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Beginning in 2017, the stage version of Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself ran for 72 weeks at the Daryl Roth Theatre in New York. But for the many who didn’t get to catch the conceptual magic show, DelGaudio and director Frank Oz created a filmed version that was released on Hulu in January. Amid the series of illusions, DelGaudio uses his personal stories and an allegory to explore the concept of identity, and through the film, he’s allowing viewers to see the show in a way even those in the audience could not. “The performance was one long performance for me, from beginning to end, from the first time I did it to the last time I did it,” he tells THR. “And each night was a fragment of that one long piece. And, obviously, you couldn’t experience that live, but you could give a sense of that in the film.”
The show, which DelGaudio performed 560 times, includes audience participation, often leading to emotional moments of surprise through DelGaudio’s illusions. “In a theater, if you were four or five rows back, you might not be able to see the single tear streaming down someone’s face, but with the close-up, with the camera, these things are very apparent, and it’s harder to hide,” he says. “And so, the truth becomes easier to spot in the film, I think, than in the live show.”
DelGaudio and Oz spent a year in the editing room crafting the film and had to be selective about which audience members they would show — especially the famous ones.
“Having a known person is different than having someone you don’t have any preconceived notions about,” says DelGaudio, whose guests in the crowd included Tim Gunn, Bill Gates, Susan Sarandon, Kate McKinnon, Larry Wilmore, Tituss Burgess and performance artist Marina Abramović. “It is different for me to whisper something to Marina Abramović than it is to whisper to some random person. And it is different, especially now, to see Bill Gates, than seeing some random person we don’t know. And the complications of that, of what we know about that person, what we think we know about that person, and them seeing themselves as something and me identifying them as that, is a level of complexity that is part of the dialogue, and we felt it was important to include.”
DelGaudio says he’s only watched the Hulu version — eligible for Emmys in the variety special category — a handful of times since its debut but has been able to put some distance between himself and the piece and watch it like an audience member.
“I watch it and I remember doing it — but it looks hard,” he says. “It looks really hard and it looks taxing, and I don’t envy that man for doing that.”
This story first appeared in the June 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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