Seeing around corners

MIT theater professor Jay Scheib kicks off Perspectives in Performance, a new series presented by TDM.

By Jake Stepansky '17

“We have to remember that the sky can still fall on our heads,” laughed Jay Scheib, the inaugural speaker at a new Perspectives on Performance series that kicked off Oct. 18 at Farkas Hall. Scheib, a professor of music and theater arts at MIT, has curly salt-and-pepper hair and spectacles. He exudes quiet electricity; it seems like his brain is always crackling with curiosity as he paces around the room.

Jay Scheib
Perspectives on Performance is an ongoing series that features artists and academics who explore interdisciplinary approaches to performance. Co-sponsored by the Theater, Dance & Media concentration with a panoply of Harvard arts and cultural groups, the informal and intimate event packed a Farkas classroom with faculty and students from an array of backgrounds.

“I always work very closely with as many people as I can get my hands on,” said Scheib, whose work is eclectic and international. Taking designers from the U.S. to the U.K. is “a catastrophe,” he said, so he has worked with designers both at home and abroad. He requires the same work from designers regardless of what country, but they approach his challenges in unique ways.

One of his designers ­– Sarah Brown who is based at MIT –introduced me to Scheib’s masterful theatre construction

"World of Wires"
“World of Wires” with set design by Sarah Brown
and direction about a year ago. Brown teaches a wildly popular scenography course and designed the intricate set for World of Wires, Scheib’s award-winning deconstruction of virtual reality. It incorporates live video on a theatrical stage – one of the hallmarks of Scheib’s creative voice. In fact, Scheib himself often takes on the role of cameraman.

“Technology has always been about bringing us closer to the action,” Scheib said. “It helps us to see around corners.” It’s no surprise, then, that his work – which often lies at the right-angle intersections of two incongruous disciplines – similarly lays bare truths that are hidden just out of sight.

The Perspectives on Performance series continues with a presentation by art historian Claire Bishop 5 p.m. Nov. 14 in Menschel Hall at the Harvard Art Museums. The series is free and open to the public.