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It's an art blog.
Mostly about theatre... but also a healthy dose of pop culture, politics and shameless self-promotion.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Holy Crap! It's an Oratorio... I think...

On the front page of the "BUZZ" section of the Sunday edition of the Toronto Star today:

"THE AFTERLIFE OF BRIAN: The film that delighted millions and shocked a very noisy few comes to a Toronto stage in the form of an oratorio, no less."

Inside there is a photo of Life of Brian dress rehearsal with Eric Idle, among others, standing in front of music stands, in plain dress... performing.

Dress rehearsal? This is starting to seem awfully familiar. What the heck is an Oratorio? I look it up. From the Oxford Dictionary: a large-scale musical work for orchestra and voices, typically a narrative on a religious theme, performed without the use of costumes, scenery, or action.

Holy Crap, I think. I'm doing an Oratorio.

A little backgroud: Superhero Live!, currently being released as 15-min audio Podcast episodes online at www.superherolive.com, is going to be performed in full "Live!" at the 2007 Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in August. The production is NOT going to be fully staged and there will be no sets, little costuming, and no stage-fighting. It IS primarily a musical work for band and voices. And, depending on how fervent the fan, Superheroes are a religion of their own.

I was wondering how the heck I was going to describe this upcoming production to the media in the days leading up to the Fringe. A live version of the radio-play? That sounds like it's a fully staged work. A staged reading? Well, no, because the work will be completely memorized, and the performance will be much more heightened than just a reading. A stationary musical? Not really--there's no singing. An audio comic book? That's okay, but it doesn't really say anything about the show...

"Oratorio"... now that sounds impressive. Established. Distinguished--classy even. Maybe I could call it a Rock-Oratorio in my press release. "I'm gonna produce an Oratorio," I thought; I was pretty damned impressed with myself.

Of course, there are major differences for what I intend to produce with Superhero Live!, and what an Oratorio is supposed to be. First off, an Oratorio is meant to be performed with a full orchestra. I have two musicians. Second, an Oratorio is meant to be primarily a musical piece and the plot/story of the piece is somewhat minimal compared to the music. Superhero Live! is very plot heavy, and the acting of the dialogue is central to the success of the production. And there is no singing. Oratorios are basically church-friendly operas, from what I understand.

However this will all be very useful to me when we start rehearsals and it becomes my duty to explain to the cast what I want this production to be in its "Live!" form. The musical score had to play an unfortunately-but-necessarily diminished role within the Radio-play format of the Podcasts. This was for the sake of clarity: without anything to look at, we needed to make sound effects much more prominent in the soundscape of the story so that the listener would be able to understand what the heck was going on. But the original intent of the production was for the music to be much more integral to the piece: it is supposed to be as integral to the plot as the dialogue... just a different way of experiencing the piece. In the live show, the music will be more prominent, and watching the musicians (and actors) perform will be one of the best things about the show... maybe even moreso than listening to the plot.

Is the play going to be a bunch of actors and musicians standing around and delivering their lines? Yes and no. The way our venue is set up and how I'm going stage the work is going to be intriguing to watch... or not watch, depending where you sit...

I won't say any more, as I don't want to spoil it months before the Fringe starts! You'll have come check out the show if you're interested to see what I've got up my sleeve.

So I suppose "oratorio" works as well as any other descriptor for Superhero Live!, which continues to prove itself somewhat un-classifiable. It is and it isn't.

What I know for sure, and what I'm excited to share, is that the "Live!" production is going to be it's own animal. It will be different than the Podcasts, an entirely different experience. It's going to be exciting, fun and an adrenaline rush.

I can't wait to see what people think!!!

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