One-man show blends slapstick with social media

One-man show blends slapstick with social media
Photo by Florence Montmare

This is one live show where audience members won’t be asked to turn their cell phones off.

A new one-man show at the New York City College of Technology’s Voorhees Theatre lets audience members be the “wing man” for a silent clown, using social media to help him find romantic bliss.

“We’ve torn down the fourth wall,” said Mark Gindick, the seasoned clown who wrote and stars in the show. “And we’ve added a fifth wall.”

Gindick is not speaking metaphorically — the show features a giant projection screen that allows live social networking feeds and other internet content to be beamed in front of the audience. And the crowd is encouraged to pick up their phones and participate using specific hash tags for posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

“Wing-Man,” set to open at the Downtown theater for a four-day run starting March 26, is a modern take on Charlie Chaplin’s classic film “Modern Times,” which depicts a man unable to adapt to the technological changes affecting the world around him. Chaplin’s character had to catch up with the industrial revolution, while Gindick’s clown is contending with social media and the internet age.

“It explores the reasons why we use social media,” Gindick said. “It’s fun, ridiculous, physical comedy. But it also has some heart and soul.”

The show’s lead jester will not be dressed like a typical clown. Gindick’s character wears no makeup and a suit only a few sizes too big. He hopes to entertain with physical humor and slapstick, while also prompting the audience to send messages from their mobile devices that will be displayed in real-time on the screen behind him.

The new show is part of the City Tech’s Theatreworks program, which pairs professional performers and production teams with students from the school’s entertainment technology department. Around 65 students worked on “Wing-Man,” helping with set building, equipment installation, and sound engineering alongside professionals and school faculty members.

“Wing-Man” capitalizes on the school’s technological capabilities, said a program organizer, creating a performance that couples traditional storytelling with the interactivity made possible by new media.

“There’s a story-line and an arc to the story,” said Susan Brandt, an assistant professor of production management at City Tech. “But also the opportunity for interaction.”

“Wing-Man” at the New York City College of Technology’s Voorhees Theatre (186 Jay St. at High Street in Downtown, www.theatreworkscitytech.org). March 26–29 at 8 pm. Free for City Tech students, $10 for other students, $20 general admission.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.