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Lianne is a video & scenic designer whose work extends through theater, opera, music, dance, film & art installation. Select performance work includes Yoga Play (South Coast Rep), Such Nice Shoes (TheaterLab), You Are Here (The Kitchen/Jane Comfort & Company), Spam (The Cherry/Jack), Water by the Spoonful (Premiere Stages), The Astronaut’s Tale (BAM), The Elephant in Every Room I Enter (La Mama), How to Live on Earth (HERE), Patty: The Revival (Highways Performance Space). She was a production designer on the short film Toru which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. She has worked with composers John King (Dice Thrown - randomly generated opera), Robin Cox (Hourglass - participatory dance improv), and Earl Maneein (Seven Suns - heavy metal string quartet). Her installation work has been seen in collaborations with visual artists Leslie Kerby (Counterpointe/Brooklyn Ballet), Natalia Margolis, Fariba Alam & Urban Matter Design Firm (Bare Branches – Shrine Empire Gallery, New Delhi). Lianne was the Associate Projection Designer on A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Julie Taymor dir./Theater For a New Audience) and on Party People (Liesl Tommy dir./The Public Theatre). She was named a "Young Designer to Watch" by Live Design Magazine, A "Person You Should Know" by Visible Soul, and is a winner of the NYCFringe Overall Excellence Award, a Stage Scene LA Award, and UCLA TFT's Chancellor's Marshal Award. She proudly holds her MFA from CalArts.
I focus on new and experimental uses of video and sculpted spaces in performance.
As a visual storyteller, I strive to integrate design and action and thrive on intense collaboration. Scenery needs to be more than just a backdrop setting time and place, and video in performance has so much potential to activate the theatrical reality in a completely new way. I tend to make my first moves into a design through tactile points of entry by finding textures and materials that have emotional resonance, then carving out volume and finding metaphor.
Video in performance has widened the door for exploration of psychological arcs and character in addition to being able to manipulate our perceptions of time and space. The possibilities for video to defy expectations and radically alter point of view are exciting and still very new. I am interested in exploring video as character, as a physical being in the room, in active dialogue with the set, costumes, lights and especially the performers. Exploring alternative projection surfaces or emissive sources. Opening up the live environment with the toolkit of expressive cinematic techniques. How does a digital image live in the space; what relationship does it have to the characters; how is it a character itself?
I don’t think twice about the validity of creating a performance at the bottom of a well or on a freeway overpass or in a mountain stream. Performance can happen anywhere. The important thing is to create work, tell stories and respect the truth of what objects communicate while existing in the space activated in front of you.
A note on video in performance:
I am both a scenic and video designer and because of this, I am very interested in integration between the two. My video design work tends to take on a haptic, tactile quality and I spend a lot of time considering how and where content lives onstage. I love experimenting with different projection surfaces — a falling wall of sand, white paint smeared on a mirror, a human or puppet face — and alternate emissive devices — an ipad or an old, broken TV. When it comes to content creation, I’m drawn to the physical world. I tend to start by filming — exploring textures, light & characters so that they can live onstage in a different scale and manifestation. I also like exploring the system, the means of delivering content onstage, as a theatrical device, scenically and conceptually. Is there live feed — are we aware of the cameras? Are the projectors fully visible as objects onstage? Is the audience aware of how content is collected, processed & delivered onstage — and what does that mean in the context of the story?
The challenge in bringing video to the stage is in finding the visual and structural language of the video content and it's delivery system so that it brings new depths of meaning to the performance text that did not exist prior to video in the space. What do we see too much of: a rectangular screen behind the action with rear projections of scenic drops or other illustrative elements, in essence, a superfluous layer thrown on top of the spectacle. That kind of strictly scenic use of video imagery is only a tiny example of the possibilities of media in a storytelling format. And, at the end of the day, it is about storytelling. Video in performance is most exciting when it takes on a character of it’s own. Video should tap into a psychological arc of the story. It can be an enhancement of our protagonists' experience or act as a counterpoint to it. Physically, it can radically alter point of view and our perceptions of time, space, scale & physics. And it has the entire expressive world of cinema to pull from - closeups, cut rhythms, point of view shifts. At the end of the day, a video design should be so integrated within the event that to take it out would be a major degradation of the experience.