Geoff Sobelle is a theatre artist dedicated to the “sublime ridiculous.” He is the co-artistic director of rainpan 43, a renegade absurdist outfit devoted to creating original actor-driven performance works. Using illusion, film and out-dated mechanics, R43 creates surreal, poetic pieces that look for humanity where you least expect it and find grace where no one is looking. R43’s shows include: all wear bowlers (Innovative Theatre Award, Drama Desk nomination), Amnesia Curiosa, machines machines machines machines machines machines machines (OBIE award – design), and Elephant Room (commissioned by Center Theatre Group). His independent work includes Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl (Edinburgh Fringe First Award) and The Object Lesson (Edinburgh Fringe First Award, Carol Tambor Award, Total Theatre Award, NYTimes Critics Pick). He has been a company member of Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theatre Company since 2001.
All of his work to date has premiered at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival before touring nationally and internationally. Geoff’s work has been presented at the the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), St. Ann’s Warehouse, HERE Arts Center, The Kirk Douglas Theatre (CTG), Berkeley Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Arena Stage, Studio Theatre (DC), Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), Bard College, the Barbican Center (London), and has toured to Germany, Italy, France and South Korea.
As a teacher, Geoff has led workshops all over the world in devised theatre creation, physical approach to character, clown and “jeu.” He is a teacher at the Pig Iron school in Philadelphia (APT) and is on faculty at Bard College. His projects have been supported by the MAP Fund, the Independence Foundation, the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative, the Wyncote Foundation, US Arts International, the Princeton Atelier and the New England Foundation for the Arts. He is a 2006 Pew Fellow and is a 2009 Creative Capital grantee. Geoff graduated with honors from Stanford University and trained in physical theatre at École Jacques Lecoq in Paris.
A dedicated absurdist, I am chiefly interested in moments of “the sublime ridiculous.” I believe that comedy is the highest order of art, and that laughter allows an audience to open, become vulnerable and experience the full realm of human emotion to discover a new plane of experience. My job as a theatre artist is to challenge traditional modes of perspective through complex, multi-layered, virtuosic, visual theatre that uses performance itself as a metaphor for the human experience.
I began as a magician, continued as an actor and arrived as a clown. While training at the Lecoq School in Paris, I met the Pig Iron Theatre Company, who I continue to work with, now fourteen years later. Both with Pig Iron, as well as my own company, rainpan 43, I create original work through improvisation, based on intellectually rigorous dramaturgy, grounded in absurdity. Using illusion, film and out-dated mechanics, I create surreal, poetic pieces that look for humanity where you least expect it and find grace where no one is looking. My practice resembles a colossal practical joke, lovingly made and diabolically let loose upon a captive audience.
I am fascinated by live performance because it is a great “lie.” Theatre is the illusion of a present moment, rehearsed again and again to seem more and more present. I find this paradox extremely funny and potent. My main objective as an absurdist performance artist is to find complex and challenging means of exploiting this fundamental paradox.
Bessie Award - The Object Lesson - "best design"
NYTimes Critics Pick - The Object Lesson
Carol Tambor “Best of the Fringe” Award (Edinburgh) - The Object Lesson
Scotsman Fringe First Award - The Object Lesson, Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl
Total Theatre Award - The Object Lesson
Obie Award - machines machines machines machines machines machines machines - "best design"
Drama Desk Award Nomination – all wear bowlers – “unique theatrical experience”
Innovative Theatre Award – all wear bowlers – “best performance art piece”
Philadelphia Magazine Award– “Best of Theatre”
CityPaper People’s Choice Award – all wear bowlers
PEW Fellowship in the Arts
Creative Capital Fellowship- Elephant Room
New England Foundation for the Arts - Elephant Room
Philadelphia Theater Initiative – Fellowships: Object Lesson; Elephant Room; Flesh and Blood and Fish and Fowl; machines machines machines machines machines machines machines; all wear bowlers
Independence Foundation – Fellowships: all wear bowlers and The Object Lesson
Pig Iron Theatre Company – company member since 2001, teacher at the Pig Iron school