This Thursday and Friday, Tapestry Opera presents a workshop presentation, or “beta-premiere of Selfie, a show that sets the social media generation to contemporary opera. We asked Artistic Director Michael Mori to give us a picture of what’s in store for the audience.
Can you briefly describe your show and how it was inspired?
Selfie engages with high school drama in an age when the internet and social media have become the primary way of communicating. Two best friends pick an e-fight with newcomer Heather for flirting with Tyler, one the girl’s boyfriends. Their campaign to destroy Heather’s reputation gets out of hand when compromising photos of her go viral. The school administration and the police don’t have the means to deal with the issue or track down the perpetrators, so Heather is left with ongoing online harassment and a school-wide reputation of being a slut.
Selfie was the brainchild of Julie Tepperman and Chris Thornborrow who met at Tapestry’s 2013 LibLab (Composer-Librettist Laboratory Intensive). Both creators work with high school-age kids and found this story to be a particularly relevant topic, given the many recent and ongoing suicide attempts of those who have been bullied and shamed online.
What can the audience expect to see?
This is a work-in-development workshop. The audience will be the first to experience these current draft of this provocative piece, brought to life by four singers and a pianist. All participating audience members will be asked to share feedback.
Also worth noting is the fact that the piece includes explicit profanity common to teenagers.
How does the operatic form connect in a meaningful way to this new world of social media?
OMG, ROFL, LOL….AND ANY ALL-CAPS WRITING screams are given over-the-top musical treatment.
Cyber-bullying, invasion of e-privacy, and shaming – especially “slut”-shaming – are not topics that top-down educational strategies deal well with for teens. Selfie harnesses the absurdities and over-the-top qualities of opera to match the extreme emotions of teen life and build a dark comedy that packs a dramatic punch and important message. For most of the pilot scene that Tapestry premiered in 2013, the audience laughed at the silliness and ridiculousness of the two best friends; it wasn’t until the scene ended that the show landed its punch, revealing the complicity of the audience as observers.
What do you find most valuable about the workshop process?
It’s beta testing. Everything is valuable in a first testing phase. The show’s weaknesses, strengths, and opportunities are far more visible than they are on the page. The feedback of teens and teachers in our workshop audience will be invaluable to the next edit.
How do you incorporate media into the production?
For this workshop, a single screen will represent the students’ texts, IMs, etc and will be running concurrent to each scene. Composer Chris Thornborrow has ingeniously scored alert sounds into his instrumental writing, creating a seamless and artful hybrid live-digital world.
- Selfie, by Julie Tepperman and Chris Thornborrow, is playing October 8 at 7:30PM and October 9 at 2:30PM at The Ernest Balmer Studio, 9 Trinity St., Suite 315.
- Tickets are Pay What You Can, but should be reserved in advance at Tapestry Opera’s website.
Selfie promo image provided by the company