Go Deeper Geoff Sobelle comes HOME for the 2017 Fringe Festival

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 . . .

FringeArts: During rehearsals and the creative work with your fellow performers and designers, what have your conversations centering around most?

Geoff Sobelle: SO many conversations! I suppose we mostly talk about space and audience, if i had to identify the theme . . . about how space can dictate behavior—the connection between architecture/design and how we move and inhabit . . . but we often end up talking about our own histories of dwelling—memories of growing up—things that come back to us as we work. Houses are strange, they are all rather haunted, and as we move through Steven Dufala’s house on the stage, we all are also moving through the many rooms of many sorts that we have all called home. It is a curious kind of memory palace—and new corners are illuminated every time we explore.

FringeArts: What is the story of HOME?

Geoff Sobelle: The story of HOME is the life cycle if a house. And the many dreams of home cast upon it.

FringeArts: What is the job of the house’s architecture? Is the physical space almost like its own a character?

Geoff Sobelle: Yes—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.

FringeArts: What is the role of illusion in HOME, technically and as pertains to the overall themes?

Geoff Sobelle: The illusions in the show are part of an ongoing passion of mine—and my work with one of my collaborators, Steve Cuiffo. Here, I think it’s mostly about time—how slippery time’s effect of the physical world is, how ten years flash by and you still didn’t fix the squeaky door—or while that door continues to squeak, the neighborhood changed and it’s not going to change back. Things appear, disappear, change, transform, erode, and by the time you’ve wrapped your head around it, things have changed again. Illusion for me is a way to point to the illusions of stability and permanence that we’d like to imagine in our own narratives of home-making and real estate. Though as we know only too well, every house will eventually come down.

Geoff Sobelle
World Premiere!

Sept 13–15 at 8pm
Sept 16 at 2pm + 8pm

Prince Theater
1412 Chestnut Street
Wheelchair accessible
90 minutes

$35 (general)
$24.50 (member)
$15 (student + 25-and-under)

Interview by Josh McIlvain. Additional writing by Isa Siegel. HOME Photos by Maria Baranova.