Encore Michigan

“Re-Release Party” takes audience to space for a wild ride

Review November 07, 2016 Tanya Gazdik

DETROIT — Space exploration and the age-old question: “Is there anybody out there?” gets a fresh and intriguing treatment via Detroit performance company A Host of People and their new work, Re­-Release Party (The Golden Record).

The premise is rooted in a project in 1977 led by Carl Sagan and a team of scientists and artists who created the Golden Record, a phonograph record which attempts to communicate the story of life on earth for extraterrestrials and future humans. The record, filled with messages from world leaders, greetings in many languages, pictures and sounds from earth, and a sampling of our music, was launched aboard the Voyager space probes on their interstellar reconnaissance mission, which continues to this day. It’s historical, but in a completely relatable way.

The show debuts in Detroit and a tour will follow. Re­Release Party was conceived and directed by company co-founders Sherrine Azab and Jake Hooker. It’s 90 (quick) minutes with no intermission.

The performers — Aja Salaskastar Dier, Chris Jakob, Torri Lynn Ashford, Sam Moltmaker, Emily Harpe and Renee Willoughby — bring to life in a very creative way how it was decided what went on the record, and what should go on a new record if it were being created today. It’s a physical performance and includes dance and song. An alien DJ on one side of the stage and NASA scientists who give “countdowns” sits on the other side of the stage. They help tie the themes together.

Designers Hooker, Willoughby, Dorothy Melander­-Dayton, Chantel Gaidica and Billy Mark; and the production team of Gaidica, Maddy Rager, Lucy Price and John Del Gaudio put together an over-the-top, one-of-a-kind set that is a feast for the eyes. It includes a triangular backdrop on which filmed images are shown. There’s a mobile cameraman and sometimes they are real-time, showing the action that is happening on stage, except from a different angle. The triangular screen also displays “backstage” interviews, which happen behind the screen, including several with audience members, who are asked to volunteer.

The interactive element is threaded throughout the performance. Even before the show begins, audience members are invited to check out the “alien corner” in the pre-show staging area. There, they can write questions for an alien to answer, and also interact with an “alien” who asks for help in compiling sounds from earth. Audience members can also call in song dedications prior to the performance they are attending by leaving a message at 313-649-7632.

Each performance will be slightly different depending on the interactive elements. If you don’t want to be involved in the show, that’s ok, too. There’s no pressure, you can just sit back and enjoy.

The company has brought a level of creativity and reinvention to the theatre that we don’t often see. Here’s one small example: The familiar ‘60s song “Sounds of Silence” (Simon and Garfunkel) is “sung” using binary code, that is, zeroes and ones. It’s beautiful and touching and unexpected — pretty much like the entire show.

Click here for show days, times and details.

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