At the time I was voted onto the board of The Industry I knew very little about opera. I run a small literary publisher called tNY.Press and our focus is experimental fiction; works that avoid classification and push forward the written word, but remain generally accessible. Artistic Director Yuval Sharon’s charisma, open-mindedness, and ridiculous ambition pulled me into The Industry for the long haul, specifically our newest opera, HOPSCOTCH.
Philosophically, Yuval’s interest in making opera more accessible through experimentation reminded me of theNewerYork’s mission. Our first three books are anthologies of bizarre single-page fictions that are weaved together to create what we’ll call a unified experience. Similarly, in HOPSCOTCH we hope to take disparate writers and composers, have them write short, singular pieces, all guided by Yuval’s aesthetic and emotional vision, and knit the resulting works into a complex and unforgettable event.
Writing opera has long been a solemn endeavor. The single author hunched over his or her candle lit desk humming imperceptible melodies. Here at The Industry we don’t like to do things the old way, so we are trying something new: a collaborative opera.
Hopscotch is about the innumerable stories and dramas that play out in the streets of LA and the alleyways of our memories. As the structure calls for 18 separate legs of a continuous story, we are commissioning 6 diverse writers of poetry, journalism, film, TV, and stage. We’re really excited to have Ron Burch, Sarah LaBrie, Jane Stephens Rosenthal, Steven Rineer, Tom Jacobson, and Mandy Kahn, among the team taking part in the process.
Furthermore, a comparable number of composers will score these several legs of the story. While this severely increases the complexity of the writing process, we are confident it will multiply (eighteenfold!) the quality and depth of the story. Even more complex will be the coordination of the 18 limos full of audience being driven from story to story around the streets of Los Angeles. Here’s a map Yuval and I were working on to coordinate the cars and audiences. You can go ahead and imagine our frustrated, tired faces behind the camera:
The writing process will consist of three parts:
1) Fashion a Framework
All the writers brainstorm and heartstorm to build up a huge library of ideas, scenes, themes, metonymy, actions and emotions. We call this The Arsenal. From there, we will whittle this down to the vitals: the ideas that Hopscotch could not exist without.
Using a battery of online tools, we vote each item in the database and discuss specific details. These items might be specific plot points, character profiles, general arc nodes, or any other details which will help the writers fashion a cohesive story.
2) Divide and Conquer
We will go our own ways for a few weeks, everyone knowing the specific role of their story in the grand narrative. Yuval will check in with all the writers intermittently to make sure that all the stories are working together. If one writer includes a detail that is especially good or important, he will dip his fingers into other stories to ensure that detail appears in other legs of the story. Like this, the writers will concoct their lyrical potions.
3) Bring Music to our Ears
Simultaneously, each author will be matched with a composer who will begin to write the music alongside the words. In this nebulous way, the composer’s point of view will inform the author’s work, and vice versa. The duo might drive the specific route for which they must write a story, writing words and music to match what the audience will see on their drive.
HOPSCOTCH is shaping up to be an amalgamation of minds, a story rising out from the primordial unconscious, and an ambitious endeavor at every turn. Just wait until you find out what else we are planning.