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The Closest Thing to TARDIS

New TMU blogger Ran Xia describes what she loves about theater and her plans for the semester.

Illustration of Once
(© Ran Xia)
On any given Saturday this season on Broadway, you can step in a Dublin tavern to have a beer with local musicians and hold your breath for a beautiful romance; by night, you can explore the wilderness of the African jungle; you can follow Mormon missionaries' footsteps all the way to Uganda or weave your own life story into Marvel Comics' universe. You can go back to Golden Age Hollywood, where wide-eyed teenage girls and dandy producers danced all night, sipping champagne and wine. Right across from the notorious Paris Opera House where stagehands got mysteriously murdered, all-American cheerleaders flash their smiles and build up another pyramid. At this end of the street, newsboys under Rockefeller's reign are firing up a riot; at the other end, a girl who's yet to see the world is having her big Greek wedding with her three dads…

Now wouldn't that blow your mind?

Theater is the closest thing to Doctor Who's TARDIS. You see, hear, and sometimes even smell an entirely different world without having to move an inch. We can be brought to different eras or travel to cities thousands of miles away, just with a little mist, a few dashes of strobe lights. When the music start playing, we have no boundaries in the physical reality.

Theater opens a world beyond imagination. Every time I sit in that dimmed light, underneath those elaborate domes with golden decorations and chandeliers, I am brought to the brink of dream and reality, and travel through time and space.

Travel through time and space? Oh yes. Wouldn't you die for it?

Theater has been my passion ever since I saw the Riccardo Cocciante/Luc Plamondon musical Notre Dame de Paris on DVD. I shed many a tear for Quasimodo's kindness, for Esmeralda's breathtaking beauty, for Fleur de Lys' jealousy, for Flolo and Phoebus' struggle in love and obligation. To this day, it's still my favorite. Growing up, I watched, performed, directed, wrote, and designed sets and costumes; I did everything to keep myself close to that incredible world. After relocating myself to New York, I was blessed with the accessibility of Broadway. I took advantage of it, yet somehow I felt like I was missing out on being a part of the creative process, until I realized the spectators also add to the creation of the stories. Every single member of the audience would have a different experience and can be led to completely different destinations.

I realized that what we see on stage is not the final product of theater. Those stories dressed in feathers and draped in tapestries continue to inspire and enlighten. Two years ago on a whim, and believing "all art forms are interconnected," I started capturing moments in shows with coloured sharpies. Gradually I had my own style and a small number of followers online. (You can view my work here.) Of course, two-dimensional illustrations cannot recreate all the essence of a show, but I try to assimilate the mood with colour schemes accordingly. Eventually those pieces became the foundation of my thesis: Cognitive Synthesis in Theatre.

I'd like to use this virtual interactive space as a sketch board to show what theater inspires me to do, as well as an anatomy table to demonstrate the vitality of different elements in theater. After all, theater is an organismic type of art that continues to grow through time and will always be subject to interpretation. Theater is like architecture, for it incorporates a constellation of art forms. Musicians, designers, writers, choreographers, and different craftsmen all work together to achieve a common goal: the realization of fantasies.

This fall, I'll continue my journey of impossible through theater. In this space, I'll weave my thoughts in all honesty to show you my heart. I'll introduce you to those beautiful, fascinating people from all walks of life that share the same passion for theater: actors, writers, critics, designers, fans, ushers, etc. We will travel through time and space to meet them in corners of the world, discover their joy and fear, and learn the lessons from their experiences.

Let this be a window dedicated to love.


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