Proctors brings a new art form to its stage on Friday with “Vox Lumiere Metropolis,” the brainchild of award-winning composer Kevin Saunders Hayes, who breathes new life into old films.
Admittedly, the show is hard to describe. “The toughest thing we’re doing now is introducing people to what we’re doing,” Hayes said. It’s like trying to explain The Blue Man Group or Cirque du Soleil. It’s just different.
Hayes tells a funny story about how he was inspired to create this art form, which he describes as “rock concert meets silent film.” He was in need of some new underwear, so he ducked into an odd-lot store.
Before he could make it to the underwear aisle, he spotted a sign that said, “Silent Movies $1.” Instead of new boxers, he went home with a box of blockbuster silent films from the 1920s.
The first one he popped in the VCR was “Metropolis,” a 1927 German expressionist sci-fi flick directed by Fritz Lang. The film is set in a futuristic urban dystopia where the intellectual upper class rules and oppresses the working class. The plot involves a love story, too, with the son of a wealthy intellectual falling for Maria, the daughter of a working-class family. There are also the things you’d expect to see in a science fiction work, like flying cars and an evil robot.
Vox Lumiere Metropolis
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Mainstage at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
HOW MUCH: $40, $30, $20; free for those 17 and under
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
Getting an idea
Hayes, who has more than 40 feature film scores to his credit, had what he describes as “a 3 o’clock in the morning idea.” What if he wrote a new score for the film, and if performers on stage started interacting with the movie, taking the experience from 2-D to 3-D?
He ended up running the film while eight Los Angeles-based performers, singers, dancers and a live band performed on stage along with it. “All of these elements are good at telling the story — music, film, lighting and performers — and when they all hit at the same time, it’s really quite powerful and really fun to participate in,” he said.
He describes the score as “cross-genre” and “mixed genre.” Operatic elements combine with alternative rock, pop, dance, electronic and classical music. In addition to the live band, a computer provides orchestral elements, such as a French horn, timpani and cellos. “I take all those elements and then start mixing them together.”
He’s not afraid to mix these sometimes vastly different genres, either. “They all fit together — why do you have to have exclusively a rock band?” he asked. Cellos with “big, crunching guitars” or opera singers accompanied by guitars (which he nicknamed “metal divas”) are just a couple of his experiments.
There’s a lot of dance and movement, too. “One of my other philosophical places, when I started with this, was that one of the powers of the silent movie . . . is that there’s something different when you tell a story with just movement and sound,” he said. “I personally think it engages your emotions in a different part of your brain. The way people are moving — like in these movies and on stage — engages that different, direct connection to the emotions.”
Between the film, singing and dancing, there will be a lot happening on stage, but Hayes has carefully crafted the staging and lighting to help the audience. “We focus the light and focus attention where in our performance your attention should go,” he said. The many things going on, in essence, allow each person in the audience to view the show in a unique way. “Like any theatrical production or concert, there’s a lot going on, but everybody watches, and they create their own experience,” he said.
“Metropolis” was the first movie that Hayes experimented with. Since then, he has gone on to create Vox Lumiere productions of “Phantom of the Opera,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Peter Pan,” which have been performed in Europe, Canada and Mexico in addition to the United States. Cinematheque Francaise also invited Vox Lumiere to perform at the Paris Cinematheque. “Metropolis” has been reworked and vamped up from its original incarnation, which is what audiences at Proctors will see on Friday.
Hayes takes the name of his company, “Vox Lumiere” from the Latin “vox” for voices and French “lumiere” for light. “Lumiere” is also a reference to the Lumiere Brothers, who created the world’s first projector.
“I think they’ll enjoy this new kind of art form that we’ve put together where we’re taking rock concert and video and theater and shaking it up and putting a whole new take on it,” Hayes said of his audiences.