If Broadway is the Hollywood of the theater world, then off-Broadway is the independent film scene for theater junkies, like myself, to explore the innovative side of the art form.
Over the years, the use of media has emerged in the theater scene, giving theater performances the ability to imitate visual fragments that are often only seen on a digital screen. ‘Youarenowhere’, created and performed by Andrew Schneider, is an experimental piece which pulls the audience into the performance. Audience members not only witness a collage of medias, but also engage.
The performance begins in pitch darkness, with a fog’s artificial scent overcoming viewers’ nostrils. Schneider appears when stage lights begin to flash, changing positions before the stage is illuminated each time. The audience is trapped watching a performance comparable to that which appears on a broken TV screen, with images struggling to appear before being cut out by static. Or like a dream sequence in which every blink dreamt sweeps you off to a different point in time or place.
The entire first half of the show is Scheider’s monologue. Accompanied with even more complex visual effects, Schneider shoots out random comments about pop culture, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and AA recovery steps.
When looking at pieces of the performance, it is overwhelmingly confusing but considering it as a whole work, meaning can be discovered within his seemingly random rant. He aims to deconstruct the meaning of existence.
The second part of the performance illustrated a parallel universe. He suggests that a universe almost identical to earth’s exists beyond our current awareness. While seemingly cliché, Schneider manages to make it mind-boggling through precise characterization and meticulous attention to detail. Each second is planned to create a disoriented and collapsing effect on the eyes of the audience, forcing its members to question scene after scene—who is he and what are we doing here?
Experimental performances can come off whacky, staged or pretentious, and sometimes a complete disaster because modern concepts of humanity, philosophy and society are difficult to grasp and describe. Schneider, however, manages to capture the essence of the frantic uncertainty that people experience but stifle in their daily lives. By oppressing these questions, we exist passively in a universe full of unanswered questions. ‘Youarenowhere’ forces its audiences to acknowledge and witness the madness that we constantly try to ignore.
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