*** Rock Opera Renamed, Revisited ***
Room to Breathe, the rock opera we composed and performed in 2002 for Saskatoon's Mendel Art Gallery, was revived, rewritten, and performed with an entirely new cast at the 2003 Saskatoon Fringe Festival. It's now known as 404. For more information, click here.
I must be dreamin' here / It's not exactly clear.*
We wanted to call it "Echo Lake". I never really understood why the folks at the Mendel thought "Room to Breathe" was a better title. Andrew and I, and most of our friends, thought it was a pretty wimpy name for a rock opera. I guess it was decided that, in order to better tie the show in with the exhibition of tuberculosis-related paraphernalia upstairs in the gallery, we ought to throw the word "breathe" in there somewhere. Anyway, we went along.
The show is about a nameless patient at the Fort San tuberculosis sanatorium in Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan. It's set in the 1930s, but the patient communicates with his nurse through a two-way videophone - the idea being that the patient's fantasy life integrates gadgetry taken from the sci-fi pulp novels of the era.
The story proceeds from the nurse's efforts to cheer up the ailing patient by sending a succession of visitors to entertain him. First there's a singing cowboy, then there's an Indian, then there's a pretty female patient. Eventually the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII) shows up. Meanwhile, the patient falls in love with the girl, and starts to show signs of recovery - but he discovers that the girl is not everything she appears to be. As the opera ends, he's alone in his room, singing desperately to the girl's image on the silent videophone.
For a variety of reasons, not least among them my own crappy writing, this ending didn't come across quite as poignantly as I'd intended. For the most part, our audiences just seemed confused. Anyway, you can read a synopsis of the rock opera, describing roughly how the story was intended to go, as well as where and why it was changed.
"Room to Breathe" ran at the Mendel Art Gallery June 18-23 2002. The show was directed by Warren Cowell. The stage manager was Tracy Smith (who also played the Nurse). Our producer at the Mendel was Troy Mamer. He also illustrated and designed our extraordinary poster, from which the image at the bottom of this page was borrowed. The video footage was filmed and edited by Armin & Ermin Badzak at Next-Illusion.com.
Lyrics and synopsis
Michael's rock opera diary
Warren Cowell's rock opera recollections
|Illustration by Troy Mamer.|