Tribune-Review – A group of risk-loving Pittsburgh artists are collaborating to transform a Nobel prize-winning novel into a piece of dramatic art.
Quantum Theatre founder and artistic director Karla Boos and Barbara Luderowski, the founder and co-director of The Mattress Factory installation-art museum, are at the head of the creative team that will bring Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago’s 1998 novel “All the Names” to life at the former Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny on the North Side.
“The genesis of this was that I was looking for fascinating material to lure Barbara to work on with me,” Boos says. “I was looking for something that was not for normal theater people but an assemblage of people like Barbara who tend toward the abstract … something with abstractions that she might see in three dimensions, in visual metaphors.”
Their co-collaborators include award-winning filmmaker Joe Seamans, dramaturge Megan Rivas and theater designers Narelle Sissons, Sarah Pickett, Chris Evans and Cindy Limauro.
“There’s a benign dictatorship. Everyone gets to present ideas, and out of that ferment comes good ideas we can all support,” Luderowski says.
To lure Luderowski and the others, Boos chose Saramago’s “All the Names.”
Or maybe “All the Names” chose her.
“I’m a person who goes to libraries and bookstores and lets books I know nothing about say, ‘Read me next,’ ” Boos says. “I didn’t know Saramago until I read this book. Then, I learned I was an idiot for not previously knowing Saramago or this great book.”
The novel follows an ordinary clerk in an unnamed city who is employed in the highly regimented Central Registry where births and deaths are recorded and archived.
In his off-hours, Senhor Jose compiles newspaper clippings that chronicle the lives of the famous, the formerly famous and those who are becoming famous.
A filing error at work brings a mysterious woman to his attention, and he embarks on a journey that widens and changes his life.
When Saramago won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, the Swedish academy described his novels as “parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony.”
In moving “All the Names” from flat page to a three-dimensional theater space, Luderowski and Boos envisioned a world that incorporates elements of installation art and theater and conveys them along on Senhor Jose’s journeys — actual and metaphysical.
During the performance, the audience will follow Senhor Jose’s journey through several spaces in the building formerly occupied by the Free Library of Allegheny, which opened in 1890.
“I don’t come from a theater background, and I don’t like sitting in one place and being locked in,” Luderowski explains.
Once filled with orderly stacks and shelves of books, the now-emptied rooms are being packed with lots of paper and dented filing cabinets, chairs, abandoned television sets, several unusually scaled playing areas and hundreds of cardboard file boxes.
“It’s a sensory experience,” Boos says. “They will experience things (early on) they won’t understand until later.”
“We want to challenge the audience and make them think but not alienate them so they can leap over the fence (into this world) and say, ‘Maybe I want to go back and think through that again,’ ” Luderowski says.