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The Tense Timely Rendering of #TheaterInQuarantine’s Streamed Footnote for the End of Time

The Tense Timely Rendering of #TheaterInQuarantine’s Streamed Footnote for the End of Time

God made him die over the course of a hundred years.” This is the first line displayed on the screen when Theater In Quarantine ushers us into their next wildly inventive and finely tuned new production. It’s a captivating and engaging quotation, a dream of pawns with a good solid twist, where time stops for a Jewish playwright who has been sentenced to death during the Nazi occupation of Prague. In this magical and dynamically engineered retelling of Jorge Luis Borges’ classic short story, The Secret MiracleFootnote for the End of Time finds graphic dynamic details as it unwinds the charcoaled beauty of this daring and dark tale. Premiering on August 27 on Joshua William Gelb’s YouTube, the creating, reversing, and erasing of this hypnotic poetic translation is created with deft care in a impressively artistic collaboration with composer Alex Weston (The Farewell). It’s tense and timely, setting this transfixing translation of Borges’ cacophony of spoken verse to the fantastic musical accompaniment inspired by Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, itself composed in a Nazi POW camp. 

Joshua William Geib from his home closet, Theater in Quarantine’s Footnote for the End of Time.

It’s hauntingly elegant in its solid literary warning to others, where “the enemies” are killing the writing man countlessly and theoretically in a repetitive style that is nothing if not punctual. “How long have you been here” asks God when the unfinished drama inside his head filters and floats out into the white canvas, where all these strangers that have gathered are actually something quite else than what they first say they are. The tension is poetically sketched with detail and finesse, paralyzing our senses as he screams wildly in the everlasting moment of 9:02am. Theater In Quarantine has found their own language of intense and deliberate artistic technique pulling this piece forward into our senses, “maybe more, maybe less“, finding an intense emotional core from their fantastically creative rendering that will linger in your imagination for some time.  

Footnote for the End of Time, the latest debut from Theater in Quarantine, is a must-see new performance laboratory from the creative mind of Joshua William Gelb who performs and live streams his work from his East Village home closet. Gelb’s performances have set an extremely high-bar for live performance inside the digital space, challenging us to embrace the confines of remoteness with daring clarity and vision. He’s a champion of the creative collaborative mind at a time when New York City is in need of exactly this, amid vital protests and the threat of a second wave looms. Theater in Quarantine remains dedicated to producing new live experiences while brick and mortar theaters remain closed, and this is one not to be missed. It’s wildly smart and sometimes overwhelming with its literary dimensions, but that’s when it radiates with its devotion most solidly to good art.

Joshua William Geib from his home closet, Theater in Quarantine’s Footnote for the End of Time.

From the press package regarding this and their other fun productions available on their YouTube channel, Theater in Quarantine states quite bracenly that they remain fully dedicated to producing new live experiences while the live theaters remain closed in New York City. Gelb states, “When everything shut down, I set out to adapt to the digital form without sacrificing the integrity of the live event. How can we artfully push against the boundaries of this new social distance to theatrically embrace the limitations of remoteness? What we might consider our shared theatrical values? And how might we continue to collaborate responsibly even while we social distance?” And thank God for that.

TiQ - People Mover - Joshua William Gelb
TiQ – People Mover – Joshua William Gelb.

Gelb and his collaborators started releasing pre-recorded studies in movement, clown, camera orientation, and perspective, finding ways of building upwards towards more complex theatrical experiences. On April 23, they premiered Theater in Quarantine’s first live-stream performance: an adaptation of Kafka’s The Neighbor which has been followed by an unauthorized edit of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape and collaborations with artists like Scott R. Sheppard (Underground Railroad Game), Nehemiah Luckett (Jazz Singer), and Ellen Winter (36 Questions).

TiQ - Mask Study - Joshua William Gelb
TiQ – Mask Study – Joshua William Gelb.

I often think about Peter Brook’s invocation of the empty space when standing in front of my closet,” says Gleb. “How can this utilitarian container, so uncomfortably small, so disproportionate in its aspect ratio, become a stage for the imagination? And it’s here I find the central metaphor, and perhaps appeal, of the entire project — it’s about as obvious as you might expect — that my attempts not only to make art in this confinement but to exist whatsoever, are not so dissimilar from what many of us are experiencing. There is frustration, and boredom, and lots of loneliness. But there is also great potential and for once an expanse of time that we have the chance to fill not with mere anxiety but with the thoughtful, rigorous creative impulse.” It’s a noble and vital response to a closed down dangerous world and the aloneness of quarantine, one that he not only finds humor in his craft but unleashes so much more inventiveness than one can ever imagine, all buried deep inside his tight white closet in the East Village. If only my closet had such treasures….

TiQ - Topside - by Scott R. Sheppard - featuring Joshua William Gelb
TiQ – Topside – by Scott R. Sheppard – featuring Joshua William Gelb.

Check out my review of Theater in Quarantine & Sinking Ship’s The 7th Voyage of Egon Tichy. Visit joshuawilliamgelb.com for more information and youtube.com/joshuawilliamgelb to stream all of the Theater in Quarantine original works.

For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Out of Town
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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