07.01.12: Here Lies Love Inspirations Posted: 01 Jul 2012 05:00 AM PDT
I just got back from North Adams Massachusetts where we—with support from the Public Theater and Williamstown Theater Festival—mounted a full-length theatrical workshop production of Here Lies Love.
This image was captured by one of the cast members, Evan D'Angeles, in a moment when our rehearsal was interrupted by the fire alarm
The story follows former first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos, from her childhood up to the moment at the end of the People Power revolution when she and Ferdinand Marcos flee Manila (the infamous shoes were yet to be discovered, so they are not mentioned). Here Lies Love is entirely true and much of the lyric content comes from speeches and interviews the various characters gave over the years.
The production is a disco musical that I (with occasional help from Fatboy Slim) have been working on for many years. The production is directed by Alex Timbers and features a mostly Filipino cast of amazingly talented actors and singers. To make a long story short—it went amazingly well. Yes, there were problems, but all of them seem fixable. The main issues we were concerned with before the series of live performances were the following:
1. Can a story be imparted with almost no dialogue, and
2. Can we stage this "beast" (as Oskar at the Public Theater refers to it)—the reason Oskar calls the staging a “beast” is because the audience stands (and dances!) in the middle of the room while the action of the production takes place all around them.
The answer to both concerns is yes—the staging and the concept work. It works so well that I sort of cried at every performance. I attended all six performances, as we kept making small changes. To be honest, my tears at one show were because the sound mix was so atrocious, but at the others I cried because I was deeply moved by the story and emotions that the actors depicted. Now, one might say, “Sure, he knows the story inside and out,” and some might think that I got emotional because I was simply thrilled by seeing my vision finally realized—but I think some others may have had the same experience. In the end, I'd say it's the best thing I've done since the Stop Making Sense tour—which I guess is saying something.
The music, much of it done in collaboration with Fatboy Slim, is influenced by about 4 decades of dance music, much of which I have posted on this months’ streaming radio playlist. Funk, electro, disco, house, go-go, techno, samba, zouk, dubstep... I could go on and on. The score doesn't follow any particular club style—it hops all over to better represent each character's moment. This playlist is long (over seven hours of inspiration!) and it could have been longer—but this gives you an idea of the many beats and styles that fed into this thing.
The new DVD Talking Heads: Chronology contains film and video of Talking Heads in performance going all the way back to 1975 - before the advent of camcorders, and two years before the release of the band's first LP.
Kurt Andersen talks with David Byrne, the band's principal singer and songwriter, about the group's early years. In an era of punk decadence, Talking Heads created a pop revolution by combining tight, funk-based rhythms, a clean-cut image, and themes of anxiety and social isolation. Kurt brings up the early song "I'm Not in Love," in which Byrne wonders, "Do people really fall in love?" "I was just asking all the most super-obvious questions," explains Byrne, who has said recently that he may have had Asperberger's syndrome as a young person. "Why do humans, people, we do these things? And how does it work?
David Byrne, speaking of the young US vs. older, more 'civilized' Europe: 'Our wildness is often a well of creativity and gumption; it’s a font of opportunity and hope, a draw and seduction for immigrants, and maybe equally an explanation for the extremes and prevalence of stupidity that exist in the US as well.'