A new special coming to Hulu this week takes a deep dive into one man’s story of fighting to find his identity.
When he was 12 years old, illusionist and performance artist Derek DelGaudio started to develop an interest in sleight of hand and other illusions. For years, he only did them for himself, but after a while, DelGaudio started to play around with the medium and started to figure out how he wanted to present himself while performing. This ultimately led to him developing his show, “Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself.”
“Part of the challenge was the medium itself. I wanted to attack it head-on with this show, a show that was 30 some years in the making,” said DelGaudio. “It took a long time to realize that I have no interest in performing as a magician — I thought I was supposed to do that because it’s a craft I had to do, it’s what the world told me I should do. I don’t think it’s what I was meant to do. I was meant to reveal things in some ways. The show is all about concealing but relish in revealing. I created a paradox in me that I started to untangle in the show.”
“Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself” ran off-Broadway at the Daryl Roth Theatre in Union Square from May 2016 to August 2018. In this one-of-a-kind show, which is directed by Frank Oz and was produced by Neil Patrick Harris, DelGaudio takes his audience on a journey to understand the illusory nature of identity. His personal journey expands to a collective experience that forces us to confront the boundaries of our own identities.
Throughout the show, DelGaudio attempts to answer the question, “Who Am I?” He tells the audience the story of the “roulettista,” a man who won the game Russian Roulette time and time again, and DelGaudio ultimately refers to himself as the roulettista as he goes throughout the show. As DelGaudio delights his audience with his illusions, he is telling stories about his past. He also continually blows the audience’s minds with his show, which led the show to sell tickets beyond its original run.
As the show went on for weeks past its original run, DelGaudio felt it was worth capturing. This led to the creation of a film version of “In & Of Itself,” which is set to premiere on Hulu on Friday. The project is created, written, and performed by DelGaudio, the film is directed by Frank Oz, executive produced by Stephen Colbert, Evelyn McGee Colbert, Daryl Roth, and Tom Werner and produced by Glenn Kaino, Vanessa Lauren, and Jake Friedman.
“I saw the looks on people’s faces and thought it was worth capturing,” said DelGaudio. “We started capturing one show at a time. After seeing the footage with Frank, we started to shape how to translate the experience to the screen.”
One thing that surprised DelGaudio in doing “In & Of Itself,” which is shown in the new special, was the audience’s willingness to participate in the show. For example, one aspect of the show includes sending an audience member off with a book before the end of the show with instructions to return with the book having written an ending for the show that they missed. Every time DelGaudio sent someone home with the book, the audience member he sent it with would return the following night to return the book.
“The fact that it worked and it was a ritual based on belief and human participation, it was remarkable that people rose to that occasion and never let us down,” said DelGaudio. “The fact that everyone did it and showed up and helped create this thing was a remarkable thing. Honestly, I didn’t know if we were going to make it two days before no one showed up. I’m in awe of people taking the leap of faith with me.”
DelGaudio says that the show was very well received when it was running Off-Broadway, though he acknowledges that his show did ask a lot of his audience when it was running. He hopes that people who watch the special will be able to take a look at themselves in a way that maybe they haven’t done before.
“If people do watch it, as difficult as it is watching without any preconceived notions, if they were to leave with something, maybe it would be reflecting on who they are,” said DelGaudio. “The film is about what it means to be seen and see others, and what we do to others as we see them, whether conscious or not. In a way, how we see one another and shaping each other’s identities and seeing that responsibility that we carry.”
“Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself” premieres on Hulu on Jan. 22.