By Marcina Zaccaria
Artist Patrick Dunning enchants audience members at The Sheen Center in The Signature Project.
Not really speaking with brogue, but clearly having a gift of the gab, this world traveler explains how he began The Signature Project. Dunning was inspired to create a digital tapestry and displayed a 76ft X 36 ft mural, layered with hidden secrets. It is these secrets that are intrinsic to his understanding of the world, and Dunning sees the world as a bold and dynamic place.
Creating signatures on a small board, Dunning seems to prove that each individual matters. The person is depicted as small under a larger sky. Appearing next to photos, stocky Dunning seems more like a teacher, than an actor. In the beginning of the show, we see pictures of his early life. He slowly introduces us to his father, his brother, and the delightful times of his youth in Dublin, Ireland, with his mother near the kitchen. His father remains on stage as a powerful presence during the production.
With The Signature Project, Dunning encounters people, gets elements of their life story, and asks them to sign on a large board. Their tiny signatures are evidence of their existence on this earth. There’s something special about how he takes the microscopic element and broadens it. He mentions meeting with someone who worked with NASA. Dunning seems to be fascinated with how people connect under the heavens.
Never forgetting his roots in the 60s, his idealism is astonishing. At the same time, his fascination with art and light seems remarkably honest. There are moments when he seems to pass a bolt of lightening through the air, like a character in E.T. That “heart-light” brings a light feeling of joy through the room. That feeling is broadened as Dunning’s collaborators light the environment on three sides. It creates a feeling of broadness to the space.
Responsible for this transformative experience are Projection Designers John Erickson, Patrick Dunning, and Neil Blume. Lighting design is provided by Tanner Simpson. Directed by Eric Paul Vitale, this subtle drama feels most like a lecture series. Eric Paul Vitale keeps the entire production on an even keel, making space for the Irish music and dance sections, who are there to bring a mural to life. Step-dancers with glittery costumes parade; choreography by Elise Wright is perfected. He also calls his brother, Brian Dunning, who assists him with music. With communication zooming forward at the speed of light, these ensemble moments celebrate performance from every angles.
At the end of the show, Dunning gives the audience the opportunity to come onstage and sign their names on the small board. This moment of participation is sometimes what we are looking for in the theater. It honors the contribution of the audience members, re-affirming why we choose to share a moment in a theatrical space.
The Signature Project is running at the Sheen Center, located at 18 Bleecker Street through March 25