“All of the universes of art that I like all combine in one in this show,” says Eric San, aka DJ Kid Koala, about “Nufonia Must Fall,” a genre-defying performance he presents at Miami’s Olympia Theater this Saturday. The Montreal-based DJ has opened on tours for Radiohead, The Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest and Bjork, but his interest in putting on a show goes beyond turntablism, incorporating theatrics not usually associated with simply rocking a party.
That’s how he met K.K. Barrett, the Hollywood production designer who has worked with directors like Spike Jonze and Sophia Coppola. San was in Los Angeles performing “Vinyl Vaudeville,” which he describes as “sort of a Pee Wee’s Playhouse turntable show,” complete with dancers and Jim Henson-style puppets, when he met the production designer for films like “Her” and “Where the Wild Things Are” backstage.
The two immediately knew they wanted to collaborate and within two weeks had decided to revive a graphic novel San created in 2003 about a robot that falls in love with an office drone (think the whimsy of “Wall-e” with the emotional depth of “Her.”). The graphic novel has no dialogue, just pictures, so they couldn’t decide if the project should be an animated film with a score performed by San on turntables, a live show with actors, a puppet show, a short film. What?
Turns out San was only missing two things: a string quartet and some puppets. “I met all the main conspirators on this project within four weeks. From K.K. Barrett, to the Afiara Quartet to the puppeteer, Felix Boisvert. I wanted to bring all these things into my DJ world,” explains San.
The result is a live puppet show that is screened overhead, scored by a string quartet, with sound effects and additional music by San. The audience can watch the stage director orchestrate the action or keep their eyes on the screen and watch the story. “It’s a very elaborate choreography,” says San. “Most of the time the audience is watching the screen, but at any point, if you choose to, you can glance down at the stage and see the making of and the end product at the same time. There is an extra level of interaction.”
“Nufonia” has evolved since its debut in 2014. The show originally used only two cameras and a few sets. Now, 61 performances later, the team has found ways to add more elements of the graphic novel, using over a dozen miniature sets, three additional cameras and more visual tricks, like snow (which is created using potato flakes).
Though the protagonists are puppets, San assures that the show isn’t just for children. “It’s a good old fashioned love story. I think the kids get taken into the story and so do the adults.”
IF YOU GO:
What: “Nufonia Must Fall”
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 8
Where: Olympia Theater, 174 E. Flagler St, Miami
Cost: $35 / MDC students $10 / $50 VIP tickets influde After Party with DJ Kid Koala