Since COVID killed off live performance for the foreseeable future, we’ve all been missing out on two very important cultural experiences: attending the theater, a form of entertainment that has been a central part of Western culture for millennia, and spotting celebrities in the crowd, which is even older. Fortunately, In & of Itself, Hulu’s production of Derek DelGaudio’s Geffen Playhouse / Off-Broadway show, offers viewers plenty of both. Directed by Frank Oz, the film version uses footage from several of DelGaudio’s New York performances, giving avid celebrity spotters more chances than usual to spot a famous person doing something normal (or at least something normal among New Yorkers with a certain amount of disposable income).
In & of Itself uses the tools of professional magic to explore questions of identity. Entering the theater, each audience member chooses a card with a personal or professional identity written on it (e.g., “I AM A WRITER,” or “I AM A UNICORN”), from a wall of about 1,000 different options. For his grand finale, DelGaudio does a mentalist-style trick where he greets each person in the audience with the identity they chose. One of the show’s themes is that that slapping that kind of label on people is inherently limiting, so putting together a collection of images of people who attended the show, then labeling them with their names and a brief description of who they are and, when possible, the identity card they chose, is not at all in the spirit of the thing. We’re going to do it anyway.
Performance artist Marina Abramović knows more than most about engaging directly with your audience, so DelGaudio’s technique was probably right up her alley. It’s unclear what card she picked, because instead of addressing her by the identity she’d chosen, DelGaudio whispered something in her ear, Lost in Translation-style.
W. Kamau Bell, Gavin Grimm, and Susan Sarandon
Tituss Burgess, Gavin Grimm
You can’t see actor Tituss Burgess in the shot where Gavin Grimm, W. Kamau Bell, and Susan Sarandon are visible, nor can you see W. Kamau Bell or Susan Sarandon in the shot with Tituss Burgess and Gavin Grimm. Nevertheless, all four people were at the same show.
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Magician David Blaine attended the show, and either he chose a card reading “I am a magician” or DelGaudio recognized him, because he greets him as “my brother.”
Paige Davis, Brian Henson, Patrick Page, and Kate McKinnon
Saturday Night Live star Kate McKinnon is visible just over DelGaudio’s right shoulder. Also in this shot, as Stephen Boatright pointed out on Twitter, are puppeteer Brian Henson, Trading Spaces host Paige Davis, and Davis’ husband, actor Patrick Page.
Ronan Farrow and Jon Lovett
Investigative journalist Ronan Farrow and podcaster Jon Lovett are briefly visible in the crowd.
You probably already know who Bill Gates is. He chose the “Leader” card from DelGaudio’s wall of identities.
Project Runway host Tim Gunn chose the “Good Samaritan” card from DelGaudio’s wall of identities.
Activist DeRay Mckesson attended the show in his signature vest. He chose the “Visionary” identity card.
Performance artist and activist Emma Sulkowicz, famous for Carry That Weight, a piece in which she carried a mattress with her everywhere on campus to protest Columbia’s handling of a rape allegation she had made, was one of the audience members chosen to keep the show’s logbook between performances.
Wet Hot American Summer director and State alum David Wain got a little misty-eyed at the moment in the show when DelGaudio embraced his mom.
Comedian and talk show host Larry Wilmore appears during In & of Itself’s final act. He picked the “Oracle” card.
Those are all the celebrities Slate’s staff could pick out of the crowd. Who’d we miss?
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