these days at least, a house is often constructed by unknown contractors before we arrive, and destroyed by unpredictable forces after we leave, as if by magic. Its builders and demolishers are faceless and nameless. Its systems are complex and often mysterious.

We live in these houses alone and with others. Geoff and I each rent small Brooklyn apartments minutes from one another, small enclaves in larger houses populated by owners we call friends. But we grew up sharing spaces—bathrooms, backyards, garages, bunk bed hideaways, hillside forts, paper castles, bookstore attics, witchy ponds, and station wagon waybacks. We share so many memories of these childhood spaces—they tell us who we are and who we’ve been—and so we always feel a bit unsettled when we discover where those memories diverge.

I suppose we are all haunted by our memories of previous houses we have inhabited and of the traces left behind by those that came before us. In turn, we haunt those that come next, and this can be true whether the house takes the form of a single family dwelling, an apartment complex, a hotel, a bivouac, a congress, a prison, a theater. But home is less a material thing and more an idea, an experience, a feeling, an illusion. James Baldwin writes in his beautiful brief novel Giovanni’s Room that home can also be a person, or at least how we feel when we see or think of that person. “Perhaps home is not a place,” he writes, “but simply an irrevocable condition.”

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Recollections of Home from Geoff and Stefanie Sobelle

Posted September 7th, 2017

Next week sees the premiere of HOME, the latest work from acclaimed theater artist Geoff Sobelle. As a house comes together on stage and its residents—present, past, and future—begin to crowd in, audience members are confronted with the transient nature of dwelling, the constraints of time and money, the impossible structural demands of a house, and the absurdity—and at times the impossibility—of turning a house into a home. It’s a startlingly down to earth and moving meditation contained within a dazzling theatrical spectacle that asks us “What makes a house a home? What’s the difference? How do we confuse the two?”

The piece’s dramaturge—writer, editor, professor, and sister of Geoff, Stefanie Sobelle—has a pretty concise way of summing up this house vs home dichotomy. As Geoff told the FringeArts Blog in a recent interview, “[My sister] likes to poke fun at the old adage from The Wizard of Oz, ‘There’s no place like home,’ because she says, and rightly so, that home is not a place. It’s something else… so indeed, there IS no PLACE like home!” What that something else may be is the question HOME seeks to awaken in its audiences.

Back in April of 2016 the Sobelle siblings took part in an ongoing reading series for New York arts non-profit apexart. Entitled Double Take, the series is organized by writer and Bookforum co-editor Albert Mobilio and asks award winning and emerging poets, novelists, editors, and artists to trade takes on shared experiences. For their Double Take—video shared below—Geoff and Stefanie turned to their childhood home, sharing personal recollections of spaces within and around it, in which real and imagined details commingled.

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Geoff Sobelle comes HOME for the 2017 Fringe Festival

Posted June 30th, 2017

“The physical space is definitely a character. It is meant to connote all of the phases of construction/finish while also allowing for a more poetic space where people can reflect their own experiences.”

Geoff Sobelle. Photo by Jauhien Sasnou.

Geoff Sobelle is described by many, including himself, as a theatrical “absurdist.” Fascinated with “the sublime ridiculous,” Sobelle presents surreally old-fashioned stage effects and fantastical approaches to showcasing seemingly mundane parts of life. Beginning his career as a magician, and now actor, director, and producer, Sobelle’s works act as grand and genius illusions, earning such praise as the Bessie Award, the Edinburgh Fringe First Award, and the New York Times Critics Pick. In HOME, coming to the 2017 Fringe Festival, the audience will witness the life cycle of a house, built on the staged during the show, and its many inhabitants over time. HOME is focused on the human experience of location, especially what makes a house into a home. We chatted with Sobelle about the making of his latest production.

FringeArts: Do you remember how the title HOME came into being?

Geoff Sobelle: The first working title was “House and Home.”  I was/am interested in the difference between those two words. How we confuse them. My sister—with whom I lived for the first seventeen years of my life or so—is the dramaturg on this project. She likes to poke fun at the old adage from The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home,”because she says, and rightly so, that home is not a place. It’s something else . . . so indeed, there IS no PLACE like home!

House and Home eventually became shortened to HOME because it became more and more of what I was curious about—the comfort and also the alienation of something called home. Coming back to home can be like a warm bath, but also can be strange. And then—if not a place—what is home? This piece seeks to awaken that question in the audience.

FringeArts: How are you working with audience participation?

Geoff Sobelle: That’s a great question, and really at the heart of this project. I wanted to make a really large group piece—like 35 people or so—to have a kind of view of people and their acts of dwelling like you’d watch an ant farm. Something zoological. And also different time periods—all of the residents of a given address over time—but all there at the same time. Chaos! But I could not at first really conceive of how to effectively tour with such a large company. I have an ongoing passion/confusion/obsession with working with an unprepared audience. I think that it can often be awful, but that there might be a way—if great care and respect is taken—that it might be very beautiful. I am hoping that each person has an extraordinary experience and kind of forgets that they are in the midst of a performance. And that really is the point—when we are engaged in the act of living—maybe we lose track . . .

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Pandæmonium’s Desert Recollections

Posted September 13th, 2016

Earlier this summer the devisers of Pandæmonium ventured out into the Mojave desert to build a drive-in movie screen, stage a version of the choreography, and collect footage for the live performance. They’ve kindly shared some photos from this endeavor with us as well as some brief recollections of the experience. Consider it a sneak peek of some of the breathtaking imagery this exciting cinematic dance-theater concert has to offer. More info and tickets can be found here.


“The first thing I did in the desert was watch a copperhead rattlesnake get killed. The man who killed it then made us a drive-in movie screen.” Lars Jan (Director, Creator)

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(photo by Nichole Canuso)

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(photo by Nichole Canuso)

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(photo by Xander Duell)

 

 

“The role of the mannequins was born out there in the desert. We found them on craigslist outside of LA and got to know them for the first time through the filming process. They quickly became an important anchor in the project.” Nichole Canuso (Performer, Creator)

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If You Don’t Know Now You Know: Mini Artist Profiles at Philly Post

Posted September 3rd, 2013

sobelle-the-object-lesson-2Philadelphia magazine’s Victor Fiorillo runs down 10 notable FringeArts performers worth checking out this year.

It’s a pretty good quick guide to some awesome shows this year, actually: Martha Stuckey of Pay Up, Gunnar Montana of Basement, McKenzie Maula of A Doll’s House, James Michael Baker of Ballad of Joe Hill, Geoff Sobelle of The Object Lesson, Jess Conda of Eternal Glamnation and Pay Up, Scott Sheppard of Go Long Big Softie, Mary Tuomanen of St. Joan, Betrayed, Kevin Glaccum of Dutch Masters, and Brian Sanders of Hush Now Sweet High Heels and Oak.

If you’re looking for somebody to pick some especially adventurous shows for you, you couldn’t do much better than Victor’s list.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Photo of Geoff Sobelle by Lars Jan.

Elephant Room Takes Brooklyn And Does Things To It

Posted April 4th, 2012

Dennis Diamond, Louis Magic, Daryl Hannah.

You have till April 8 to see Louis Magic, Dennis Diamond, and Daryl Hannah, reveal the mysteries of the Elephant Room to Brooklyn, New York! They have been performing to great audiences, and garnered critical praise for their magic from such respected publications as The New York Times (“delightfully daft”) and The New York Post (“funny, inventive”), plus the show was selected as Critics Picks by The Village Voice and BACKSTAGE. 

“If there’s one thing that New Yorkers love–it’s magic,” explains Diamond. “And if there are three guys who can give them that one thing, it’s probably us three. The three guys from the Elephant Room.”

Elephant Room had its world premiere at the 2011 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, and was developed in part through our LAB Test production residency program, so we are thrilled by its continued success. The show gets into the minds and mysteries behind three somewhat world renowned magicians. In short, as they like to bill it: Three magicians. Two acts. One show. Zero boring stuff. Sub-zero intelligence.

At St Ann’s Warehouse, through April 8, 28 Water Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11211. Tickets online at www.stannswarehouse.org or call 718.254.8779.

The magicians of Elephant Room also have this magical-like  website.