Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

Check out this incredibly creative toy theater adaptation of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities by Matt Gawryk and Dan Kerr-Hobert! I first encountered the book years ago in an “impossible theaters” class, but Matt and Dan certainly made the impossible, possible!

May 5-8, 2023 @ The Neo-Futurists
May 13-14, 2023 @ The Den Theater

For more info, click here

Kublai Khan feels his empire slipping away, and only from the tales of his emissary Marco Polo can he grasp it. Invisible Cities is a meditation on the nature and form of cities, of both their uniqueness and ubiquity. This toy theater adaptation of Italo Calvino’s novel compresses 18 cities into a menagerie of objects that articulate the narrative, using a variety of mediums including puppetry, object theater, paper mechanics and living sculpture.

I was asked to create a travel postcard for one of these cities, Octavia. I loved the prompt and decided to make an old-school style postcard with color blocking and heavy drop shadows.

“Now I will tell how Octavia, the spider-web city, is made. There is a precipice between two steep mountains: the city is over the void, bound to the two crests with ropes and chains and catwalks. You walk on the little wooden ties, careful not to set your foot in the open spaces, or you cling to the hempen strands. Below there is nothing for hundreds and hundreds of feet: a few clouds glide past; farther down you can glimpse the chasm’s bed.

This is the foundation of the city: a net which serves as passage and as support. All the rest, instead of rising up, is hung below: rope ladders, hammocks, houses made like sacks, clothes hangers, terraces like gondolas, skins of water, gas jets, spits, baskets on strings, dumb-waiters, showers, trapezes and rings for children’s games, cable cars, chandeliers, pots with trailing plants.

Suspended over the abyss, the life of Octavia’s inhabitants is less uncertain than in other cities. They know the net will last only so long.”

—Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

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