PILSEN — Have you ever been served wine from a man on a gigantic tricycle?
Or champagne from a rope-dancer, dangling from a chandelier 30 feet overhead?
What about scones? Have you ever been served one by a flying drone?
If you’ve ever been to a production by the Redmoon Theater Company, located at 2120 S. Jefferson St., you may very well have — and possibly have seen even more.
Redmoon, whose productions emphasize what Events Venue Director Carr Lanphier calls “interactive theater,” often uses these “Objects of Wonder” to create an atmosphere of whimsy and novelty. Examples also include a bubble-blowing mobile DJ chariot, tables that double as Victorian hoop skirts for actresses, and a two-story-tall performance fixture known to Redmoon personnel as the “Drum Crane.”
“We want to keep our event space as active as possible,” says Redmoon director of events Alex Balestrieri.
Redmoon has been active in the Chicago area since 1990, and has been constructing the devices since the early 2000s, Balestrieri says. He believes they are an integral part of Redmoon's mission to “Transform the experience of our city through free large-scale theatrical events that promote community, creativity and an empowered democracy.”
Those events, when combined with the unorthodox Objects of Wonder, give the entire company a vibe somewhere between Dr. Seuss fantasy and Belle Époque cabaret.
Behind the scenes, however, that fantastical atmosphere is supported by the hard work of very real craftsmen. Balestrieri reports that all the “Objects of Wonder” are actually made in-house by Redmoon personnel.
“We have a full creative team,” he says. “A very dedicated group of people puts all this together.”
A single “Object of Wonder” can “take months to build,” says Balestrieri, and involves the efforts of not only designers, but also in-house welders, machinists and the performers who eventually use the devices in their performances.
“It’s a live process,” says Balestrieri. “We can re-design and re-purpose as needed.”
Some devices are made as part of a general effort by Redmoon to keep a diverse range of props on hand, while others are made specifically for events or productions. (An effort last October to stage the Great Chicago Fire Festival on the Chicago River came up short when some of the props failed to ignite as planned.)
Redmoon is currently working on re-modeling the giant Drum Crane in preparation for the summer production season. In an upcoming street show, Lanphier says, the crane will suspend a grand piano and a pianist in the air, while dancers are arrayed on the crane’s main body. It’s not the first time the giant fixture has been modified.
“It’s in its second iteration [of design] right now,” he said. “It’s used for a lot of different shows.”
Redmoon also rents out space as an event venue, and at several of these events, the objects take on a decidedly human element.
“We call them table ladies,” Balestrieri said. “Actresses wear [the devices] and interact with guests as they eat.”
At the recent MUSE Healthcare Innovation event hosted at Redmoon’s South Side location, guests reacted to one of the Objects of Wonder, a “wine bike,” in a way that justifies its title.
“It fits the whole innovation theme of the night,” one said. “It’s new and different… I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
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