Guillermo Calderon Explains Neva’s Unconventional Lighting

Photo: Teatro en Blanco

Teatro en Blanco’s Neva was the first show I saw in this week’s Radar LA festival, and still my favorite of the seven I’ve seen so far. Guillermo Calderón’s script is an extraordinary homage to Chekhov that takes in the playwright, the injustice of Czarist Russia, the disappointment of the revolution and the whole endeavor of theater and moulds it all into a stirring call to arms. I’ve thought about the show a lot since Wednesday and one question keeps returning: Why did Calderón (who also directed Neva) light the show with a space heater? So I asked him. Here’s his answer:

“The heater was sitting in the space where we rehearsed the show. We used it all the time, because we were rehearsing in the cold months of winter and we used it to warm ourselves up. We wanted to work with very little light to convey the idea of an electrical blackout. Experimented with a lot of real theater lights, but we just kept going back to the heater.

“We didn’t want to create a costume drama—the play takes place in the past, but it is about the present. The heater provides us with the opportunity to say that this is a fiction.

“Because it is a real heater, the actors get very hot. We did the play in Havana and they almost died. It’s why they drink water during the performance. It’s supposed to be vodka, but they really have to have water.”