Designing the Undefinable

by Michael S. Eddy
Frank Oz, Derek DelGaudio and Glenn Kaino
Frank Oz, Derek DelGaudio and Glenn Kaino

Glenn Kaino discusses the creative partnership for In & Of Itself

For In & Of Itself, there is one man onstage, Derek DelGaudio performing to audiences at the Daryl Roth Theatre in NYC. But no man is an island and every one-man show has a creative team of people behind it. DelGaudio’s longtime creative partner Glenn Kaino was instrumental in helping to shape his vision into a theatrical event. He is the artistic producer for In & Of Itself. Kaino, a well-respected conceptual artist whose works have been shown and are in museum exhibitions around the world, is also one half of A.Bandit, with DelGaudio the other half. As A.Bandit each inform the other’s work through their collaborative approach to ideas that is redefining art and magic themselves; stretching their audience’s perception of both experiences. Stage Directions caught up with him to discuss the collaboration that resulted in the rather undefinable In & Of Itself.

Stage Directions: Where did the idea come from for the show?
Glenn Kaino: Derek. Really, he has been working on In & Of Itself since I met him almost 10-years ago. The material and the work and the profound nature of some of the observations have been percolating for a long time. I’m just happy and proud that we’ve been able to facilitate him expressing that and it’s been a wonderful time working with him. 

It’s really something wholly unique. How did you approach merging magic and art to create a theatrical production that cannot be defined as any of those things individually and bring that to an audience?
I would say the conceptual part is in the approach itself. There really are a number of different levels to it. I would say there’s both a conceptual and a technical level. We knew that we had an obligation to be generous to the public in terms of their experience. Even if we wanted to challenge their expectations, which I think we do, we know, and are very sensitive to the fact that it’s a commercial production running in the middle of New York City now. And there are certain expectations that go along with that in terms of how a production might work. 

To that extent, one of Derek’s great early decisions was bringing in Frank Oz and also us bringing in Mark Mothersbaugh. Frank really helped us with evolving some of the way we talk about our work together, but also helping Derek’s work, that he was writing for the show, evolve in a way that has a hyper appreciation for the conceptual art aspect of it, but then also the need to most effectively have that move the public. And Frank was really the most generous person.
Derek DelGaudio in In Of Itself

It was just a very fun, challenging experience working from the idea base, translating those through layering concepts over concepts into materials, into form, and then having that form be performed and then having that be tested and then, a very iterative process to get to everything that you’ve seen. So each piece that you’ve seen has probably been through, I don’t know, 20 different actual physical manifestations and iterations, and it is a very rewarding process. Writing the ideas, coming up with the ideas, us sort of working with him, inserting like, for example, a lot of the techniques and methodologies, let’s say, of different objects were contributed to by 10 years of research that has been going on in our studio. 
Producer Neil Patrick Harris Derek DelGaudio and Glenn Kaino

Talk about the creative team and the collaboration, I mean you had Frank Oz as director and Jules Fisher contributing as a theatrical consultant; that’s some team.  
Oh, Jules is amazing and Frank gave so much to this production; he’s like a genius. This is the great thing about Derek, everyone makes such a genuine effort because everyone believes in the ideas of the work and believes in Derek himself. It all comes from Derek, it is such a rare circumstance where someone actually so incredibly skilled also actually has a very clear and intentional vision. His intentions are so authentic, that guys like Jules Fisher will come hang out with us and contribute. As I said, Derek and my work together is such an open-ended, iterative, organic process that when someone like Jules or Frank join in, it’s like being in grad school. They are teaching us something new, exposing us to these rich histories, having us understand, translate, express those ideas into our thinking and then working collaboratively to help make something happen. 

And then you also bring in Adam [Blumenthal, lighting designer], where we can say about an idea for the show, “Well, how do we achieve that mood?” and then Adam says, “Well, what about crafting that with light,” and then Jules and then Frank layer on it with other ideas in other places. The whole thing is just this wonderful process of addition, where everyone plays their role. I have never experienced in my career—except on this show—a group of such high level practitioners, all walking into a room together and everyone taking the back seat. Derek included. We let whoever should be driving at the time to take the wheel. It was so rewarding a process to be part of because everyone came in with a high degree of appreciation of everyone else, and everyone I would say, learned something from each other. Corny to say, but it was magic; just the process of making this show was unbelievable. Just really great.  

Be sure to also read the other SD stories: Elusive Illusions about DelGuadio and Frank Oz's work and Working with Derek DelGaudio about Jules Fisher's work on In & Of Itself