LEWISTON — An enveloping multimedia stage experience will explore the mental state of an alien abductee when Bates College presents the play "1000 Airplanes on the Roof."
Performances, open to the public at no cost, will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 25-27, in Schaeffer Theatre, 305 College St.
Bates senior Thomas Holmberg of Winnetka, Ill., is the sole performer in this play which has text written by David Henry Hwang as part of a 1988 collaboration with composer Philip Glass and visual artist Jerome Sirlin.
Bates Senior Lecturer in Theater Katalin Vecsey is directing the production. She is using music by Bates faculty composer William Matthews in place of Glass' score and images from the Bates College Museum of Art's "Starstruck: The Fine Art of Astrophotography" exhibit.
"The only thing that is actually coming from the original production is the script," Vecsey said.
The hourlong play depicts a Kafkaesque character, M, once an untiringly rational person who now has trouble sorting out reality from imagination. In a confused and terrified soliloquy, M explains that he has been recurrently abducted by extraterrestrials, transported to a spaceship hovering above the Earth and subjected to painful and bizarre experiments.
"We are trying to transform Schaeffer so it doesn't feel like a theater when you walk in. It's going to be a very nontraditional theater production," Vecsey said.
As Holmberg says, "You walk in, and it's outer space."
Manipulated images, distorted vocal treatments and other sound effects, and Matthew's electronic music will play throughout the production and as audience members enter the theater. To visually represent M's experience of alternate realities, Vecsey selected the astrophotographic images that will be projected in Schaeffer during the performance.
Matthews, Alice Swanson Esty Professor of Music at Bates, composed the music so as to create a sonic environment that is "eerie, spooky, otherworldly." The score is for exclusively electronic sounds. Glass' music "has a very particular sound and is loud, and I think Kati wanted something different," Matthews said.
Originally planned as a small production in the Olin Arts Center, "1000 Airplanes on the Roof" was moved to Schaeffer as part of events surrounding the Oct. 26 inauguration of Bates President Clayton Spencer, as well as Homecoming Weekend.
After each performance, there will be a question-and-answer period, including Stephanie Kelley-Romano, an associate professor of rhetoric who is an authority in the rhetoric of alien abduction.
"Whether the audience should accept M's story or write him off as psychotic is for the audience to decide," Vecsey said. "I don't want to influence the audience. They can decide for themselves what to believe when they leave the theater and think about it."
A history major, Holmberg is performing this piece as part of an independent study class in theater.
The original "1000 Airplanes on the Roof" premiered in an aircraft hangar in Austria, conducted by Michael Riesman and featuring vocals by Linda Ronstadt.
For more information on the Bates production, call 786-8294.