Invisible Glass

Co-produced by the CalArts Center for New Performance and the Cotsen Center for Puppetry and the Arts

Inventive filmmaker, visual artist and puppeteer Janie Geiser collaborates with Alpert Award-winning playwright Erik Ehn and adventurous composer Tom Recchion to create Invisible Glass. The multimedia work employs puppets, live actors and film to explore the idea of the “Doppelgänger,” or spirit double made flesh, in a new work inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “William Wilson.” 

Invisible glass (a term for a kind of glass that is polished to eliminate reflections) is a full stage puppet theater work, incorporating actors, a highly artificial set consisting of a series of moving walls, a variety of puppetry forms, shadows and projection, and original music to create an atmospheric world of escalating tension, where appearances are deceiving and no one can be certain of anything. Working with Erik Ehn’s script, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s story William Wilson, Invisible Glass explore the idea of the doppelganger, a figure/concept which undermines our fixed notions of a unified or stable “self” or “history”, and often arouses curiosity and fear. The idea of the doppelganger suggests a construction of meaning through the metaphor of the body.

In Poe’s story, a young man arrives at a new school, only to find that there is someone there who carries the same name. In fact, there are many similarities that the two William Wilson’s share. One of their main differences, however, is that the second William Wilson, because of a childhood illness, speaks only in a whisper. The story follows William Wilson for many years, as his schoolboy pranks evolve into adult crimes. The double William Wilson begins to take on more and more of his physical characteristics, but, unlike many stories of the doppelganger as a figure who embodies our worst impulses (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), the doppelganger in Poe’s William Wilson is primarily a moral figure.

Puppetry allows for a layering of figures and identities, further doubled by the use of actors who not only speak for the two William Wilsons, but eventually fully enter the action of the play. Additionally, the puppet William Wilsons grow throughout the piece from small a tiny naked figure to small rod puppets (exhibited here), to 1/2 life-size bunraku figures, to life-sized figures.  As the play escalates, all figures occupy the stage, as William Wilson’s fragmented stage of mind brings about his own death. The set is flexible and evolving, and makes selective use of mirrors, heightening the idea that no one can be certain that what is seen is really there.

Production Team

Erik Ehn, Author
Janie Geiser, Director
Tom Recchion, Composer
Ken MacKenzie, Scenic Designer
Soojin Lee, Costume Designer
Janie Geiser, Puppet Designer
Lisa D. Burke, Crafts Designer
Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, Lighting Designer
Jones Taylor Jr., Sound Designer
Kristy L. Baltezore, Video Designer
Johnny Bradley, Video Designer
Janie Geiser, Film Segments
Carolina Angulo, Props/Puppetry Manager
Jon Winans, Stage Manager
Trish Hausmann, Production Manager
Hugh D.G. Moody II, Technical Director
Carol Bixler, Producer
Matthew Bailey, Ensemble
Leilani Rosine Drakeford, Ensemble
Nicholas Grimes, Ensemble
Jennifer Marlo Gober, Ensemble
Alison Heimstead, Ensemble
Christopher Kaufmann, Ensemble
Korinne M. Loynes, Ensemble
Darius Mannino, Ensemble
Eli Presser, Ensemble
Victor Santos, Ensemble
Amelia Sinnott, Ensemble
Breshae Webb, Ensemble
Jennifer L. Tsuei, Dramaturg
Eli Presser, Associate Puppet Director
Alison Heimstead, Assistant to the Director
Dan Evans, Assistant Scenic Designer
Gary Chaffin, Assistant Scenic Designer
Gloria Lamb, Scenic Artist
Brandon Rud, Puppetry Assistant
Janie Geiser, Puppet Carving
Christian Johnson, Puppet Carving
Sandy Huse, Puppetry Artisan
EB Brooks, Assistant Costume Designer
Johnny Bradley, Assistant Lighting Designer
Nelson Stitt, Assistant Lighting Designer
Rebecca Kessin, Assistant Sound Designer
Leah Corn, Assistant Sound Designer
Resa Deverich, Properties Assistant
Laura Mason, Assistant Stage Manager
Mike Zimmerman, Assistant Technical Director
Pooja Sharma, Assistant Production Manager
Erin McCann, Assistant Producer (CNP)