Question: What has 6,000 gallons of water, (necessarily) waterproof lighting, actors who "dance" in the air and a dress code so casual that, yeah, you could show up in your bathing suit?
Answer: H2OMBRE, the splashy immersive summer show at
And when the H2OMBRE folks say "splashy" and "immersive," they aren't reaching for descriptive language. At H2OMBRE, the more adventuresome you are, the soggier you may get.
Like the Arsht summer hits Fuerza Bruta in 2009 and The Donkey Show in 2012, H2OMBRE is as much a spectacular happening as a piece of theater. Devised by Pichon Baldinu and
H2OMBRE began as a short show titled Hombre Vertiente (Watershed Man), created for the water-themed Expo 2008 in Zaragosa,
Driven by imagery and sound rather than language, H2OMBRE follows the journey of an artist as he travels into the world of the imagination, encountering beings and creatures that just may wind up in his work of art.
"The character is a universal artist, representing every artist and every man," Baldinu, the show's director, says by phone from
As for the water theme, producer Baldini notes that "water makes up 60 percent of our bodies."
Baldinu adds, "Water means creation. It's necessary for life. For the artist, the water in his body is creation. And sometimes it causes a lot of trouble."
"We're pulling the audience through the looking glass. The show builds in energy as the audience lets its inhibitions down," Shiller says. "So when the hero wins, people feel they own it ... [but] everyone in the audience will interpret the story in a different way."
Creating a show like H2OMBRE, crafting it as a full-length piece that works impressively enough in its world premiere run to thrill audiences and sell itself to future presenters, is neither simple nor inexpensive. The Arsht is a full producing partner, with Shiller credited as "producer and special artistic adviser."
"We knew that for a project of this scale, we didn't want to be just a checkbook," Shiller says. "Gabriella and Pichon were willing to have us as a producer in the creative process, where collaboration is key. ... And looking beyond
All involved estimate that the tab for H2OMBRE thus far is
"We develop a lot of the systems we use in the show. We need to create our own machines to bring it to life. It's not something you can buy in the market. You need to sculpt those elements," Baldinu says. "We are always developing new ways to use the system to improve how we can play with and manipulate the water."
Adds Baldinu, "The water has to be very precise and automated, with water pumps that open and close when you want them to. You cannot run a show by pressing buttons."
Giant inflatable "monsters" are part of the show, as are projections and animation that blend with the work of actors performing aerial choreography, action devised by Baldinu and the production's choreographer/creative consultant,
"Pichon and I worked together on Tarzan eight years ago," says Trujillo, whose
"When he approached me about this, I was excited about working on it. As you establish yourself, you become restless about finding ways to grow. This is about me discovering a vocabulary in a way that feels right for this piece. Some of the cast has danced before, and some are aerial specialists. The way they move and approach choreography is different and exciting."
Working with the duo "gives me the opportunity to create work on a scale I never imagined," Kreimer says by phone from
Nonetheless, what Kreimer does in H2OMBRE looks dangerous and daring. After a performance during the show's
"So I said, 'If we were crazy, we'd be dead,' " Kreimer says, laughing.
As it did with Fuerza Bruta and The Donkey Show, the Arsht is transforming the stage of the
Those who don't dig standing or getting too wet can opt for VIP tables or reserved seating, though ponchos will be for sale and the VIP tickets come with a waterproof cellphone cover so they (well, anyone at the show) can shoot videos, take selfies, post to Facebook or Instagram, tweet or otherwise communicate their experience to their heart's content. The party continues after the artist's journey ends, sometimes for a couple of hours.
Those 6,000 gallons of water do make for a different environment. Except for backpacks and bags with cross-body straps, purses aren't permitted (check them or buy an inexpensive backpack at the theater). Shiller suggests wearing rubber-soled shoes and clothes that won't get ruined if they get wet. A bathing suit? Why not?
"Our role is to take the audience in from the sidewalk and to make people leave whatever worries they have outside. ... We want to get them involved. We want the audience to feel pulled into the dream."
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