SOUNDSTAGE is a live theater and film hybrid created and performed by artist Rob Roth alongside his on-film counterpart, actor Rebecca Hall. The piece presents a ‘meditation on the muse’ through a highly personal and cinematic lens. With a multi-layered presentation, the piece uses the language and craft of filmmaking as performance within its poetic narrative. Through a ‘keyhole’ the audience peers into a private world of two characters that exist solely for one another’s survival and watch a mysterious live film crew capture each moment.
SOUNDSTAGE represents the second episode in a triptych of ‘female lead’ studies that began with the award-winning visual rock spectacle, Screen Test. SOUNDSTAGE is a more personal offering from Roth, who is not only the director and creator, but also a performer. The haunting world created onstage takes place in an ambiguous timeframe. It exists in a pre-internet analog world, where the queer discerning eye used more exhaustive efforts to find its escapist aesthetic, long before the current digital age took hold.
SOUNDSTAGE’s scenes are broken up into four different sections based on the stages of alchemy with four different genres of film that reflect the complex and varied emotional states shared by the two characters. The fictitious screen goddess muse is played by actress Rebecca Hall and is reflective of those created by male film directors like Fellini, Bergman and Argento. A live camera and dolly system using interchangeable film lenses moves around the stage with Butoh choreography and captures intimate details of the performance and set pieces. The characters begin to ‘merge’ together in each new section by breaking the fourth wall and using Roth’s ongoing experimental projection techniques throughout the performance of original text and song.
SOUNDSTAGE is also a meditation on filmmaking as a lived experience. Between the audience and the set is a Arri Alexa film camera, dolly rig, and track that capture details of the performer’s expressions and gestures, and project them onto a backdrop screen and scattered objects onstage. Throughout the piece, the audience simultaneously experiences pre-recorded film, live performance, and live-feed from the camera with various syncing movements in both. A Director of Photography and Butoh dancers maneuver the camera with slow, specific movements, sometimes blocking the audiences’ view, forcing them to look through the performers or onscreen. This purposeful cinematography becomes choreography.
SOUNDSTAGE presents a previous struggle of isolation and self-exile which is vastly different from today’s American society with its higher visibility of not only gay men but also powerful women. SOUNDSTAGE peaks back in time to reveal a hidden history of queer individuals who came before, many who are no longer with us and how the use of fantasy as survival has long been part of queer existence.