The Maiden Voyage of Overtone Industries Opera-Theater Development Workshop

By: Jun. 07, 2021
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If even the mere thought of Opera inspires buzz kill in your mind, you might be surprised to discover that there's been a local evolution in this medium that is registering more than a blip on the theatrical EKG.

Overtone Industries, a multifaceted opera-theater company known for its authentic storytelling, recently debuted its ORIGINAL VISION workshop series that head-on challenges the perception of Opera as an antiquated art form. In fact, the inaugural offering of three new works by diverse librettist/composer teams, are as invigorating as they are resonant for today's younger audiences-in-the-making as well as die-hard aficionados, breathing new life into an old paradigm.

Beautifully experimental, the hybrid, 15-minute, mythic short films perfectly translate for modern ears, ideals, and sensibilities. They are dark, full-bodied, delicious, and potent.

In AZURE'S HANDSby Livia Reiner and Lily Min Ren, the lead must explore the history and spectres that reside in her subconscious to find freedom. HYSTERIA by Molly Pease and Divya Maus (a take on American writer, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 1892 short fiction, The Yellow Wall-paper. A Story) boldly depicts how a set of heroines discover the external root cause of their motley emotions. Concluding the evening is UNTITLED Aunt Jemima PROJECT by Jason V. Barabba and June Carryl, a historical take on the Mammy figure and its dehumanizing effect.

Inspired by a year at home because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Overtone Industries teamed up with Rampant Motion Pictures, Brightwork Chamber Ensemble, film industry veterans, and coveted, classical Los Angeles music artists to realize a vision that has been shot with the latest green screen technology based on the Unreal Engine (as seen in The Mandalorian). The flexibility works well for set adaptation and adds exciting depth to each story's unique presentation. And even as I longed to be in the room, watching this offering on-screen feels like sitting inside a balloon on the verge of bursting, there is so much compacted energy. I was truly blown away!

Overtone Industries founder, O-Lan Jones, and composer/conductor Fahad Siadat introduce three pieces whose themes address, imposed identity, racism, the untamed nature of women, and inner freedom. "It's important that stories on our stage reflect the community around us, and look like real-life...[perspective is everything]." ORIGINAL VISION is the first in a series of productions the company intends to bring to audiences in person once live theater is permitted to resume.

What sets these narratives apart is how none rises too high above or talks down to the viewers, but meets them exactly where they are. All done in English which traditionally has been noted as a terrible language for librettos, these pieces, on the other hand, thoroughly capture the hyper-emotional weight of operatic story. In fact, the language explicitly amplifies their modernity allowing viewers to deeply connect inside the pain, fear, desire, and intellect of the female characters who are physically, socially, spiritually trapped by their mental states and outer circumstances. The diversified "every-man-woman" casting is so well-balanced, one hardly notices and it allows the politics of diversity to hang in the background of these productions so that we experience the pure pleasure of the artistry. The cast members in each narrative are superb.

Overtone Industries' ORIGINAL VISION is an unparalleled creative, contemporary success.

The Overtone Industries ORIGINAL VISION was performed on Saturday, May 29, 2021, via YouTube. No more performances.

AZURE'S HANDS Cast and Crew: Mana Contractor (Azure), Gretchen Johnson (Mother/Chorus), Ashley Faatoalia (Chorus), James Hayden (Chorus), Laurel Irene (Chorus)

HYSTERIA Cast and Crew: Laurel Irene (Kate), Lindsay Abdou (Mrs. Dougherty), Ashley Faatoalia (Charles), Joanna Lynn-Jacobs (Woman in the Wall), James Hayden (Neurologist)

UNTITLED Aunt Jemima PROJECT Cast and Crew: Scott Graff (Davis), Lindsay Abdou (Nancy Green), Ashley Faatoalia (Voice 2) James Hayden (Voice 3), Joanna Lynn-Jacobs (Voice 1)