For those unfamiliar with Manual Cinema, the performance combines the use of slides layered and puppeteered atop overhead projectors along with a chamber orchestra and theatrical performance. My Soul’s Shadow centers on the life and death by shooting of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca.
Before the performance, overhead projectors were spread throughout the large, outdoor lot. The sight of these machines stir reminisces of a shadowed high school biology class. They projected Lorca’s poetry onto twenty-foot concrete walls. Silhouettes of gnats and moths danced across the projections.
With a starry sky above, the seats filled. Large speakers stood like solemn giants at each corner of the audience. Lights were lowered. From a rooftop to the audience’s right, a lantern appeared and glimmered.
Held in the grasp of Federico García Lorca, it tiptoed across the rooftop. The poet climbed from the rafters and glided onto the stage. Violins released a vanishing cry and cautious flutes whistled. On stage left, the poet reached down and threw up a metal rolling shutter. The projection of a giant red apple appeared. Lorca playfully sneaked a bite. With the wave of an arm, the fruit vanished and a radial black and white symbol took its place. On stage right, Lorca reached down and raised the wall’s second rolling shutter door. An identical image appeared. In duality, their forms became apparent: two massive eyes.
Through these eyes, we viewed the exterior and interior worlds of the poet. There was an intimacy created throughout the performance that bordered on claustrophobia. Periodically throughout the performance, a phone stationed on a white wooden dresser to the audience’s left rang. The poet left the stage and entered the audience’s plane to receive the call. Over the phone, we hear his poetry recited, leading us further into his tragedy.
We feel the strain of Lorca; he is a man confined by the strict political and sexual boundaries of his day. He yearns to express his emphatic desire for freedom and self-expression. In one scene, Lorca entered his world of letters; his silhouette was imposed over his poetry. He suddenly found himself and his poem confined by a pair of massive parentheses. These become hands that poke and tease him. He flees.
The performance is a saga of reoccurring symbols, the images of Lorca’s works: engulfing, god-like hands; a frocked, brooding lizard; the flow of a river’s current; a funeral procession; the plodding of men up a hill; skeletal forms; Salvador Dali and his melting clocks; hissing crickets; butterflies; silhouettes of youth and those of old age; caped riders on horseback; pointed pistols; two faces approaching to meet lips; a ripened apple, waiting to be plucked from the tree.
As the audience looked on, they heard birds call from the trees. From their peripheral vision, a shooting star streamed through the sky with blue fire. It broke apart and vanished. With the simple beauty of Manual Cinema’s craft, we witnessed Federico García Lorca pull his heart from his heart and the shadow from his soul. He held it out before him and it became its own entity, separate but one with he. It turned to watch him go. And though it is a tragedy we witnessed, there was a hope created: his soul remains along with his work, and through this, Federico García Lorca does not die.