Each week during the month of July, Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center for the Arts will transform their courtyard for Wonder/Wall, an exciting and new immersive video performance series, combining live performance and video projection to tell stories in a way never before seen at the Sag Harbor venue. Conceived and curated by Bay Street’s Artistic Associate, Josh Wilder, and starting with Rasean Davonte Johnson, this special series will featuring four world premieres created by five different projection designers, whose work has been commissioned by Bay Street Theater and created specifically for this location.
Along with Johnson, participating artists include Yee Eun Nam, Mike Billings and Brian Staton, and Brittany Bland—all projection artists who step out from behind the proverbial curtain to present their vision on each of the event’s four weeks. Johnson kicks off the series on Tuesday, July 6, and his installment will continue nightly from 8:30–10 p.m. through Sunday, July 11.
In celebration of his opening night, Johnson spoke with Dan’s Papers about applying his skills as a projection designer to this unique production, what inspired his part of Wonder/Wall, and how he implemented it.
Describe the transition from being a projections designer on a stage production team to taking center stage in Wonder/Wall.
In addition to my work as a theatrical designer, my first work in interactive media was as a video installation artist. Additionally, I enjoy creating experimental short films, my first being almost 20 years ago. So getting an opportunity to create something on my own with Bay Street has been a great return to a format that first sparked joy for me in this medium. As a projection designer, you are held to the imaginations of the playwright, and as an independent artist only your soul is the limitation. With a prompt of Wonder, I feel like there is much to reach from.
Where did you draw inspiration for your Wonder/Wall production?
Our collective experience this past year has been the biggest thing on my mind. I also became a father in all of this. That experience of parenthood, being an artist, has given me perspective on the circumstances before me. I feel like the major narrative of this experience was dread and fear, but mine was of absolute joy. What other time would I be able to watch my child grow? I am interested in exploring that dichotomy of experience.
How did the unique, audience-centric outdoor space affect your design process?
I am always a designer interested in perspective. A 360 environment invites the viewer in a chamber of image and thought. So, to think in that perspective, what are things that culminate to a 15-minute experience that feels like an exploration of that chamber. How do you guide people’s attention? What states of being can be explored? Those questions permeate how I approach this.
What emotions or insights do you hope your audience will take away from your production?
Empathy and perspectives.
Wonder/Wall performances will be held live and in-person, for a standing audience of just 20 individuals (those with disabilities or anyone requiring seating may call the Box Office to arrange accommodation). Tickets are $20 and are available through the Box Office by calling 631-725-9500 on Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. or 24/7 at [email protected]. Performances depend on the weather and will not be rescheduled.
Learn more at baystreet.org.