‘Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself’ aims to change the way people see themselves and others

Peter Sblendorio
New York Daily News
"Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself" is out Friday on Hulu.

The creators of “Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself” hope the filmed version of their buzzy one-man show helps viewers see the world — and themselves — differently.

Directed by Frank Oz, the movie explores how using labels to define people corrupts the way someone looks at their own and other people’s identities. But both DelGaudio and Oz say the film, out Friday on Hulu, must be experienced, not described.

“We try to not give people anything going into it because it sets an expectation regardless,” DelGaudio told the Daily News.

“There’s nothing we can say that would give a proper context other than just go into it and see it, and try to see what you see. That answer is part of the show, in the sense that we give each other language to make sense of the world, but then ironically that language conceals part of it because we have preconceived notions of what words mean and what labels mean.”

The regularly sold-out New York City show, which closed in 2018, featured DelGaudio alone on stage, interacting with different audience members every night.

“The metaphors (in the show) align with the film in the sense that part of the construct of identity is mystery; the things we can’t know about one another. Things we’ll never know about one another,” DelGaudio said. “In that sense, there’s a deep sense of mystery. You’re using mystery as a way of revealing something about identity and how we view it. I think it surprises people. Concealing something to reveal it is what we did in a lot of cases.”

DelGaudio performed the show 560 times in an intimate Off-Broadway theater before it closed, having grossed more than $7 million.

Oz, the famed filmmaker and puppeteer who brought to life characters such as Yoda in “Star Wars” and Miss Piggy of The Muppets, befriended DelGaudio after seeing him in another show, years before they worked together on “In & Of Itself.”

As the director of the stage show, Oz said he was floored by the way mesmerized audiences always sat in complete silence as they watched DelGaudio on stage.

“It’s powerful because these ideas come from Derek’s soul,” Oz told The News. “I think my contribution in making it powerful also, besides the ideas being powerful, is creating an experience with Derek that people can feel but not understand. The accumulation, as the show goes on, of events that touch them, they’re not aware of it until the very end, when it becomes very emotional.”

Oz believes the fact that DelGaudio would simply talk to the audience, and not act on stage, made the show impactful.

Every show was different based on DelGaudio’s interactions with the crowd.

“It was like walking into a gauntlet every night, and I didn’t know what foes I’d be facing,” DelGaudio said. “The experience was constructed in a way that I went in not knowing a lot.”

The film will make it possible for even more people to have that experience.

“The important thing that we are doing, and have been doing, is trying to avoid the concept of magic or illusion, because people want a hook when they see something,” Oz said.

“We, from the very beginning, were not interested in doing a magic show. Derek’s philosophical ideas were what we were interested in. It’s important for the show to be experienced the same way as I began the process, which is completely open, and not start labeling it ahead of time, or label it at all.”

Derek DelGaudio in his new film, "Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself."

'Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself'

Opens Friday