Echo & Narcissus
Inspired by the often-revised myth of Echo & Narcissus, Hook & Eye Theater is building a digitally enhanced sonic and theatrical re-telling of the doomed amorous duo. Told thru pre-recorded and live-mixed sonic scenes, and live action theatrical song, dance and scene work, the piece is part kitchen-table drama, and part space-age podcast. The sound design and composition will do a solid part of the world-building. With minimal sets, a robust audio world, and text sliding back and forth from spaceship to earth, between truth and fiction, the myth we’re making will function as an veiled cultural mirror that shimmers with humor, and startles with distinctly familiar human moments.
At first . . .
We open in deep space. A starship shaped like a daffodil hurtles through the abyss, it’s hull is full of stored artificial consciousness - the winners of a final culture war (held far in our future). Everyone aboard is a digital file - a Clustered Datapax or CDx . . . Picture your Insta, Linkedin, and Facebook story as your life narrative, and a small operating file as your brain. Even in death, your algorithm has been taught to “like” and comment in absentia. Two humans are aboard the ship (conductors), and in their routine maintenance of the barge of souls they have identified a corrupted memory file. Or has someone tried to delete it? As they download the usable bits - our scenes, live and recorded - the recovered data begin to tell a story. The Conductors struggle to interpret the tale, but struggle with the moral zeitgeist of a time long before the Pixel Wars which ended earth’s Information Age.
THE STORY UNFOLDS . . .
Set in early terrestrial wartime (2006) New Hampshire, our Echo - Chloe - doesn’t suffer a stolen voice (like the mythical nymph). She’s never had a voice and she’s trying to find one. She is an intense and driven documentary filmmaker whose family money and status have always embarrassed her. The object of her current obsession is our Narcissus - Nic - an Iranian-American emotionally wounded ex-soldier. Back from deployment to Afghanistan, small-town civilian life is a hard pill for Nic to swallow. His narcissism - it seems - is more a product of PTSD than an innate personality defect. He really found himself as a soldier. Active duty gave him purpose. He fit in the mold of a hero. He was effortlessly heartless, cool, a confident killer. Back in Echo Lake, despite a half-hearted hero’s welcome, there is no need for the “self” he created while in theater. Here he lives with his mother - a devout Muslim. They are getting by, but there is an awful truth they hide. The stories get muddled in Nic’s head. He has a hard time remembering just who he’s mad at. . . and what’s real. Filmmaker Chloe picks at the scabs of Nic’s emotional scars, we begin to see that it isn’t the war that has ruined him. The secrets go back much further, and knit more of the residents of this small north-eastern town together in an unholy way. In the end the story is Echo Lake’s - it’s the fabric of the town that is torn, and must be repaired. It is the culture that needs medical attention.
THE SHOW . . .
Using a sonic world -- with the help of composer and sound artist Christopher Ross-Ewart -- will allow us to build a layer of digital storytelling without relying on projections of actual Facebook pages or other similarly clunky popular material. Without leaving the realm of live performance, we begin to consider what history records of us -- for us. Our recorded lives -- digitized and stored endlessly -- as LEGACY. This inspires a study of what we are and what we leave behind -- the blinking whirring residue of a digital life -- and the power of audience expectation. Can our heroes put on legacy like costumes? Can they doff them as easily? Will the audience let them? Which is more true. . . a digital file or what happens “live”? Can we change what people remember, undo an initial response? Affect lasting change?
The show is frenetic, musical, physical, and campy when it needs to be. The tech serves to isolate, amplify, and focus our attention on character and scene. Some scenes are delivered entirely in pre-recorded audio meant to be experienced in tandem with dance/movement, and some scenes are fully staged with live actors. Some of this is movement, and some is ritual.