Movement as communication in ‘The Void’

A new play this weekend explores how movement can fill the communication gaps left by speech.

“The Void,” written and directed by Derek DiMartini ’13, opens tonight in the Off-Broadway Theater. Consisting of a series of episodic short scenes, the play will explore the failures of communication in modern-day relationships through a combination of dialogue and dance. Inspired by a European intellectual history course he took in fall 2011, DiMartini said he became fascinated with the “relationship of the self and the other,” which he then began to think about in the context of bodily movement in daily interactions.

“A lot of theater attends to words,” DiMartini said. “I wanted this play to attend to what the body feels that is not expressed by words.”

DiMartini added that the play’s uniqueness lies in its equal representation of acting and dance. He explained that academic institutions such as Yale place a large emphasis on the use of speech in theater and not enough on movement.

“Yale is not a big place for acting and movement to be treated on equal footing,” he said.

Cast member Jake Albert ’16 said the production will feature acting and dancing equally. Another cast member, Kevin Su ’16, explained that even scenes with dialogue are focused on movement. He cited as an example a scene in which two characters converse while walking around and dancing in various configurations, as opposed to sitting down and facing each other. The heightened focus on movement draws attention to certain parts of the dialogue for emphasis, he said.

“I haven’t been in a production that has tried to convey so much through how we move so explicitly,” he said.

All five cast members interviewed emphasized the play’s lack of actual characters. Albert said that the word “character” has not even been used in rehearsals. Cast member Zoe Reich-Aviles ’15 said the names of people in the play are unimportant since the play is about ideas, rather than names. The characters are just beings trying to reach out to each other, she added.

“Very few of our characters have identities in themselves, but only in relationship to other actors on stage,” Su said.

DiMartini explained that he chose the play’s title to convey the failures of everyday communication between individuals. Albert said these failures are noticeable in many of the play’s sexual scenes, including one in which a character talks to himself instead of paying attention to his sexual partner, showing a lack of connection between the two.

“‘The Void’ is the empty space that is created from the effort to try and connect with someone,” DiMartini said.

Other cast members think of “the void” as a search process — Albert said much of the play is about individuals searching for a sense of security through sex, friendships and other interactions. Another cast member, Lucy Arthur-Paratley ’14, explained how in her dance duet with Albert, they reach for each other viscerally as if they are both searching for something. But Albert noted that what the characters onstage are searching for is never explicitly stated.

There will be four performances of “The Void” between tonight and Sunday afternoon.

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