1988-89 Part Two of the American Trilogy
DEVELOPMENT/ WORKSHOP DIRECTOR
RICHARD E.T. WHITE
CHARLES SMITHSON, the C.E.O. of Delta Chemical Inc.
RINDE ECKERT: MERLE TOWNSEND, the Security Guard
STEPHANIE FRIEDMAN: RUTH LEHMANN, the Scientist
THOMASA ECKERT: JUDITH NILES, Charles' Biographer
BASS GUITAR, ELECTRONICS, KEYBOARD
MIGUEL FRASCONI: KEYBOARD
GENE REFFKIN: PERCUSSION
NED ROTHENBERG: WOODWINDS
MELISSA WEAVER: PRODUCTION
CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON: TECHNICAL SERVICES
JUSTIN HERSH: TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
CHAD OWENS: ASSIST. TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
JEFF METCALF: MASTER WELDER
JONATHAN KHUNER: MUSICAL ADVISOR
POWER FAILURE WAS COMMISSIONED AND PRODUCED CO-OPERATIVELY BY THE WALKER ART CENTER, PAUL DRESHER ENSEMBLE, AMERICAN MUSIC THEATER FESTIVAL, AND THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA.
POWER FAILURE was commissioned through a major grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds. Additional support for the creation of the work was received from the National Endowment for the Arts, Opera for the 80's and Beyond, a Theater Production Award from the Gerbode Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the California Arts Council, the Alameda Arts Commission, and the Berkeley Arts Commission, Zellerbach Family Fund.
FAILURE RECEIVED ITS PREMIERE AT THE AMERICAN MUSIC THEATER
FESTIVAL IN PHILADELPHIA ON MAY 4, 1989.
OVERVIEW: POWER FAILURE is concerned with the exercise and responsibility of power, particularly power as wielded by persons who are removed from the actual human consequences of decisions taken and goals pursued in the isolation of a corporate institution. In the course of the piece, each person faces their own dilemmas resulting from courses of action each set in motion and each must make choices with an awareness of the consequences of those choices.
The story begins and ends within the confines of a chemical company, Ruth Lehmann, a scientist, has developed a "miracle" genetic compound capable of curing all disease. Charles Smithson, the CEO of the company, whose health has been failing because of an incurable disease and Judith Niles, his biographer, the only people aware of the project's enormous importance, gather in the lab with the scientist to celebrate its completion and give Charles the first treatment of the cure. The process is interrupted by a total power failure at which point Merle (up to now, a shadowy figure and narrator), the security guard, enters the scene and explains that the security systems have locked them in the lab for the weekend and that the phones are dead.
Merle is talkative and annoyingly curious. More surprisingly, he seems to know a lot about his fellow captives, information of a personal and potentially damaging nature. In an already uncomfortable situation, the guard's obtrusive behavior only increases the tension. Merle seeks to gain a sense of mental as well as physical control over his prisoners. His purpose is to disturb and instruct, to stop these people in their tracks for a moment, galvanize their attention, to watch their power dissolve with their dreams, and to feel his voice is heard.
In the end the electric
power is turned back on, the fate of the universal cure is
decided, and Merle returns to his shadowy alter ego as Charles
now abandoned and alone sings of his dreams.
ABOUT THE CHARACTERS:
Charles Smithson (John Duykers)- Chief Executive Officer of a powerful international chemical and drug company, in his mid to late sixties. Coming to the end of an aggressive and successful career, his health is failing, and he is now beginning to question some of the attitudes and methods that enabled him to come to power.
Ruth Lehmann (Stephanie Friedman) - Research scientist in her late forties who has spent the last twenty years researching and developing a genetically engineered panacea that promises to find and destroy diseased cells in the body. Raised as a fundamentalist Christian, she has rejected this past and her belief is now in science and she imagines her work as potentially bringing salvation to all humanity.
Merle Townsend (Rinde Eckert) - Narrator and security guard in the chemical company office building. Early to mid 40's, appears working class, garrulous and somewhat bumbling. (Formerly a private investigator, he has lost his daughter because a donor part that had been promised to her was taken by this drug company for research and development in Ruth's project).
Judith Niles (Thomasa Eckert) - Biographer chronicling the life of Charles, mid thirties, she has only recently begun to work for Charles.
SET CONSTRUCTION: John Avina, John Harcharik, Jason Hymen, Von Lake, Kirstin Liemkuhler, Chad Owens, Mark Palmer, Adam Pollock, Jeff Wilk
COSTUME CONSTRUCTION: Rowie Kirck