Lost in a smart­phone Dan Ho le takes on dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy in his solo show

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Jen­nifer Levin

Dan Hoyle, known for solo per­for­mances in which he em­bod­ies a broad range of char­ac­ters, grew up in San Fran­cisco among theater folk. His fa­ther, Ge­off Hoyle, is a comic ac­tor who got his start in the Pickle Fam­ily Cir­cus in the 1970s. “He raised a fam­ily do­ing theater, so it al­ways seemed like a real job to me,” Hoyle told Pasatiempo by phone dur­ing a re­hearsal break from Each and Ev­ery Thing , his cur­rent theater piece, which he brings to the Lensic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on Satur­day, March 21.

The char­ac­ters Hoyle por­trays are real peo­ple. He slips into the skin of his friends as well as peo­ple he’s met do­ing his “re­searches,” a jour­nal­is­tic ex­er­cise ex­plor­ing the way oth­ers think and live that be­comes the ba­sis for his shows. His abil­ity to cap­ture and mimic the voice and man­ner­isms of ba­si­cally any­one he en­coun­ters is un­canny and even un­nerv­ing at first: Here is a thir­tysome­thing lib­eral white guy play­ing men and women of dif­fer­ent colors and cul­tures. But as their sto­ries flesh out and their words take on weight, it’s ob­vi­ous that mimicry is dis­tinct from mock­ery. Hoyle has ex­plored is­sues around the oil in­dus­try in Nige­ria (in Tings Dey Hap­pen ), and the diver­gent views in our coun­try on science and pol­i­tics dur­ing an elec­tion year ( The Real Amer­i­cans ). In Each and Ev­ery Thing , he takes on the im­mer­sive cul­ture of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy. In his con­ver­sa­tion with Pasa , he slipped in and out of char­ac­ter.

Pasatiempo: How did you de­velop Each and Ev­ery Thing ? Dan Hoyle: I am a huge lover and reader of news­pa­pers, and there was a lot of stuff com­ing out about news­pa­pers dy­ing out. I re­al­ized that there was a much larger tran­si­tion go­ing on in ev­ery part of life, from ana­log to dig­i­tal, that im­pacts how we per­ceive the world, how we re­late to one an­other, how our brain chem­istry works. I started to see this turn­ing in­ward, the pri­va­ti­za­tion of public space as peo­ple get lost in their smartphones. I went to a dig­i­tal-detox retreat, and it was as hi­lar­i­ous and pre­cious as you imag­ine, but also kind of poignant. And then I went to Cal­cutta, the world’s largest democ­racy, and one of the few places where news­pa­pers are boom­ing. Pasa: So how are things chang­ing in our in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal cul­ture? Hoyle: Any­thing I say now will be less art­ful than any­thing in the show. I don’t lec­ture peo­ple. It’s not that peo­ple aren’t aware of what’s hap­pen­ing. It’s just so easy to dis­ap­pear into our smartphones in­stead of walk­ing around and see­ing what we can ob­serve or what spon­ta­neous in­ter­ac­tions we might have. It’s so much eas­ier to com­mu­ni­cate via so­cial me­dia than call­ing some­one up and go­ing to their house. Pasa: How did you de­velop your re­search and per­for­mance style? Hoyle: I went to North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity. I found that what was hap­pen­ing on the streets of Chicago was more in­ter­est­ing than nine­teen-year-olds’ in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the clas­sics, so I spent a lot of time walk­ing around, in­ter­view­ing strangers, some of which you see in Each and Ev­ery Thing . One of the first long re­searches I did was on the lo­cal drug deal­ers in my neigh­bor­hood. This was in 2003 in Rogers Park. They were all my age, but we lived in two dif­fer­ent worlds. I fi­nally got up the courage and went down and said I wanted to hang out and get to know their sto­ries; I want to make a play about it. Coco said, “You wanna do a play about us? Is it go­ing to be a ghetto-ass play or some Broad­way-type shit? ’Cause I do love me a good mu­si­cal.” From there they com­pletely took me in — Coco, See Know, and Endo. Pasa: What’s your process for in­ter­view­ing peo­ple and cre­at­ing char­ac­ters? Hoyle: I don’t do ver­ba­tim stuff. In my pro­gram there’s al­ways a note that the words you’ll hear are a blend of sev­eral peo­ple’s and my own in ser­vice of the larger truth of my ex­pe­ri­ence. I record peo­ple with au­dio and some­times take notes. I also just hang out. Pasa: Do you have any bound­aries around the imi­ta­tion and mimicry that you do? Hoyle: We’ve got­ten to this point where peo­ple are very po­lit­i­cally cor­rect, and there’s not a lot of straight­for­ward dia­logue about who we are and how we’re dif­fer­ent. There’s this de­sire for us to say, “No, we’re all the same,” and I ac­tu­ally don’t think that’s true, and I think it re­duces the com­plex­ity of hu­man­ity. I re­ally feel like I’m hon­or­ing peo­ple’s sto­ries and do­ing it in a way that is pretty much a hun­dred times more re­spect­ful than any­thing that you’ll prob­a­bly see in mass me­dia. I’m not just in­ter­view­ing peo­ple once and do­ing a recita­tion of that in­ter­view. I think a lot of what peo­ple re­spond to is that they see there is a strong re­la­tion­ship that I have with the char­ac­ter. So the char­ac­ter is talk­ing to me, and the au­di­ence sort of be­comes me, and they have this ex­pe­ri­ence that I had. Pasa: You men­tioned ear­lier the pri­va­ti­za­tion of public space. Many peo­ple are also con­cerned by the way pri­vate space is be­ing made public through so­cial me­dia. Does that come up in Each and Ev­ery Thing ?

Hoyle: Yes. We’re over­shar­ing on­line and un­der­shar­ing in per­son. It’s this weird time where we’ll be in a public space, check­ing Face­book on the lit­tle com­put­ers we have in our pock­ets, heads down, lik­ing peo­ple’s pho­to­graphs, while all around us there are all th­ese other peo­ple. It hap­pens in public spa­ces with strangers, and it also hap­pens with friends. Pasa: Who are some of the char­ac­ters in the show? Hoyle: There’s my friend Pra­tim, who I’m con­stantly wor­ried about. I ask him if he ever stops to won­der what’s hap­pened to our sense of won­der. He says, “I just look at my cat, and that blows my mind ev­ery time.” And then there’s See Know, from Chicago, who came into my apart­ment for the first time and said, “Damn, you don’t have no TV, no in­ter­net? No won­der you started kick­ing on the block. I hope you have some porno mags up un­der your mat­tress, oth­er­wise you prac­tic­ing to be in jail.” And then there are some of the dig­i­tal detox­ers, who say things like, “Yeah, it’s ac­tu­ally not hard for me to sign off dig­i­tal. I ac­tu­ally signed off on four busi­ness deals to­day on my phone. I just hear like metal grind­ing and a truck noise in my head be­cause I’m al­ways work­ing. I grew up poor on a farm, so I’m wor­ried if I stop work­ing, I’ll just be poor. So I just, like, work.” Pasa: What do you hope peo­ple take from the show? Hoyle: I think there’s some­thing about do­ing this show in this mo­ment that feels like an act of com­ing to­gether, be­ing in this room to­gether that feels like some sort of secular church. In a good way, not a cultish way. We need to have communal ex­pe­ri­ence. This show, un­like any other show I’ve done, fills me up. And I hope it does the same for au­di­ences.

Dan Hoyle’s solo show

Each and Ev­ery Thing

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