Photo by Lars Jan
The Object Lesson (World Premiere)
"Meaning and meaninglessness mingle quite comfily in The Object Lesson."
Christ Church Neighborhood House
20 North American Street
(by 2nd + Market Streets)
Wheelchair accessible (map)
$25 / Members save 30%
Student + 25-and-under tickets $20
Past Festival shows
Elephant Room (2011), Amnesia Curiosa (2006), all wear bowlers (2005)
The development of The Object Lesson was supported by the Independence Foundation and The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
Explore the inner life of objects.
Alone with a mountain of boxes, all filled with the stuff of lifetimes, a man reaches into the heap to investigate the artifacts of everyday existence; ordinary objects are imbued with deeper meaning, rooms are reconstructed, stories unfolded before being lost and forgotten. Physical theater artist Geoff Sobelle has created an absurdist mystery about the search for meaning in a massive collection of stuff.
Like an archeological detective, Sobelle conducts his search to uncover the secrets of a life in storage, how objects gain and lose value, evoke memories, how they transform from meaningful to meaningless, from loved to discarded. How strange the stuff of our lives seems, all stored in boxes and then extracted under the examining eye of a curious stranger.
Interview with Geoff Sobelle
FringeArts: Why is the show called The Object Lesson?
Geoff Sobelle: The title came to me while I was writing about the piece for an early developmental grant. I knew that it referred to something, and maybe even something vaguely religious or spiritual. It just fit. It's also the name of an Edward Gorey short story; the first thing that I ever memorized when I was a kid. It's really a great story and like many of his works, the title is relatively meaningless. Meaning and meaninglessness mingle quite comfily in The Object Lesson.
The "object lesson" is a real thing. It was an innovative 19th century teaching/learning technique. Children would hold an object in their hands, like a block of wood or wax, and describe its qualities and attributes in their own words. It was a way of guiding them toward a direct relationship to the material universe. They don't learn just the word "wax," but they have an experience of what "wax" is - a relationship.
Photo: Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison
FringeArts: Was there a specific incident that inspired the show?
Geoff Sobelle: The initial inspiration for the show came from wanting to make something about our relationship to "things," to "stuff." I was inspired by two things in the beginning. One was George Carlin, the comedian, who has a whole routine about our "stuff." "Why is our stuff STUFF, and everybody else's stuff is SHIT?" Hey, get your shit away from my stuff! That kind of thing. The second was another comedian, not to be confused, George Carl, an amazing physical comedian who developed insane routines with a microphone, a hat, a jacket and a harmonica. The master of the "gag." I'm not sure that this show has anything to do with either point of departure anymore, but there you have it.
FringeArts: What's the process of creation in such a work?
Geoff Sobelle: A long and windy road. I began with nothing - no source material, nobody else in the room, no idea, no showing coming up, no nothing. I wanted to see what would happen when I was in the room alone. At that point, you have a confrontation with the self, which can be rather tricky. From that point on, I realized that it would be helpful to work with other people. I sought out people that I really admire, but haven't worked with a great deal and in some cases, not at all.
Bit-by-bit, a vocabulary formed and images arrived and as objects came into the room, I found a way of working. Sometimes I would sit with a thing and let it figure itself out like a partner, trying not to force something, but allowing for a piece to materialize! I have been working in residence in various spaces, and these spaces - both in what they offer and in what they demand - have been instrumental in shaping the piece. What I am showing at the 2013 Fringe Festival is perhaps the first of a series of pieces.
About the artist
Geoff Sobelle is a Philadelphia based physical theater artist known for his sublimely ridiculous, avant-garde "new vaudevillian" mode of performance. Having graduated from Stanford University in his home state of California and trained at École Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France, he has been a member of Obie award-winning theater company Pig Iron Theatre since 2001 and is also co-artistic director of rainpan 43, producing actor-driven works such all wear bowlers and Elephant Room. Sobelle has received widespread acclaim from the Philadelphia arts circuit; he was nominated for the prestigious F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theater Artist, claimed the title of "Best Theatre Artist" from Philadelphia Magazine in 2004 and became Pew Fellow of the Arts in 2006. Geoff Sobelle's persistently inane aesthetic seeks to challenge traditional modes of perspective through complex, multi-layered, visual theater that uses performance as a metaphor for the human experience.