LEO uses gravity, video to tell its story
By Chris Peterson October 24, 2012 6:04PM
Tobias Wegner stars as the lone character in the multi-media production of LEO. | ANDY PHILLIPSON PHOTO
♦ 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 -27
♦ Elgin Community College, 1700 Spartan Dr., Elgin
♦ Tickets, $20-$33
♦ (847) 622-0300;
Updated: October 24, 2012 6:04PM
Audiences can expect to have their worlds turned upside-down — and sideways — when the Elgin Community College Arts Center welcomes the innovative and critically acclaimed one-man show, LEO, this weekend.
A combination of video effects and old-fashioned physical performance, LEO is the story of a man whose world suddenly stops behaving the way he expects it to, and he has to stop behaving the way he’s expected to as a result.
The show is the creation of Berlin-based production company Circle of Eleven and the brainchild of Tobias Wegner, who stars as Leo. “The character called Leo, he’s a pretty average man who sits in this room,” Wegner said. “And suddenly he discovers that gravity has changed.”
As Leo struggles to cope with the ever-changing conditions of the room, Wegner said, he takes the audience along with him through a journey of self-discovery.
“It scares him at first, but it also brings a lot of humor for the audience,” Wegner said. “Through these menacing circumstances, he finds a way to deal with it and find talents and creativity inside himself that he didn’t know he had.”
Wegner’s performance is based on classic clown and mime techniques, as he simulates the room rotating around him. Next to him, a video screen combines her performance with digital effects to show the audience what is happening to Leo.
The effect is something like watching a magician perform a trick as he explains it to the audience, and Wegner said that letting the audience in on the secret is part of the experience.
“It’s as unreal as it is real at the same time,” Wegner said. “That makes (the audience) appreciate the live performance but it also makes them part of the trickery.”
Wegner said many audiences have assumed what happens on the video screen is pre-taped, but that changes once they realize how Wegner is interacting with them. “Every (audience) is different, so my timing may vary a little based on the reaction,” he said.
Wegner was inspired to create LEO in part thanks to his grandmother, who was a fan of Fred Astaire in “Royal Wedding.” Wegner said he had always been impressed by the physicality of Astaire’s dancing and how he could tell a story without using words. So when a performing troupe he was working with in 2008 needed additional material for their act, Wegner sketched out a 15-minute routine that would become the foundation for LEO.
After receiving acrobatic training at the University of Contemporary Circus Arts in Brussels, Wegner traveled the globe, performing in Brazil, Spain, India and England, among other places.
Directed by Montreal-based actor and director Daniel Briere, LEO won several major awards during the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, including the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award.
LEO made its United States debut in New York in January, and received rave reviews from Time Out New York, the New York Post and the New York Times. The ECC Arts Center will be the only opportunity to see LEO in the Chicago area during its 2012 North American tour.
Wegner said he is heartened by the warm reception audiences have given LEO around the world, and he is excited to bring the show to Elgin.
“I have to say, I’m pretty overwhelmed by the success and also the depth of what people see when they see the show,” he said. “I think the public sympathizes very much with this little dream coming true in front of their eyes.”
Chris Peterson is a local free-lance writer.