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Who's In Charge of the Giant Bubble?

Date: Aug 05, 2014


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For performance art junkies and thrill-seekers alike, Fuerza Bruta WAYRA offers a breathtaking array of multi-sensory spectacles not found in an ordinary theatre. From the high-flying performers to the epic, Argentinian-influenced music---not to mention the massive, two-sided climbing wall and the pool of water hovering above the audience's heads---this operation begs the question: who on Earth is running the show?

"Everyone is in communication with each other from the very start," says stage manager Roumel Reaux, who also managed Fuerza Bruta's previous Off-Broadway incarnation. "The lighting engineer, sound engineer, automation, the riggers, the carpenters: every crew member is in touch." So while WAYRA features an impressive cast of aerial singers and dancers, Reaux's eighteen crew members are also stars in their own right.

Unlike many productions, in which one stage manager orchestrates each technical moment, it would be almost impossible for a single person to guide WAYRA's plethora of design elements. "Because everything is overlapping, no one person can sit with a cue script and just call cues to coordinate it all," says Reaux. "It's a real group effort." Every member of the crew is actively engaged and communicating constantly via headsets. Even the ushers are instrumental to the proceedings, shepherding the standing audience around the Daryl Roth Theatre as increasingly spectacular set pieces emerge. Crew members must also work together when things go wrong, as they are wont to do in live theatre. If a power cord isn't connected properly, or something is caught in a rig, the stage management team knows how to make sure the show doesn't screech to a halt.

"Musically, we have what are called loops," Reaux says. "The sound engineer will switch to the loop, which continues until the problem is solved." The crew's seamless communication, as well as the sound design's concert-like, immersive quality, help cover any potential mishaps. "So far," laughs Reaux, "we've been lucky!"

The cast of WAYRA 

The collaborative nature of the stage management and the on-your-feet festivities aren't the only things setting WAYRA apart from more typical New York fare. Whereas most productions begin with rehearsals between a director and actors, this show's construction and technical walk-throughs preceded the performers' involvement. "It starts with the technical things," says Reaux. "They have to build the treadmill so the actor can run on it. They have to build the rigging for the two [actors] who run along that silver curtain." Creator-director Diqui James invented the show's sequences and set pieces for productions in Buenos Aires and London, so their construction in this new space came first. Only after everything was put together logistically could the full cast and crew assemble to rehearse the different acts.

The final element, of course, doesn't differ much from any other theatrical endeavor. As Reaux points out, each night's audience brings a new energy that allows him to see the show with fresh eyes. "Anything that is done in repetition eventually can become rote," he says. "But seeing that what you're doing affects them will always be inspirational."

He continues, "I love the communication that goes on between the audience and the show itself. It's the whole wonderful thing of going to the theatre and being taken on a trip." Just as the technical team must stay in the moment to make sure every cog in the system is running smoothly, the crowd is connecting with each facet of the visceral experience. The show's final number, in which a gigantic plastic bubble is unfurled with the audience's help, then inflated with them inside it, epitomizes this communication. Cast, crew, and spectators are all participants, working together to create something in the living, breathing, present tense.


Jack Smart
is a Brooklyn-based arts writer and critic. He blogs about theatre and pop culture at JackSmartReviews.

Photos by Jacob Cohl