Fall of the House of Escher

Actress Shanique Scott plays Madeline, who holds a conduit that connects her with Madibot. Madibot is an exact mechanical copy of Madeline, but Madibot is played by actor Adriano Cabral. Actress Shanique Scott plays Madeline, who holds a conduit that connects her with Madibot. Madibot is an exact mechanical copy of Madeline, but Madibot is played by actor Adriano Cabral.
Photo courtesy of Punctum

Inside the church-like Lyceum Theatre, the eerie overture to 2001: A Space Odyssey played as students and family members filed into their seats.

Before them a stage of mirrors, designed as a homage to graphic artist M.C. Escher, was lit in a fashion reminiscent of the fabric of time and space.

This past week, Punctum studio presented The Fall of the House of Escher, a choose your own adventure style play combining quantum mechanics, the works of Edgar Allen Poe and M.C. Escher.

Directing theater graduate student, Megan Weaver, co-directed the performance that included eight performers, all members of Punctum.

Punctum is composed of thirteen artists, all who had a hand in creating The Fall of the House of Escher.

The play’s premise is based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, The Fall of the House of Usher. Weaver and Punctum combined them with the works of M.C. Escher, such as “Drawing Hands,” “Relativity,” “Hand With Reflecting Sphere” and “Ascending and Descending.”

The Fall of the House of Escher brings forward quantum mechanics to the audience, creating an eclectic performance.

“The play really focuses on entanglement, split realities and two states of being,” Weaver says. “Paradoxes that the human mind can’t compute.”

Tyler Eglen, a performance graduate student of the Herberger Institute, plays as the Kraaken, a character that is used to solve the problems that arise in the play.

Eglen says that the idea of entanglement plays a key role in the play. Each character in the play affects the other, just like entanglement in quantum mechanics.

The actors are playing multiple characters at once that either split into two different people or that are linked to each other.

During the writing process Eglen had the most experienced in quantum mechanics and had read sources such as Stephen Hawking’s “Brief History of Time.”

To keep the audiences attention, Eglen and company had to adapt the concepts of quantum mechanics.

“(We) adapted it so that everyone would get it,” Eglen says. “There were times when we’d bend the physics or we’d stick to it. We did a little of both.”

Irving Garibaldi, a fifth year secondary education major, came to see the play to write a review on it for an assignment. Garibaldi expressed how the quantum mechanics in the play worked.

“It was something that carried us through the play,” Garibaldi says.

In keeping with the play’s complexity, it’s also a "choose your own adventure" play. Weaver and Eglen said that every performance was a little bit different.

During the play a character anonymous to the audience would come forward and present two options to the audience. She’d then point to an audience member and ask what their decision was.

They’d pick one of the two choices and then the play would go from there, sometimes an entire section of the play would repeat itself or the audience would see a completely new component.

But each time the audience saw a repeated part of the play, it was just a little bit different. The differences between scenes would be as dramatic as a completely new actor playing one of the major characters or as subtle as the actor putting a glove on a different hand.

Theater graduate student, Meg Sullivan, is the music dramaturg for the play and one of the Rodericks. She played a key role in the script writing process.

“We’re trying to explain choice and different realities,” Sullivan says.

When the members of Punctum were creating this play, Sullivan says that they’d split into groups and would pressure write scenes. Each group would have two minutes to write out a scene and they’d do this over and over again.

After everything was written the directors would edit everything down and put the play together into the formats that it became.

Punctum has been working on this play since the beginning of 2013. They came up with the idea after receiving a prompt from their Master of Fine Arts adviser, Lance Gharavi.

The play began its world premiere at ASU Weaver says. Currently there aren’t any plans for it to be performed elsewhere, but the script was written in a format that other theaters across the country could pick it up.

When the play had ended to applause the audience looked on at an empty stage expecting the actors to come out and receive the cheers.

But none came forward as a lone note that was pertinent to the story and shown through out dropped from above and onto the stage in a whimsical manner. Only then did everyone leave, discussing the play they had just seen.

Reach the writer at jamillar@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @ChillinJess


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