The Brooklyn Museum’s “David Bowie Is” exhibition —closing out the global 5-year tour of Bowie’s personal archives and work— has been a welcome pilgrimage for many in NYC this spring. Befitting of the exhibits tribute, the museum also featured a 4-part evening event series created by Brooklyn-based immersive theater collective, Little Cinema, which recent featured a party for the glittered masses called the “Night of 1000 Bowies” in May.
With unprecedented access to Bowie’s work and screenings of his films, we caught up with Little Cinema’s founder, Jay Rinsky, to hear a little bit more about his process and what he created for these Bowie Is performances.
Immersive is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. How do you describe what Little Cinema is?
Jay Rinsky: Little Cinema is a story told differently and a true hybrid between the screen and live performing arts. ‘Immersive’ Cinema is still a brand new concept, for us it means to break the barrier between the audience and the performers. We literally preform in front of you, above you, behind you and with you – at times the audience even becomes the performance. In addition to a full 360-degree interactive experience, we often use other effects to create the feeling of water, wind, smell and lift the screen out into the audience.
You seem to conduct the show by mixing live videos on stage during the performances. Is this part of what keeps LC unique?
JR: I was an audio visual DJ and still am. I mix both sound and picture live in perfect sync to one another. What has made Little Cinema different is the introduction of live performance into the shows, and basing all shows on a film. The performers have a dialogue with the screen in real-time to a live audience. Another key difference is understanding that the sum is greater than it’s parts. I run Little Cinema somewhat as an artist collective where everybody has creative input and is encouraged to express themselves in a fearless manner. Having so many different creative inputs on a project can really turn some mesmerizing unexpected results.
How did you approach creating the immersive performance for these films at the Brooklyn Museum?
JR: The approach was ‘Bowie’. Utilizing as many different pop culture elements into each show and fusing as many genres as possible into a single event. I tried to stay true to the emotion and message of the films. For Basquiat we brought in Brian Kelly – an acquaintance of both Basquiat and Bowie – who gave a heartfelt spoken word piece at the end. In Man Who Fell To Earth, we commissioned Bowie’s latest musicians from the Blackstar album to compose and perform a new soundtrack in what felt like a beautiful requiem to this pop legend. Labyrinth will be a true celebration of Bowie’s work with a his ‘Best Of’ as a soundtrack, and some exciting and fun performances from House Of Yes performers.
Was it a daunting prospect to do this justice?
JR: We get our kicks out of ‘Fearless Creativity’. To be honest it was exciting more than anything as the subject matter of Bowie is so incredible to begin with. Our whole project was founded the day of Bowie’s death with Labyrinth being the first show we ever did — we created it in 24 hours and preformed it as a tribute the day after his death. Bowie is the quintessential example of fusing theater, music & film, which is the the underlying basis of what we do.
We’ve been fortunate to sell out all events with some real Bowie heads from all walks of life in attendance. I think the best feedback I’ve received across the board is that it felt to many like attending the film for the first time — with all the excitement, surprise and delight you get from experiencing something that has a true effect on you for the very first time.
Little Cinema feels like what nightlife should be in NYC: imaginative, experimental and entertaining. How do you see this continuing to grow?
JR: For our first year we created a new show weekly. It almost killed me but made the project grow to what it is today. A lot of what we do is about being a ‘one off spectacle’, some of our amazing fans have seen over 30 different shows and keep coming back to see what else we have up our sleeves. The dream one day would be to have a ‘Little Cinema’ theater, that will enable us to create daily.
Is it for everyone? Naturally, some might not know what to make of an immersive performance if they haven’t been.
JR: Little Cinema is about respecting everyone. It is still a great experience to just sit and watch – we often have a designated section where we exclude the live action and effects to make all guests feel comfortable. Our shows gets a strong sense of ‘togetherness’ and community, even if you are not participating you’ll feel the warmth of the room and people around you. We like to bring people together.
What’s next for you after Bowie, both here in Brooklyn and elsewhere?
JR: We’ll keep building on all fronts, we’ve got a new immersive season at House Of Yes starting in the fall, and we are working on another BK Museum partnership for 2019. We’re also starting an Orchestra and working on some new concepts for 360-shows in domes. Always cooking up new concepts… Oh, and L.A has been good to us, we’re looking to do more there.
Thank you, Jay.
Little Cinema will present the final immersive screening in the Brooklyn Museum’s David Bowie is film series on Thursday June 21st with Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986, 101 min.). They will reimagine the dark fantasy epic, exploring the historic collaboration between Bowie, Jim Henson, and George Lucas with a cast of over twenty House of Yes performers and a new interpretation of the classic soundtrack featuring the best of Bowie’s music.
The David Bowie is exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum goes through July 15th.
For future Little Cinema events, sign up via their website.