Once Upon a (good?!) Projection

Projections are a necessary evil in the theater world. 

Think of them as the other side of CGI’s overused coin. 

Are they a boon for cash-strapped productions wanting to approximate designs that can’t be affordably pulled off practically? Why not. And are there oodles of examples throughout recorded history that boast as much artistry as their analog brethren? If you say so. 

BUT, more often than not, they read as conveniently regurgitated (and thus hacky) bells and whistles that superficially distract more than they meaningfully add. 

And yet, every once in a while, those aforementioned cash-strappedees, in an effort to overcome their shallow coffers with deep creativity, unlock seemingly pedestrian applications of projections that solve age-old staging problems in novel ways. 

The latest iteration can be found in Ma-Yi’s current run of Daniel K. Isaac’s Once Upon a (korea) Time, now at La Mama through September 18. 

For much of this new play’s duration, it’s business as boring usual for the projections … until the curtain call (better late than never)!

It’s the sort of show where each member of the cast plays multiple characters throughout, which poses a (paltry) pragmatic problem for their final bows: if ovations are intended to allow the audience to shower praise on the work that was, then it’s kind of nice to remind audiences of every character each actor played over the last 90 minutes (memories are fickle). Appreciation of range, yay!

For past curtain calls that faced this very same and oh-so dire predicament, I’ve seen actors choose to wear the costume of their most prominent character, and then they’ll hold suggestive pieces from their other costumes to represent all the myriad roles they donned. 

But Once Upon a (korea) Time takes this approach steps further. As each actor bows, a series of video clips are projected behind them, showing that actor in costume for each and every role they played. It’s like a projectile (heyyo) version of Six’s afterture; “remember all our bangers?!” 

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