CORVALLIS - A multimedia visual theater project inspired by the unusual life of 1960s Dutch conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader will be presented by the Oregon State University Theatre Feb. 24-26 and March 3-5 at the Withycombe Hall Mainstage Theater.
Titled "I'm Too Sad to Tell You," the production was created in collaboration between OSU art and theater students, OSU theater arts faculty, and a number of guest artists.
Ader disappeared in 1975, making a single-handed crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a voyage that was intended as the second phase of a three-part project. It marked a symbolic return to his homeland of Holland, and represented a merging of the two major influences of his art - Europe and America.
The artist came to Los Angeles in 1963 at the age of 21, landing in the "bustling conceptual art scene" and finishing his training in art and philosophy before beginning his career.
Between 1967 and 1975, Ader created a small, focused body of work in film, photography and performance that emphasized themes of failure - often explored by documenting his own failures, particularly with different explorations of the body falling - as well as existentialism and nostalgia. One series of Ader's work found him documenting himself falling out of a tree, from a rooftop, and driving a bicycle off an Amsterdam canal.
"Ader's work is extremely accessible," said Cathia Pagotto, an OSU faculty member and co-director of the play. "We all know what it's like to fail. We all know what it's like to fall or lose control of our bodies in some way. We all know what it's like to have to make sacrifices in order to gain. If you can understand and get past the aesthetic of art being made in 1960s L.A., Ader's work becomes quite basic and very human."
In addition to the unusual topic, and the evolution of the script by the students and crew, "I'm Too Sad to Tell You" differs from many other OSU productions because of the multimedia presentation and the number of guest artists involved.
Co-directing the performance with Pagotto is her long-time professional collaborator, Jonathan Berger, a New York-based director. Together they worked with a core of students from diverse backgrounds on developing all aspects of the show, from the design to the production to the performances.
One of those students is Alan Sadro, whose interest in theater lies outside of performing.
"I have a background as a contractor," he said, "and now I'm in charge of building a scale replica of Bas Jan Ader's sailboat. This project has shown me how to translate my skills and ability to function for the theater. I'm planning on pursuing set design as a career now."
Other professionals involved with the show include Ana Cappelluto, a lighting designer from Montreal; Amy Keith, a set designer from Montreal; and John Wilson, a composer from Los Angeles.
Students involved in the performance include Gieselle Blair, Calvin Brownell, Jason Craig, Alexis Cross, Amy Edwards, El Graff, Tracey Johnson, Tyler Mackie, Joseph Nicola, Alan Sadro, Kim Smith, John Whitaker, Erin Winters and Tae Hoon Yoo.
Other crew members include Barbara Mason, Corvallis, costume designer; Michael Sugihara, Corvallis, technical director; Kirsi Peltomaki, Finland, art historian consultant; and Julie Green, Corvallis, art faculty supervisor.
Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. each night. Ticket information is available by calling the OSU theater box office at 541-737-2784.