Idyllwild Arts’ Theatre Department next presents “Hotel Cassiopeia,” playwright Charles L. Mee’s dreamlike evocation of the life and carefully calibrated creations of American “sculptor” and collector of found objects Joseph Cornell.
Famously reclusive, Cornell is best known for his juxtapositioning of delicate found objects in glass-fronted shadow boxes. His “memory boxes” arranged iconic objects in such a way as to strike chords of memory in viewers.
Mee’s play is itself a memory collage — of music, movement, dialogue and dance — gently unfolding against a background of stars, the constellation of Cassiopeia.
Guest director and Louisville, Kentucky, resident Alec Volz characterizes Mee’s play a non-linear dream. The visuals and the cadence of the dialogue, like Cornell’s shadow boxes, immerse the audience in a shadow reality with moments of light and recollection. “The challenges in this show for both actor and director stem from its nonlinear plot and seemingly unrelated characters,” wrote Volz in his director’s notes. “A story does emerge, but not in the way you would expect. That’s what I like about it.”
To suggest the whimsical tone of the play and describe the projection-centered stage setting, Mee begins: “A wall of stars: the constellations or the moon or a vast star map of the cosmos covers the back wall, or should it look like a Pollack painting? Splashes and droplets of white paint.”
Said Volz, “Cornell was an important American art bridge in the 20th century, not well known because he was a ‘found-object’ artist. But his work is fascinating. By producing this play we are exposing the department’s students to a great modern playwright and we can also involve and excite students from the visual arts department.
Asked what the audience should expect, Volz said, “It requires you to listen.”
Volz is no stranger to Idyllwild. For eight summers he has assisted Theatre Chair J. Barrett Cooper in the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, directing the modern acting part of the Classical Theatre Camp. Volz is a professional actor, director, voice-over artist and improv performer. He is also a Talking Books narrator for the American Printing House for the Blind, and in that capacity has narrated more than 200 books.
Of the IA Theatre students in his cast, Volz said, “These are some of the most talented kids I’ve worked with, and they’re drawn from an international background. They work hard and they’re committed to the project.”
“Hotel Cassiopeia” features IA students, Nico Yasko, Zora Schoner, Katie Hahka, Anthony Shin, Caroline Quigley, Katie Berger, Ana Zamudio, Vela Zhang, MacKenzie Shapiro, Darla Testoedova, Veronic St-Cyr, Dimash Mukhamedi, Olivia Schneider, Chelsea Sik and Allison Billmeyer; with set and prop design by Trevor Holmes, costumes by Minnie Christine Walters, lighting by Todd Carpenter and sound, projection and film design by Volz. Ahmet Buyukcinar is the technical director.
It plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 11, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at Rush Hall on the Idyllwild Arts campus. There is no admission charge.