Playing God at the McArdle Theatre
HOUGHTON – Prometheus, Zeus and the creation of the cosmos are the subjects of “Stealing Fire,” an upcoming play at the McArdle Theatre on the campus of Michigan Technological University.
The play, which features an entirely orchestral score and no dialogue, features the story of Prometheus, who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to humans, and his battle with Zeus.
“Prometheus was a titan and had a lot to do with creating Earth,” said
Kalen Larson, who is director of flying for the play. “It’s loosely based around the Greek mythologies.”
“Stealing Fire” is an original production by students and teachers of MTU.
“There’s nothing that was preexisting when we started this,” Larson said. “…All of the music in the show is composed by students.”
Students began writing the music in August and have been fine tuning it over the months, where it would often be changed as choreography was integrated with it.
Even now the music and movement is still being finalized.
Larson said he received the idea of doing a show that involves flying when he, Christopher Plummer, the director of the play and other Tech students visited the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in January of last year.
“There was a flying workshop there and our students really did well at it,” Larson said.
He also liked the idea of bringing together artistry and technology.
“It’s a blend that you have to have in perfect balance at all times,” he said.
Larson is already familiar, though, with flying, as he also works with Hall Associates Flying Effects. Making a student fly is the easy part, but trying to choreograph movement in the air can be more challenging.
“Aerial choreography is a hard thing to try to think about,” he said. “I really needed to develop that.”
The biggest difficulty so far has been creating the whole experience instead of producing something that’s previously been written.
“We’re starting from an idea and we’re roughing this idea together as we go,” he said. “Normally you can reference a script, but this time around it’s like, ‘Well, what do we want.'”
Despite the difficulties, Larson has enjoyed watching the performers fly and knowing he had a hand in helping making the impossible possible.
“It’s magical,” he said. “It never gets old. Rehearsal isn’t usually very fun to watch. This time it is.”
Larson thinks people will enjoy the show because it’s completely different than what most are used to seeing.
“It’s somewhere between your straight theater show and Cirque du Soleil,” Larson said. “You don’t really get to see that type of show very often.”
Director Christopher Plummer was approached by Larson to direct the play, while Larson would direct the flying aspect. Plummer agreed to do it and they began working together, fine tuning all the different aspects of the
show. In preparation for writing the show, Plummer studied the Prometheus myth and drew storyboards to help visualize the final look of the show.
For the student written score, themes were used to compose the music and different instruments were used for different characters, which the show a cohesive feel.
“It also gives you some variation so that each scene is new,” Plummer said. Plummer said that because there’s no singing or dialogue, it has proved to be a challenge in telling a story.
Plummer hopes that audiences understand the theme of the show, which is creation having a life of its own.
“Also that we have a reality of self-determination,” Plummer said. “And that idea of the joy of creating something that is its own thing.”
The show can also be described as experimental or avant-garde. Plummer describes it as “European in its developmental process,” which Plummer says relates to the students being unsure of what to create and Plummer letting it snowball from there.
“It’s very scary and challenging and hard but really exciting,” Plummer said. “And now that it’s starting to come together, it gives us a lot of pride in saying, ‘Wow, we made that.'”
“Stealing Fire” will run at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 – 9, as well as Feb. 14-16 at the McArdle Theatre.