Caitlin Marshall directs Kid-Simple as an exploration of sound

Photo by Ryan Montgomery

From Left: Marisa Darabi and Caitlin Marshall. Photo by Ryan Montgomery

Berkeley audiences are asked to question their perceptions and attitudes about sound, disability and access, with the opening of Kid-Simple: a radio play in the flesh by Jordan Harrison. TDPS Ph.D. Candidate Caitlin Marshall directs the production, running November 15-24 in Durham Studio Theater.

This comedic fantasy tells the story of Moll, a teenager who invents a machine that hears sounds that cannot be heard.  When her machine, “The Third Ear,” is stolen, she sets out on a quest with “the last virgin boy in the 11th grade” to reclaim it and save all noise on earth, crossing a wilderness of sound and temptation in the process.

Photo by Ryan Montgomery

From Left: Shira Grabelsky and Sophie Nelson. Photo by Ryan Montgomery

In a unique take on the play about sound, Marshall recruited Bay Area performer and teacher Shira Grabelsky as Associate Director. Grabelsky is Deaf, and brings years of experience dealing with sound as not only heard but experienced, seen and felt.

Marshall explains, “I started thinking about this particular script after a short residency at UC Irvine titled Art Inclusion: Disability, Design, Curation, where I was introduced to art and performance work that investigated sound as experiential, as something more than just a heard phenomenon. Later, when I met Shira, I was struck by the similarity of our visions for the work. We also seemed to share parallel performance aesthetics: highly valuing physical theater and robust, embodied storytelling. It’s been very important that many of the sound effects produced for the show are done in a highly visual and theatrical way. We’ve also tried to emphasize the vibrational and felt aspects of sound: the ‘sub-woofer experience,’ so to speak. We’re really working with multiple modes of meaning at all times: ASL, captions, speech, movement, sound, and lighting.” Adds Grabelsky, “It is live and living before our eyes, and is also something we can feel, both physically and emotionally.”

The production, which features a cast of student actors, also includes Foley artists performing the sounds live, as well as captioning to provide accessibility to content. To craft the highly evocative sonic landscape of Kid Simple, Marshall and Grabelsky assembled an extensive technical team comprised of Undergraduate Sound Design students Dylan Feldman & Eunice Fong, and Ph.D. Composition students Sivan Eldar & Ursula Kwong-Brown. These collaborations yielded a live sound effect score for Kid Simple that takes sound into account not just as an aural phenomenon, but as a visual, and vibrational, or felt experience. With the support of their mentors Ed Campion and Adrian Freed at the UC Berkeley Department of Music and the Center for New Music and Audio Technology (CNMAT), Eldar and Kwong-Brown have paired cutting edge digital technologies with novel live sound production techniques to craft unexpected instruments and “universes of sound” that are a feast both for the ears and the eyes.

Photo by Ryan Montgomery

Photo by Ryan Montgomery

The piece provides an opportunity for UC Berkeley student actors to stretch themselves physically and emotionally, as they engage with the broad aesthetics of melodrama and farce. “They’re learning how to act with and over real-time sound effects,” says Marshall, “how to act while speaking nonsense English, how to act while using gesture and American Sign Language, and how to bring their physical and vocal performances to the size and specificity of distinctly non-naturalistic modes of performance.”

“This production involves a stretch of the imagination and the readiness to make possible what may seem improbable, says Grabelsky.  “While this can be a challenge, it also gives the university the opportunity to say that it has done something like this and can do it again.”

The production is being produced in an accessible manner as well: the Friday, November 22 show will feature ASL interpretation prepared by Sign Master JAC Cook for the deaf community. More information can be found at http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/kid-simple-a-radio-play-in-the-flesh/.

TICKETS AND INFORMATION

Kid-Simple: a radio play in the flesh opens Friday, November 15 at the Durham Studio Theater on the UC Berkeley campus, and runs weekends through Sunday, November 24.  Performance times are as follows:

November 15, 16, 22, 23 at 8pm; November 17, 14 at 2pm. (8pm Fridays & Saturdays, 2pm Sundays)
- A post-show discussion will follow the matinee on Sunday, November 19.
- The performance on November 22 will be ASL-interpreted by Sign Master JAC Cook.

Patrons with special accommodation needs or questions may contact our ticket services manager at 510-642-8827 or tdpsboxoffice@berkeley.edu at least one week before your visit. All TDPS performance venues are wheelchair-accessible. Service animals are allowed in our venues. Please see http://access-guide.berkeley.edu/ for more information.

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