Cennarium Backstage Issue 3 - Promenade Festival Special Edition - Page 6

In Performance, Latex Balloons Become “Pop” Art BY STEPHEN CHARLES SMITH Photos by Blair Simmons Two 72-inch latex balloons, human heads visible at the top, hopping like bunny rabbits. It’s an up-down, up-down game, a battle of wills for one balloon’s “posture” to seem taller than another. Then, without warning, an explosive POP! Where the balloon was there is now an actor in black tights, a mixture of lube and sweat glistening under the lights, shards of latex wrapped like a collar around her neck. This is Annie Hägg, one of two performers -- balloon-persons -- in an experimental theater work called Staging Wittgenstein. From the corner of the stage, calmly even more genuinely surprised that the show but urgently, Blair Simmons, the director and went on. Clearly there’s some fundamental creator of Staging Wittgenstein, strides over to impediment to putting on the show. This Hägg as a well-oiled, efficient process unfurls: time, as the play progresses, a sense of slow Step 1: Simmons checks on Hägg’s well-being. violence, of landscaped tension, creeps into She is stunned but physically fine. the subconscious of the audience. Step 2: Simmons takes an uninflated latex balloon skin and aids Hägg in stretching it to fit varied. Some audience members laughed. around her waist. Some shook their heads. Some cheered. Some Step 3: Hägg contorts herself, collapsing and worried for the actors. Simmons re-entered After the third pop, the reactions contorting her upper body down into the latex and stretching it until it covers her shoulders and hugs her throat. Step 4: Simmons inserts the hose of a vacuum into the neck hole and begins to re-inflate the balloon. Hägg takes small steps, like a march, to avoid popping the balloon as air fills it up. Step 5: Simmons returns with the vacuum to the corner of the stage—always present for the next pop. Step 6: The play resumes.  But did it ever stop? After all, tonight’s audience for Staging Wittgenstein witnesses this re-inflation maneuver four times. Following the first pop, there is incredible shock, a certainty that something must have gone terribly wrong. Everyone wonders: has ever happened before? Will the play continue? After the second pop, the audience seemed 6 Cennarium.com cennarium.com/promenade/ #streamthearts #streamarts 7