RSS Twitter iCal - Members: Login or Register Search

May 12, 2008, 7:00 PM

Perception and Imagination: Masters of Theatrical Illusion

Participants: Jules Fisher, Peter Maloney, Gregory Meeh, Mark Mitton (moderator), Charles Reynolds

Though much contemporary theater and performance art breaks down the fourth wall, most classic and Broadway theater depends upon the idea of theater as illusion. Literal illusions are also a part of many of these productions. Some of Broadway's master practitioners of stage tricks—from lighting and set design to magic, special effects, and acting—will allow us a glimpse behind the scenes and discuss the art of bringing illusions to life in front of our eyes.

Illusion inevitably produces Coleridge's famed "willing suspension of disbelief" and the catharsis that plays such an important role in traditional theater works. What allows the audience to believe in an individual effect, or in a production as a whole? How do the members of a production team know when they have it right—especially when creating an effect that would not happen in real life? How is something unnatural or supernatural made to appear believable or look essential? This panel will examine the role of illusion in theatrical imagination and, in particular, how it creates the magic of spectacle in stage production.

Jules Fisher has lighted over 100 Broadway shows, receiving 20 Tony nominations and 8 Tony awards for Lighting Design, a record in this category. Recent projects include Gypsy at the Shubert Theatre, Caroline, or Change at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, Assassins at Studio 54, for which he received a Tony award, and the motion pictures Chicago, The Producers, School of Rock and Dreamgirls. Mr. Fisher's concert tour lighting credits include Linda Ronstadt, David Bowie, Whitney Houston, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and The Rolling Stones World Tour, for which he received an I.E.S. Lumen Award. He also received a Lumen for his work on the Times Square New Year's Eve Ball in New York City. A world-renowned theatre design consultant, Mr. Fisher is an inductee into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. Together with his partner, Peggy Eisenhauer, Jules conceives and designs lighting for all forms of entertainment at their studio, Third Eye.

Peter Maloney is an actor, director and writer who works in theater, films and television. Beginning May 13th, he will be appearing as God in the Atlantic Theater's production of Ethan Coen's play Almost an Evening. He has been seen on Broadway in Judgment at Nuremberg, Stanley, Poor Murderer, Hughie, and in the Lincoln Center Theatre productions Dinner at Eight, Arcadia, Carousel, Six Degrees of Separation, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, and Our Town. Television viewers will recognize him as "Uncle Red" on the Denis Leary series Rescue Me. He has appeared in 47 films, including K-Pax, Boiler Room, Requiem for a Dream, The Crucible, Washington Square, JFK, Desperately Seeking Susan and John Carpenter's The Thing! His play Leash (published by Applause Books as one of the Best American Short Plays of 2003-2004), is currently playing at the Luna Theater in L.A., and his Abu Ghraib Triptych was recently produced at the Alley Theater in Toronto. His adaptation of Machiavelli's Mandragola will soon be published by Broadway Play Publishing, and other plays have been published by Faber and Faber, Samuel French, Inc, and in the quarterlies The Kenyon Review and Ontario Review.

Gregory Meeh designs, builds, and supplies special effects for theatre, opera, dance, industrials, television, film and print. He began his career in 1973 when he burned Moscow for the Opera Company of Boston's critically acclaimed production of War and Peace. Some recent credits include KA for Cirque du Soleil, the Broadway productions of Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Pirate Queen, Spamalot, Julius Caesar, Nine, Into the Woods, Aida and Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center (Eddy Award), Ragtime, Showboat, An Inspector Calls (Drama Desk Award), Damn Yankees, Angels in America, Tommy, The Phantom of the Opera, and Les Misérables. His work also includes the television productions of Fool's Fire for American Playhouse, Late Show, Saturday Night Live, and One Life To Live.

Mark Mitton (moderator) started doing magic tricks when he was nine years old and never stopped. He was the apprentice to legendary sleight-of-hand master and vaudevillian Slydini and studied Commedia dell'Arte in Italy, physical comedy with David Shiner, and ancient street performing arts in Japan. Mark is fascinated by using magic and crafts as a way to better understand how we all see the world. As a professional sleight-of-hand artist, he has performed for Benoit Mandelbrot, Roald Hoffmann, Salman Rushdie, Greg Maddux, Sienna Miller, John Mayer, Sting, and many others; at festivals in Europe and Asia; at the Olympic Games; in war-torn Liberia; and in hospital wards around New York City. He has made Will Smith appear in the middle of Times Square, directed a freak-show opening circus for Aerosmith, and taught sleight-of-hand to Stanley Tucci and John Travolta for various film projects. Last summer, he created magic for the Public Theater production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Central Park.

Charles Reynolds has served as producer, director, magic creator, and magic consultant for many television, stage, and film productions from Hollywood and Broadway to London, Paris and Hong Kong. He has worked on Broadway as a magic consultant on dozens of shows, including Merlin, starring Doug Henning, Into the Woods, Sleight of Hand, Blackstone!, and, most recently, Young Frankenstein. He is the author and co-author of numerous book and articles on the theory of magic. Mr. Reynolds is the recipient of both the Creative Fellowship and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Magical Arts and is a Gold Star Honorary member of London's prestigious Inner Magic Circle. He was elected one of the 100 most influential figures of the 20th Century in American magic in a poll conducted by Magic magazine.


Edited Transcript

PDF Version
Word Version


Discussion Board

This forum allows for an ongoing discussion of the above Philoctetes event. You may use this space to share your thoughts or to pose questions for panelists. An attempt will be made to address questions during the live event or as part of a continued online dialogue.

Post a Comment

(URLs will display as links.)
If you are a Philoctetes subscriber, please log in below to post to our event discussions. Or sign up now for a free subscription so you can post to our discussions and optionally receive our email announcements and our bi-monthly newsletter.
E-mail Address:
Password: (Forgot your password?)