CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
(NOTE TO EDITORS: "Monsters of Grace" producer Jed Wheeler
of IPA can be reached at 212-925-2100. The animators can be contacted through
Amanda Roth at 213-467-3563.)
Robert Wilson/Philip Glass 'Monsters of Grace' is 3-D digital spectacle
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The new Robert Wilson/Philip Glass collaboration,
"Monsters of Grace," a "digital opera in three dimensions,"
will be presented at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15 in Hancher Auditorium on the
University of Iowa campus.
For "Monsters of Grace" the audience dons special 3-D glasses
to view surreal, dream-like computer-generated imagery conceived by Wilson,
while the Philip Glass ensemble performs his new score with lyrics by the
13th-century Persian Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi.
The imagery was realized by the "synthespians" at Kleiser-Walczak
Construction Company, the team responsible for the special effects in the
films "Stargate," "Clear and Present Danger" and "Judge
Dredd." Their much-anticipated "Spiderman" 3-D attraction
at Universal Studios opens this year.
"Monsters of Grace" has been shown at various stages in its
development, with critics claiming that the event is an appetizing taste
of the future. "Exquisitely beautiful and as elusive as a dream, 'Monsters
of Grace' offers what could be a glimpse of 21st-century music theater
-- if we're lucky," Joshua Kosman wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle.
"A sumptuous play of images, color and movement, supported by the
unearthly glory of one of Glass' most affecting scores . . . a powerful
Peter Conrad of the London Observer wrote, "I saw the future .
. . and to my delight and astonishment, it worked. It was, as they say
in California, 'totally awesome' -- an amalgam of all the arts, augmented
by a wonder-working technology." Scott Duncan of the Orange County
Register observed that "Monsters of Grace" "enlarges the
senses and reaches toward a universe of feeling that's not quite like anything
else . . . mysterious and atmospheric."
And Bernard Holland wrote in the New York Times, "For those who
wondered when classical music would get around to connecting with the rest
of the world, this may be the beginning of the answer."
Bursting through boundaries to reveal the future is nothing new for
Wilson and Glass, the team that gave a new meaning to "opera"
with their six-hour, surreal, plotless collaboration "Einstein on
Wilson has been hailed as the most important theatrical visionary of
the latter half of the 20th century, and the UI played a significant role
in his career. His seminal work was "Deafman Glance," which he
developed at the UI Center for the New Performing Arts in 1971. Mel Andringa,
the co-founder of CSPS in Cedar Rapids, was a UI student at that time and
he became Wilson's assistant for several years.
Wilson's projects after the 1976 "Einstein on the Beach" have
included the multi-national epic "CIVIL warS," productions for
major opera companies in Europe, and a solo version of "Hamlet."
"The Knee Plays," a group of entr'actes from "CIVIL warS,"
created in collaboration with David Byrne, was performed in Hancher.
Philip Glass was a leading figure in the so-called "minimalist"
movement in music, though he rejects the "minimalist" terminology
and now jokingly calls his work "maximalist." His compositions
have ranged from operas including "Satyagraha," "Akhnaten"
and "Hydrogen Jukebox" to film-scores for "Koyaanisqatsi,"
"Mishima," "The Thin Blue Line" and "Kundun"
to symphonic works, dance scores and chamber music.
The Glass theater pieces "A Thousand Airplanes on the Roof"
and "The Photographer" have been presented by Hancher, and Hancher
has also presented both solo and ensemble concert performances by Glass.
His signature style, with its shimmering arpeggios and wavering minor thirds,
has found its way into many genres of popular music, including even music
for TV commercials.
The score for "Monsters of Grace" uses sampled sounds of Middle
Eastern and African string and percussion instruments, along with western
historical and contemporary instruments and synthesizer sounds to give
the production an original tonal palatte. The live instrumental and vocal
performance is realized with the assistance of three Macintosh computers.
The visual technical marvels of "Monsters of Grace" came about
by serendipitous necessity. Concerned about the neglect of Wilson's work
in his homeland, producer Jed Wheeler suggested a new Glass/Wilson collaboration
to tour the United States. When Wilson's storyboards contained such a grand
vision that no one could imagine how the scenery would be built and transported,
Wheeler struck on the idea of computer-generated imagery after visiting
the studio of Jeff Kleiser and Diana Walczak, who were working on the 3-D
Spiderman attraction for Universal Studios.
Glass at first worried that the computer imagery would be cold, but
he was game for innovation and when he saw the animation, he was astonished.
"It wasn't cold at all," he told the New York Times. "Even
though computer graphics is all done by mathematics, it looks like a photograph
of a ring of fire on the ocean or a chair descending from the sky, stuff
that's impossible to put on stage. You get into this funny place where
you don't know if you are looking at something real or something in a dream."
Kleiser and Walczak used emerging software as a test for Silicon Graphics,
which donated the equipment for the "Monsters of Grace" project.
Silicon Graphics is the company whose software brought dinosaurs to life
in "Jurassic Park." At 2,000 lines of resolution -- four times
the quality of a conventional TV -- the images were transferred to 70mm
film for the touring production.
Everybody's Whole Foods is the corporate sponsor of "Monster of
Grace" through the University of Iowa Foundation.
The 3-D glasses that will be given to each audience member are made
by l.a. Eyeworks. The local distributor of l.a. Eyeworks products, Advanced
Eyecare in Old Capitol Mall, will display the full line of l.a. Eyeworks
frames from 1-6 p.m. the day of the performance.
Tickets are $28, $25.50 and $23. UI students and senior citizens qualify
for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students
for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.
Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa,
dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is
toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged
to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases
to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option
of payroll deduction.
People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services
should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office
personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair
access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is
equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.
For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiowacr/
on the World Wide Web. To view lyrics and some of the images from "Monsters
of Grace" direct your browser to http://www.uni-paderborn.de/~pg/moglib.html.
l.a. Eyeworks has additional information at http://www.laeyeworks.com/noshock/news/aframe.html.
The Kleiser-Walczak site is: http://www.kwcc.com/