An abandoned car dealership in Culver City hosted a spectacle of art and music called Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands. Produced by Overtone Industries, the contemporary opera, as Director Olan Jones describes it, creates 21 unique sets across 25-000 square foot space and includes the artistry of over 100 people and a tapestry of art forms including live and recorded music, dance, sculpture art, and fanciful costumes. The vastness of the space and the complexity of each imaginary land take the audience on a journey, literally and figuratively. Spectators move from set to set by train or on foot throughout the show.
Songs and Dances was conceived 7 years ago. The concept came about through a conversation Jones had with friends about indigenous dances of real lands which led to the exploration of dances of imaginary places. They were originally organized into the lands of Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood and Old Age. By re-inhabiting the lands where pivotal moments were embodied in the form of song, dance, ceremonies and pledges, Tom and Sue, played by Jason Adams and Jamey Hood respectively, reclaim their sense of self. The work of 21 librettists and 11 composers weaves together stories that have the cast of 21 singer-actor-dancers and 9 musicians traversing enormous space and time. The play runs 3 hours long and has extravagant set design and ornate costumes.
While the 21 imaginary lands created in this mind-blowing creation are extraordinary, the show begins in the Social Services Office. The Story Box the office provides to Tom and Sue takes them to a dream-like state where they explore their past experiences, emotions, and insecurities in a new dimension. After the mundane opening scene, the story leaps forward and never ceases to amaze. While the plot is simple, the complexity used to tell the stories is awe-inspiring. I was mesmerized by such an overabundance of detail – from the lighting, to the costumes, to the words, and even the synchronicity of the harmonious voices in the chorus – each story is told completely and wholeheartedly. Thanks to Music Director David O for such an amalgam of music and lyrics and Scenic and Costume Designer Snezana Petrovic who guided the work of community workers to transformed recyclables into art.
These imaginary lands embody the deep emotion and searching that we all experience at critical times in our lives. Jones calls them “moments of chaos in the midst of months of nothing.” The work is less about what happened to Tom and Sue and more about the meaning of life. For example, the way Songs and Dances tackles corporate America allows the audience to identify with the artists and ponder their own experiences as office workers. The introspective nature of each of the scenes, which also explores military service, college and childhood abuse, just to name a few, is palatable to audience members of different age, race, and backgrounds and for that reason alone you should see Songs and Dance of Imaginary Lands. The cast’s ending song asks, Why this gift of life? And while Songs and Dances does not answer this question, seeing it will give you a new appreciation for your life’s ‘moments of chaos.’
To check on future shows visit http://www.overtoneindustries.org/ or call (323)-655-2410