Gravity will be just a suggestion at this week's encore performances of "LEO" - Purdue Exponent: Features

Gravity will be just a suggestion at this week's encore performances of "LEO"

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Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2013 10:00 am | Updated: 8:59 pm, Thu Oct 24, 2013.

The thrills of outer space are coming to Loeb Playhouse for the rest of the week. That doesn’t mean another visiting astronaut alumni – it means mind-bending anti-gravity stunts on stage.

William Bonnet, a world-traveling acrobat hailing from France, inherited the one-man show “LEO” from original actor and creator Tobias Wegner. Wegner envisioned the show as a way of demonstrating the importance in shifts of perspective.

This may be a one-man show, but the sole actor will appear on stage twice at the same time, thanks to one wall acting as a projection screen. Every act Bonnet carries out is reproduced sideways, or at 90 degree angle relative to him, on the screen, creating a delightfully disorientating view of what’s going on. This makes for some interesting imagery, like a bowler hat falling upwards and straight gait, normal walking on a ceiling.

Purdue Convocations Director Todd Wetzel discovered “LEO” two years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. To help reproduce the festival feel, seating will be intimate for the performance, with spots limited to the main floor. This has led to four planned performances this week to meet ticket demand.

Abby Eddy, the Convocations director of marketing, relayed what inspired Wetzel to bring “LEO” across the Atlantic Ocean and to Purdue.

“I think what Todd was most taken aback with the performance is that you’re watching the performance and at first you think ‘Okay, yes, of course I understand that half of the stage is the video project and half of the stage is the one-man show ‘LEO’ happening,’” Eddy said. “After you watch it for a little bit though, it sort of switches your perception on which is which. “Which is the video projection and which is the actor?’”

Carol Cunningham-Sigman, a professor and the chair of Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts, views this performance as ground breaking for the interdisciplinary field of physical theater. Unlike much stage performance, the emotion of the room will be set almost entirely by Bonnet’s physical presence. That presence has Cunningham-Sigman’s interest piqued as an inspiration for Purdue’s own dance companies.

“I’m interested in seeing how he tries to expand boundaries of what we can do with our bodies,” Cunningham-Sigman said. “We’re always trying to look at entertainment and see new ways of expressing ideas. Certainly by playing with the laws of physics (relating) to the body is very exciting.”

It is understandable if conceiving the nature of this performance is hard to do. Because of this, Eddy recommended interested students direct themselves to a preview video at http://www.convocations.org/.

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