The World Is Round is a multimedia folk-opera based on a Gertrude Stein children’s book. The work explores the relationship between the rhythm of language and sound, the music of light and projection, and the choreography of bodies and space. These elements woven together create a powerful climate in which the design disciplines seamlessly interact with the staging, creating a dynamic and immersive environment. The landscape becomes a vivid and tumultuous character that accompanies the protagonist, a young girl named Rose, throughout her long and effortful journey up a mountain.
Climbing the mountain stands as a fable-like metaphor for Rose’s cross into adulthood, and the climate surrounding Rose breathes and transforms to create a constantly evolving physical and psychological space. The environment surrounding Rose becomes so intertwined with her character that the color of light, images, sounds and elements of the set become fused with her personality. The scenery offers a saturated psychological landscape, conjured up by her vivid imagination.
The projections go through several stages of transformation throughout the journey, marking each stage of Rose’s own growth as a person. The images begin as very playful and child-like illustrations that are drawn around Rose and interact with her position on the deck of the set. As she gains the courage to begin her journey up the mountain, the line drawings evolve into more dimensional, and more sophisticated, paper-cut outs, spilling onto the ceiling of set in addition to the floor. Rose finds herself immersed in a moving landscape of collaged birds, growing mountains, towering trees and a glimmering moon. The last transformation of the projections takes place as Rose reaches the mountain top. The images no longer illustrate her surroundings through drawing and collage, but transcend into pure color and light, and into atmosphere. The gradients of color and light reflect the new confidence and sophistication in Rose’s character.
The deceptively simple but gender conscious language captures the innocence of a fairy take and the weight of a mature feminist voice. Rose weathers what many women similarly “climbing mountains” of their own face in regards to a navigating through landscapes of adversity in all forms of weather.
What started out as an enclosed space with persistent shades of blue and naive, playful hand-drawn animations evolves into a vast, wide open space. The moment she reaches her hard won goal of reaching the mountain top, the ceiling of the set dramatically lowers down to meet the deck. Rose sits in a hanging lyra high above; the color of the light transforms into a vibrant magenta and the palette of the projections transcends into pure pulsing color and light.
The audience embarks alongside Rose on the journey up the mountain, experiencing with her the tumultuous landscape that she must navigate and overcome. The story is a universal one, and the language used to express it explores the seamless interaction of design, technology and the human body to elevate the emotionality of storytelling.
The World is Round
Presented by Ripe Time at BAM Fisher Space, April 2014
A play with songs
Written and Directed by Rachel Dickstein
With music and lyrics by Heather Christian
Based on Gertrude Stein’s “The World is Round”
Set by Mimi Lien
Costumes by Ilona Somogyi
Lights by Jiyoun Chang
Sound by Jane Shaw
Projection by Hannah Wasileski
Photos: Hannah Wasileski