A titan of American avant-garde performance, Laurie Anderson will be making her directorial debut with her new musical called Songs and Stories from Moby Dick at Philadelphia's Prince Music Theatre, May 12-23. The piece is slated to open the Brooklyn Academy of Music's 1999 Next Wave Festival in the fall.
Larry Larson, general manager of Anderson's production company, the Electric Theatre Company, called Moby Dick "a Laurie Anderson kind of musical." The show will not relate the tale of the Great White Whale and Captain Ahab per se, said Larson, but rather communicate Anderson's take on the Herman Melville classic. Anderson will appear in the production along with a few other actors -- a marked departure for the usual solo performances with accompanying slide shows.
Using Melville's text as a point of departure, Moby Dick incorporates images and unusual vocal styles to convey Anderson's thematic riffs on the piece. The characters on the doomed Pequod, from the Captain to the crazy cook, will be represented by four actors (including Anderson) that double as Noah, Jonah, Job, and Melville himself. Anderson will play the roles of the Whale, Pip and a reader.
Also debuting with the piece will be Anderson's latest new musical instrument "The Talking Stick," a invention which combines the power of computers with the performer's gestures.
Anderson is as famous for her recorded work as her stage efforts. She has been a presence in experimental music and performance art for the two decades since her album "Big Science" and its single "O Superman" became surprise hits. Other albums include "United States I-IV," which Anderson performed at BAM in 1983. Other stage works include Voices from the Beyond, part of Lincoln Center's 1991 Serious Fun Festival; and Stories from the Nerve Bible, seen in 1993 at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia. Long-time Anderson friend (and a theater avantress in her own right) Anne Bogart was originally slated to direct the piece, but Bogart is not currently attached to the project.
Moby Dick is a co-commission of BAM, the Spoleto Festival, the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts in Northhampton, the University of California-Berkeley, and UCLA.
For tickets ($30-$36) or more information, call (215) 569-9700.
-- By Sean McGrath