" A gorgeous first step towards a more inclusive landscape"
This November, Arizona Opera will take audiences back to the McCarthy-era Lavender Scare where communists weren't the only government targets. This powerfully compelling production of Fellow Travelers is an ode to the importance of being one’s self and the bravery it takes to stand up to oppression. Stage Director, Marcus Shields, gives us an insiders look into the production.
"In all honesty, director’s notes are completely terrifying. There is always far too much to say, and yet it always feels redundant when placed in proximity to the work itself. Because Fellow Travelers is its own best advocate. It is that rare piece of theatre that is delicious and addicting without being sugary or over salted. The music electrifies the nervous system and the words convey emotional and moral complexity with laser like directness. It happens to be searingly relevant, yet it's staying power comes from a core quality of universality which imbues these characters with mythological essence.
Written for a ensemble cast, Fellow Travelers dances through narrative with a cinematic agility, dissolving quickly between locations, time, and situations to etch a theatrical world tinged by suspicion and precarity. The progression is balletic, alternating between a series of pas de deux, trio, and ensemble scenes, all the while crescendoing towards an inevitable confrontation between the private realms of individuals and the public values of society.
As a physical vessel for the music and text, this production eschews spectacle for a mise en scene that is both more direct and more honest. The set, opting for elegant simplicity, makes use of modular double-sided units in tandem with props, clothing, and light to articulate changes in place. The ensemble actors, who motivate the scenic shifts, are present throughout the entire drama, hovering just outside the frame, even in the most intimate scenes.
In the years since Fellow Travelers first sounded in the world, Obergefell v. Hodges guaranteed the right to same sex marriage, social movements have brought awareness to previously accepted mechanisms of discrimination and oppression throughout our society, and the cultural space has undergone a significant pluralization. Simultaneously, our political discourse has splintered apart, progress on the global scale limps in a circle, and a banal cruelty has taken hold at the highest levels of government.
We live in a time when small choices matter; a time when the individual has incredible agency to contribute to the betterment of our world. In this exact moment, Fellow Travelers is important because it is a gorgeous first step towards a more inclusive landscape; it is important because it is not only relevant, but good; And it is important because it is an artistic beacon, warning against the dangers of becoming deaf to evil when it announces itself within society.
This is an opera that speaks clearly and loudly to our present, indicating a brighter, more loving, more accepting world just on the horizon. I sincerely hope you enjoy."
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