Italo Calvino’s INVISIBLE CITIES: A Toy Theater Atlas
Created and Performed by
Matthew Gawryk & Dan Kerr-Hobert
Featuring additional artistry and craftwork by:
Lizi Briet, Bernie McGovern, Hugh Spector, and pop-up design by David Hawcock
Special Thanks: Chelsea M. Warren, Michael Gaudio, Bill Healy, Christina Baldwin, Cristina Cocchi, Starshaped Press, Lara Johnson, Myra Su, The Jungle Theater, The Neofuturists, Adobe Stock Images, The James Ford Bell Library
INVISIBLE CITIES by Italo Calvino. Copyright © 1972 by Giulio Einaudi Editore, used by permission of The Wylie Agency LLC.
ABOUT THE SHOW: If you haven’t read Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel that this show is adapting, and you haven’t yet looked it up to see what it’s all about, then don’t bother to now. And, congratulations on your willingness to buy the ticket and take the ride. These days, it’s a rare opportunity to walk blindly into the unknown, like some sort of Marco Polo (who is a character in this story). It’s easy to plan a visit to a city now; lots of books have been written about them.
All you need to know is that this is another book about cities, ones that exist within a tension of uniqueness and ubiquity. What’s the name of that Midwest city, the one with the good food, a thriving theater scene, a football team that can’t quite seem to get there; you know the one, with the vaguely Indigenous name?
Italo Calvino wrote the book Invisible Cities as a long, last love poem to the urban scene. And while the poem does spin words into images of a city’s architecture, or design, or the unique wonders one might see, the heart of it is concerned with the intangible ley lines that bind the city’s inhabitants to itself. The book is about what cities look like when you see both their obvious forms and their hidden structures, a blended image that reveals something new.
They are described by an imaginary Marco Polo to an imaginary Kublai Khan, as the Great Khan attempts to understand and know the extent of his empire. They exist only as words to Kublai, who cannot find them pictured in his atlases.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES: Matt Gawryk has been working as a lighting and scenic designer for 25 years. His work in Chicago was seen to the north at Metropolis Performing Arts Center, down the shore to Lookingglass Theater, inland to Red Orchid Theater, and to the south at the University of Chicago where he taught theater design; his designs have been seen on stages across Chicago. He has traveled far, if not wide, with the band Mucca Pazza and Hubbard Street Dance. He lives in Minneapolis now, but Chicago will always be his favorite city.
Dan Kerr-Hobert is an ensemble member of The Neo-Futurists Theater and a long time collaborator with Blair Thomas and Company. As a prolific Chicago based writer, director, deviser, performer, and puppet designer, his work has been seen at The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, La Monnaie de Munt in Belgium, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, The Wooly Mammoth Theatre in Washington D.C., the Detroit Institute of Art, NJPAC, Steppenwolf Theatre, the Pritzker Pavilion, HERE Arts Center in New York, Dad’s Garage in Atlanta and The Actors Theatre of Louisville. He’s one of the scores of folks inspired by Calvino’s words and hungry to explore the many ways images can make space for communal experiences of poetic text.
Italo Calvino was an Italian journalist, short-story writer, and novelist whose whimsical and imaginative fables made him one of the most important Italian fiction writers in the 20th century. He died in 1985.