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Photo: Sawyer Smith and the cast of PIPPIN | Brett Beiner
By G. “Max” Maxin IV
Traditionally, theater is rooted in suspension of belief. When an audience walks into a theater, they check in with the box office, they might see the set before the actors come on stage, they see their fellow patrons. The understanding that they are not in the world of the show is palpable – but when the lights dim and the focus narrows to the stretch of the stage, the audience becomes a passenger along the journey of the characters. With video design elements, however, a show has the capability to become a fully immersive experience for audiences – to allow audiences to make the jump from being passengers in the story to stepping fully into the world of the show. In a space like Mercury Theater Chicago’s Venus Cabaret, which is staged for intimate and immersive performances, we had the ability to do whatever we could dream up for PIPPIN.
As the video designer, it was my job to interpret the script, its various scenes and bits of dialogue, and figure out how to translate that into visuals that would lie behind each and make for a fuller and more complete world. Before my work as a video designer, I worked extensively as a scenic designer, lending to the knowledge that the video design in a production is simply another element of the scenic design, without any pesky laws of physics to bring you down. Video design affords the capability of a motion and immersive nature that might not be possible in a more traditional stage set-up.
For this show, with its expansive and historical elements, we wanted to make use of the video component to assure that the world felt as if the audience were
looking through a lens to a different time, a different world entirely – that they were capturing a glimpse of Pippin’s world as he moved through it.
With different numbers, like “War is a Science,” we dug into the historical influences that inspired some of the characters in the show – so using heavily impactful visuals from history, we were able to add depth to the scene and the number – to immerse the audience in the horror of war facing Pippin in that moment, and use those influences across the entirety of the production. I’m thrilled for audiences to see this show, and for the creative technology here to open the doors of what the future of theater in Chicago could be.
G. “MAX” MAXIN IV (Video Design) is excited to be working with Mercury Theatre again after last working on Avenue Q. Selected Chicago credits include: Avenue Q (Mercury Theater); Cyrano (Jeff Award Nominated); A Little Night Music, Urinetown (Jeff Award Nominated); Oklahoma (Marriott); Pippin, Chorus Line, Little Women, Cabaret, Bare (Another Door); The View Upstairs (Circle Theatre); Homos or Everyone in America, Perfect Arrangement and Angry Fags (Pride Films & Plays).