The Many Faces of Alberto Denis
Performance artist Alberto Denis ’97. At right, Denis performs in “Then She Fell.”
Alberto Denis is an actor, dancer, burlesque artist, backstage technical wizard and DJ/MC – a jack-of-all-trades who has made his mark in them all.
Graduating from RIC in 1997 with a B.A. in theatre and a minor in dance, Denis found work in New York minutes after he arrived. He said he owes his good fortune to Russell Monaghan, technical director of RIC’s Roberts auditorium, who taught Denis the nuts and bolts of running and repairing technical equipment, while allowing Denis to work for him backstage.
Denis was part of the tech crew who called themselves the R.A.T.S. (Roberts Auditorium Technical Staff) and made themselves T-shirts with ironed-on stage screw decals. “I didn’t realize the fraternity I had joined, until my first morning in New York, after graduating from RIC,” he said. “I was introduced to the technical director of Juilliard who took one look at my t-shirt, and said, ‘Oh, you’re a R.A.T.’ and hired me on the spot. My technical abilities allowed me to work when other artists were struggling to find work.”
Denis has toured the world (Dubai, Dublin, Barcelona, Bangkok, Taipei, Mexico City, Oslo, Prague and others) as stage manager, audio engineer, assistant technical director and production electrician as well as dancer/actor.
His latest acting gig is the critically acclaimed “Then She Fell” by Third Rail Projects in New York, a theatre- and movement-based ensemble company. Denis described the genre of this production as immersive theatre, which is not performed on a traditional stage but in real-life environments.
“Then She Fell” takes place in the Kingsland Ward, a former parochial school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and is set during the Victorian era. Audience members step into the performance space as soon as they step into the building. Each performance is limited to 15 audience members who move through the building either as a group or alone and encounter scenes and characters inspired by the writings of Lewis Carroll and offer a highly personalized experience.
Ranked by Vogue as Best in Theater 2013, the production is described as “. . . haunting, hallucinatory, and profoundly intimate.” “Then She Fell” runs through June 29.
When Denis is not performing with Third Rail, he performs burlesque. In the evenings, he dons masks, makeup, costumes and glitter – lots of glitter – to embody his alter ego GoGo Gadget.
The name, he said, refers to Denis’ love of tech gadgetry. In May he will be flying to Paris for The Lettingo Cabaret and then on to England for the London Burlesque Festival.
Denis also DJ’s and MCs around New York. This is another trade he began at RIC where he was DJ for the campus radio station WXIN and director of the Contemporary Hits Records Department. He said, “I love movement, and I love getting other people to move. DJing is designed to get people to move.”
But what inspires Denis most, he said, is not DJing, dancing, acting or techno mania; it’s superheroes. An avid collector of Superman T-shirts, comic books and graphic novels, he said he views artists as superheroes.
“Like superheroes, we have a secret identity. At night we put on masks or makeup and wigs and costumes and perform feats that other people consider extraordinary. And like superheroes, we change people’s lives.”
See video on immersive theatre featuring Third Rail Projects’ “Then She Fell.”