“The universe doesn’t care if you live. It just doesn’t want you to die as the result of a false impression.” César Alvarez
“César Alvarez is changing the American musical form.” Allison Considine, American Theatre Magazine
You can die, you just have to answer a few crazy questions first. And sing. And dance.
A young girl attempts suicide and wakes up trapped in a cosmic vaudevillian game show that she must win in order to enter the void of death. But the more Alameda wants to die, the harder she has to work—winning means she must confront avatars of scientific truth, ostentatious musical numbers, elaborate dance sequences, and acquaint herself with the enigmatic laws of the universe. From the creator of Futurity, comes a new not-your-traditional musical of up-tempo genre-bending songs and a healthy dose of the absurd in the search of why to exist when you no longer want to.
Music and Words by César Alvarez Direction Andrew Neisler
$29 general / $20.30 member
$20 previews / $15 student + 25-and-under
Festival Associate Producers
Cat, Annie, and Steven Bohnenberger
About César Alvarez
César Alvarez is a New York-based composer, lyricist and writer. César’s musical Futurity received the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and four other Lortel Nominations, and he was the recipient of the 2016 Jonathan Larson Grant. His band, The Lisps, has released four albums and played hundreds of shows around the country since 2005. César is a visiting associate professor of theater at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and the artistic director of Polyphone, a festival of the emerging musical at The University of the Arts. He is a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory and received his MFA at Bard College.
Interview with César Alvarez
FringeArts: Why the title The Elementary Spacetime Show?
César Alvarez: From the script . . .
ELEMENTARY for dealing with fundamentals
SPACE for where you are
TIME for when it all takes place
SHOW because we know you need for us to bear witness to your difficulties.
FringeArts: What was the initial inspiration for the show?
César Alvarez: I wanted to write a musical about a kid who was trying to figure out why there is “something” instead of “nothing” and would travel around through time and space and meet with scientists and philosophers in a sort of ontological revue. Then I wanted to make a more autobiographical piece about a kid who sat under his desk pretending to go to space and finding himself in a sort of fantastical world where he could work through his problems. My wife and I lost a close friend to suicide in 2013 and both of those ideas morphed into The Elementary Spacetime Show. Our friend’s journey to suicide and the intense depression that followed really informed the course of the piece. The question, “Why is there something instead of nothing?” became very linked to the question, “Why live when it hurts so badly?” aka “To be or not to be”
FringeArts: What was the first song you wrote for the show?
César Alvarez: The first song I wrote was “When It Starts” which is about a question at the heart of the piece. Why exist? Now that song is at the end which indicates how the show starts over for the next contestant who is making the same choice that Alameda did to take their own life. The second song I wrote was “VOID”, which opens the show. “VOID” really set the piece in motion for me as it created the character of Alameda. That song came out of a really dark moment. I was so sad and dealing with profound weight of grief and hopelessness. I went down to my studio and just wrote the song in one fell swoop. It created a very clear point of dark matter from which the show could emerge.
FringeArts: What’s the set up?
César Alvarez: The show begins with Alameda attempting suicide by overdosing on pills. She collapses and finds herself in a liminal vaudevillian game show, which she has to win in order to finally enter the void. The whole piece is a bit of a catch-22. The more Alameda wants to die, the harder she has to work to beat this ridiculous game. The set up allowed me to create a non-judgmental space to explore an incredibly touchy and complicated topic. Also the game is absurd and I’ve found that the humor opens people up to the darkness of it all.
FringeArts: How did you develop the tone of music?
César Alvarez: The whole thing is really a vaudeville, so I wanted a lot of variety and I wanted the music to be genuinely entertaining. Eric Farber, our percussion designer, uses a found object drum set which gives a quirky yet indefinable sound. I like my music to have the quality of “inbetweeness.” Which means it doesn’t quite land in any one genre or familiar territory so you actually need to listen to decipher its intent.
What Is a Musical Now? The Polyphone Festival Jammed Some Fresh Answers by Alaina Mabaso, American Theatre
Excerpt: As Alvarez sees it, “That’s the way our culture is being created right now—this sort of haphazard, random, fungal way. Allowing that into our educational process, for me, is just super-exciting.” Read the full article.
Building the Future with Gaming and Participatory Theater by Ian Daniel, Extended Play
Excerpt: “Let’s come up with sophisticated ways to create safe spaces for adults to play with identity and societal roles. Ultimately that is what art is for: to help people be more human.” Read the full article.