HOUDINI The process behind the play

Houdini is a new play created by Sandbox Theatre’s new aerial program called The Swingset. Created from scratch in seven weeks, Houdini is an examination of the life of the greatest showman of the 20th century.

But how did we get here? Why Houdini, and why aerials? For that, let’s introduce you to Evie...

Sandboxer and Swingset Director Evelyn Digirolamo
"I just really never got over wanting to fly as a child."

A Sandboxer since 2014, Evelyn Digirolamo has trained in aerial performance for seven years. During that time, she’s become an instructor and choreographer for aerial silk performance, most notably on Sandbox’s 2015 production, The Little Pilot.

The Little Pilot - photos by Dan Norman
The Swingset is Evelyn’s attempt to take the medium of aerial theatre further than she and Sandbox have taken it before.

"We rarely get to tell stories in the vertical plane. There's all that creative space taunting us above our heads. I've seen a lot of breath-taking circus performance on aerial silks, but their story-telling potential I feel is still in its infancy. As an actor, being able to perform while pushing your body to its limits brings a new kind of voracity and freedom to your ability to tell stories. Also, there is just so much unlocked potential in all the ways we can use the fabric to create stage pictures and represent emotion. I've learned that giving yourself a restriction as an artist, like sticking to one color as a painter or only using aerial silks as the entire set, brings out so much exciting innovation."

Sarah Zuber and Mark Benzel in rehearsal for Houdini

The Swingset is equal parts education and production program — designed to teach aerial silk artistry to new or returning participants, while generating new show material that can be performed as a showcase, or developed into full-scale productions, like Houdini.

Michelle de Joya, Mark Benzel, and Sarah Zuber costumed by Mandi Johnson and photographed by Matthew Glover
The framework and themes for the Houdini were constructed by project lead Evelyn Digirolamo, and production manager Danielle Siver.

We start the creation of our plays with an unh, the guiding question we seek to answer with the show. For Houdini, it’s an exploration of our human desire for metamorphosis; how we seek to change ourselves, our world, and the price we pay in our pursuit.

Houdini’s relationship with his wife, Bess, forms the bulk of our story. Theirs was a union based on love and admiration, but Houdini’s compulsive artistic drive was often a source of frustration and worry for Bess.

As with all Sandbox shows, Houdini is a full team effort.

At one time or another, each member of the cast & crew may find themselves creating movement or text for a character that is not their own. Here, production manager Danielle Siver teaches movements she created with Michelle de Joya (far left) for the benefit of Mark Benzel’s character, Harry Houdini.
Houdini is a collaboratively created play in its truest sense. The rehearsal room is a space for play, allowing each member of the ensemble an opportunity to develop as an artist and a teacher.
Michelle de Joya, working with Sandbox for the second time, and Chris Erickson, in his Sandbox debut, use music and storytelling to provide the show’s vaudevillian Greek chorus.
“He can make the world into anything he wants.”
The cast & crew of Houdini

Sandbox Theatre’s Houdini runs August 15-18

We’ll see you at the show!

Created By
Matthew Glover

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