You never know what you might experience at the Wex. In 2011, Joe Pimmel signed on as a volunteer for performances of Vivarium Studio's L'Effet de Serge and eventually found himself doing much more than distributing programs. On the eve of Vivarium Studio's return to the Wex with the critically lauded new work La mélancolie des dragons, we asked Joe to tell us more about his unforgettable time as a temporary member of the company.
"I was part of the volunteer usher corps at the Wexner Center when I got an email asking for volunteers to appear on stage during performances of Vivarium Studio’s L'Effet de Serge for the first week of February, 2011. They specifically asked for a 40-year old man and assured that 'no acting experience is required.' I had the mistaken impression that I would be a sort of living prop in the background of the show and that I’d be mostly invisible.
"The play was about an unassuming, quiet guy who puts on little shows in his cluttered basement for his friends. I was one of the friends that comes over for one of his shows. The shows were decidedly low-tech, and Serge’s ability to relate with others might be a little lacking, but nonetheless the little performances charmed.
"What I didn’t expect was that I would arrive the day before performances for a dress rehearsal and that I would actually have a significant part to play. I had to learn who I was supposed to be and my relationship to Serge, the timing of my arrivals and departures, and other stage directions—all with a single rehearsal. And I had lines! I was supposed to improvise reactions to Serge’s performances and ad-lib cocktail conversation at the final party. I was nerve-wracked, but it was exhilarating at the same time. There was a rawness to the performance by having all of the reactions be genuine and unscripted. The scenes bubbled with a real energy that was caused in part by our own discomfort at not fully knowing what we were supposed to be doing. The performances were whimsical and magical—light projections on the wall, a car’s flashing lights and windshield wipers timed to booming music, robot cars with sparklers, and a miniature grand finale.
"The troupe members were lovely. They were so gracious and welcoming of us, and they enjoyed exploring Columbus adventures after the end of each performance. We truly bonded, and it was one of the most fantastic and unexpected experiences I have had.
"I’m looking forward to their upcoming show. I know it will be a bit peculiar, perhaps mysterious, deeply charming, and thoroughly enjoyable."
(Image from Vivarium Studio's L'Effet de Serge. Photo by Argyroglo Callias Bey)