Choices – Aural atmosphere by a team from Purdue University

Climate Change: Choices and the Weather of the American Theatre

Choices transports its audiences from the climate of everyday life into a surprising and unexpected world where Electronic Dance Music (EDM) collides with cultural mores. On the one hand the music and environment of EDM are perfectly constructed to sexually arouse audiences. At the same time, our cultural values constantly insist that acting on these impulses is wrong.

Inside our thEDMatre club these two forces meet like high and low pressure areas at the front of a storm. Interpersonal relationships explode in a tempest of conflicting emotion creating “a multiplicity of deep feelings like the ever-changing weather, where nothing lasts for long, and everything is subject to constant change.

Choices emerges as a hybrid performance piece, drawing new audiences from the world of live music who have often never experienced live theatre before. Based in the resurgence of the concert industry in the late 1990’s, Choices grafts theatre onto the sturdy root of EDM, a phenomenon that draws huge audiences of mostly young adults all over the world. The result is thEDMatre; a music-theatre that is entirely immersive–the action of the play unfolds in and among the members of the audience, “pushing the boundaries of theatrical space”; a performance environment “where the audience and the performers” are literally “part of the same whole”—the boundary between stage and audience constantly blurred. The audience is never allowed to be passive (they stand and often dance during the entire performance). They are encouraged to shape the journey, both vocally (this is a theatre in which the audience yells and screams their opinions constantly and freely), and by “tweeting” their opinions anonymously on their cell phones to the live community; audience reactions make clear the impact on social thinking. The result is a loud, boisterous, and intensely physical theatre experience unlike any other-“a moment of heightened life experience in an environment that is a living breathing organism.”

It is our hope that we have offered one new crop suitable to the terrain created by the ever- changing weather of the American theatre. Choices is not the answer but it is one of a myriad of possible solutions to a theatre that wants to be repurposed, reimagined and reinvented for twenty first century audiences.

The Music of Choices

Choices is born out of a passion to return to our roots and create theatre out of music. Based on the evolutionary, biological and neurological principles Rick Thomas has written and lectured about extensively, Choices also finds it’s origins in the writings of Wagner, Nietzsche, Appia and the Greeks. It is essentially one possible reinvention of opera.

In such a system, story is first told in music. Musical expression then dictates the use of language to communicate ideas. The emotional journey takes precedence over the dialectic of the plot.

Catharsis trumps intellect.

Sexual Politics

The subject matter of this particular incarnation of thEDMatre is sexual politics.   Choices immerses its audiences in the clubs of electronic dance music, and then proceeds to probe and question the underlying social paradigm in which music and often drugs stimulate the sexual appetite and wage war against the long established sexual mores of our civilization. “Wine, women and song,” and “drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll” all release dopamine in the brain. Our bodies

scream yes while our minds insist no.

Into this world enter three young friends charged for action, yet each in their own way naive to the realities of navigating the socio-political minefield of “hooking up” in the clubs. Over the course of a week, experienced in the reverse order selected by Jack our protagonist, enduring friendships bust apart at the seams, lives are ruined, and fulfillment seem distant at best. Given enough choices, can the human spirit overcome such adversity? That is the journey of Choices thEDMatre.

 The Process of Creating Choices 

The process of Choices thEDMatre began with the development of the story in summer 2013, by its creator, Rick Thomas, and projections designer Kindari O’Connor. Rick Thomas then led a group of composers in the creation of the soundtrack for the show that culminated in the release  of the soundtrack on CD and Bandcamp on February 1, 2014. Thomas then cast the show and developed the script with the cast in February and March of 2014. Rehearsals took place in April and the show opened on May 2, 2014.

Collaboration in the design of Choices was so integral to the production that a separate network designer, Rich Dionne was brought in to develop the sophisticated mechanism by which separate computers that drove the lights, projections and sound would integrate. This design team met bi- weekly from August 2013 through April 2014 to develop lighting, projections and sound into a seamless musical experience over the one and one-half hour journey of the show.