After receiving the world premiere (of its complete version), Monsters of Grace, a collaboration by avant-garde designer/director Robert Wilson and composer Philip Glass, will play a limited engagement at Philadelphia's American Music Theatre Festival (AMTF), Feb 2-5, 1999. Though both innovative in their own fields, Wilson and Glass became known for their previous collaboration on the groundbreaking, 1976 production of Einstein on the Beach.
In Monsters of Grace Wilson's trademark stage images are buttressed by computer technology. Three-dimensional images powered by super-computers unfold in a large format, 70mm film before an audience equipped with 3-D glasses. The special effects team behind the film "Stargate" have assisted Wilson with the show's visuals.
As for the music, acclaimed minimalist composer Glass adapted the spiritual poetry of 13th-century Persian mystic, Jelaluddin Rumi. The libretto is sung in English by the Philip Glass Ensemble. A review of the show in the San Francisco Chronicle termed it "a glimpse of 21st century music theatre."
An earlier version of Monsters of Grace, dubbed Monsters of Grace 1.0, premiered in Los Angeles earlier this year, then toured North America. The final form of the show made its world premiere with the New York engagement.
The title, incidentally, comes from an early point in the three years Wilson and Glass collaborated on the show's conception. Wilson was performing in his one-man adaptation of Hamlet and complained to Glass that he always misspoke the line about "ministers of grace." Glass suggested using Wilson's flubbed line as the title, punning themselves as Monsters of Grace. Although renowned for his theatre pieces, Wilson has made previous ventures into film, including his 1985 film "Stations" and his early '70s "BYRDWOMAN."
Wilson's production of Wagner's Lohengrin (still in repertory at NY's Metropolitan Opera), caused a sensation earlier this year when audience members booed and jeered Wilson at the opening night curtain call.
Besides his collaborations with Wilson, Glass has an extensive theatre background -- including being a founding member of the experimental troupe, Mabou Mines and composing scores for early Richard Foreman pieces.
The new collaboration between Robert Wilson and Philip Glass, Monsters of Grace will play at Philadelphia's AMTF at the Annenberg Center, Feb 2-5, 1999. For tickets or more information, call (215) 569-9700.
-- By Sean McGrath