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The Elementary Spacetime Show

Posted September 10th, 2016
DescriptionAbout the ArtistInterviewFurther Reading

“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

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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

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$29 general / $20.30 member
$20 previews / $15 student + 25-and-under

Get Tickets

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

CesarAlvarez_photo by Eric Wolfe

Credit: Eric Wolfe

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.


Further Reading

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.

Tonight: Neighborhood Fringe Scratch Night Spotlight, Vol. 3

Posted August 18th, 2014

Every Monday night in August, we’re offering free previews of the 2014 Fringe Festival–Neighborhood Fringe artists are serving up short excerpts of their work, and we’re serving up free beer. Tonight, Volume 3:

BENT_Truth-Be-Told-Productions

Truth Be Told Productions offers a taste of Martin Sherman’s play Bent, about one gay man’s life in Germany, from the 1930s through World War II. The play had a major role in widening consciousness about the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany, starting with its first production in London’s West End in 1979, starring Ian McKellen.

FleetwoodMacBrian Shapiro shares tales from the 1970s, as his family’s fortunes swelled and ebbed along with the band Fleetwood Mac–Brian’s father was their attorney through their rise to global fame. He’s offered the suggestive title: It Was All Downhill After Fleetwood Mac.

Oedipus The Musical will give you a taste of what to expect in their show. I’m not even going to try to top Van.Martin Productions’s own show description: “Oedipus The Musical takes place in Ancient Thebes. When a herpes plague spreads through the city, King Oedipus is forced to discover the incestuous roots of his dysfunctional family tree. Sophocles’s tragedy is retold in comedy through songs like ‘YOLO Apollo,’ ‘Hashtag Plague,’ and ‘Ballad of a Cougar.’

Tweaking a classic title, playwright Brandon Monokian serves up a “play about douchebags” called Peter Pan Is Dead. Preview below:

The-Disappearing-Quarterback_Plays-Players-copy-200x300And after a successful run at Plays & Players in January, former Eagles quarterback Mike Boryla (turned lawyer, turned investor, turned actor/writer) returns with his one-man-show, The Disappearing Quarterback.

Free! RSVP here.
FringeArts
140 N. Columbus Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19106
August 18 at 7 pm

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Orpheus and Eurydice, The Musical

Posted September 19th, 2012

Take one part musical theater, one part Greek myth, one run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, remount it for Philly, and you’ve got the 2012 Philly Fringe show Orpheus & Eurydice, opening tonight at Asian Arts Initiative.

“We were just talking about being excited to do a show for an American audience,” says Andrew Hanley, who, with Melissa Nally, are the Green Elephant Theatre behind the show. “With musical theater being such an American art form, there are basic assumptions that aren’t the same over there. People would talk to me afterwards, and would ask where I was during the show—everyone thought it was weird that we wanted the music to come from offstage.”

After the jump: one of Andrew’s songs, falling in love with Philly and musical theater, and the insanity of Edinburgh Fringe.

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Philly Fringe Vital Stats: Melissa Nally and Andrew Hanley

Posted August 3rd, 2012

Melissa Nally, 24, and Andrew Hanley, 23, of Green Elephant Theatre Co. premiered their musical adaptation of Orpheus & Eurydice at the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Now they’re bringing the (brotherly) love to Philly Fringe, and not looking back; take note ill-fated (and now, melodious) Orpheus.

Orpheus & Eurydice is co-written by Andrew and Melissa, with music by Andrew.

Name: Melissa Nally and Andrew Hanley.

Show Title: Orpheus & Eurydice.

Explain your performance in 2 sentences. To an 8-year-old. Eurydice dies and then Orpheus gets her back and then she dies again. They sing songs about it.

Do you have children? If so, do you love them? Wishes are children.

What was your favorite toy as a kid?  Andrew: Talking Parrot. I asked for it six years in a row and only got in in 2nd grade. I wasn’t allowed to have a Furby.

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