Red Fly/Blue Bottle: theatre and technology

by Stephanie Fleischmann | 1 January 2018

Look closer at the world. Listen more carefully.

On a circle of vellum an out-sized fly buzzes and shimmers, shape-shifting into the face of an old lady. The fly takes the form of a video pieced together from processed found footage – jumpy, old-fashioned, decayed and blurred. The image of the old woman is rendered live, in real time, a close-up of a performer inhabiting a remote region of the stage, captured by a hidden robotic camera that swivels from one actor to another as the piece unfolds.

The old woman, played by Black-Eyed Susan (of Ridiculous Theatre fame), is one of four characters in Red Fly/Blue Bottle, a multi-media music-theatre work created by myself and composer Christina Campanella in collaboration with director Mallory Catlett, video artists Peter Norman and Mirit Tal and Latitude 14, the company we formed to make the piece. Working with a trio of designers we developed the work in residence at HERE Arts Centre in New York City where it premiered in 2009 and then travelled to The Netherlands. Last November Red Fly received its regional premiere closer to home at Experimental Media and Performing Arts Centre (EMPAC), at Renesselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, just 40 minutes north of Hudson.

Red Fly/Blue Bottle is about a man’s deployment to a secret war, the young woman he left behind (the ancient entomologist’s former self) and the discoveries she makes in his absence. It is a meditation on loss, time – how time changes us and holds us in its thrall – and memory. If the piece has a message it is this: look closer at the world.

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