Chances are good that, while sitting at a traffic light, you've seen the driver of the car next to yours warbling along to some popular ditty while using the steering wheel as an impromptu keyboard and/or drum kit.
What you likely haven't seen is an audience sitting inside the car, along with the driver, or at least an audience that's paid for the experience of a performance on the go. That's about to change when a "mobile opera for 24 cars" takes to the streets of Southern California from Saturday, Oct. 31 through Sunday, Nov. 15.
Cast away any set-in-stone thoughts you may have about an opera having to take place on a stage before rows of plush chairs and an orchestra pit. "Hopscotch," a song-filled story told inside a series of automobiles, is also operatic, in every sense, despite the absence of a traditional stage and seats.
But with a major company, as any big opera would boast: Some 150 artists are involved with the production, and their skills cover the gamut, from songcraft to designing to many talents beyond. Let us also commend the two dozen drivers on the playbill; it isn't a job title frequently seen on an opera's rundown sheet.
Envelope-pushing arts collective The Industry is behind this fresh take on musical storytelling. Told in 36 chapters, "Hopscotch" is "divided among three geographic routes -- Red, Yellow, and Green -- and 10 animated chapters." The tale takes on an accident, childhood memories, family history, puppetry, science, Paris, and love in a huge epic sweep, all involving the streets.
And all involving a light sense of the surreal that isn't always promised by a staging of a known show. You won't know where you're off to, once you step inside the vehicle that awaits, and you won't know where you're stopping or what you'll see and hear there.
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There's a refreshing aspect of letting go and faith to the performances, two things not often asked of an audience in any situation or setting.
An audience based in Southern California also seems the ideal fit for a tale spun around spinning wheels and dramatic destinations. If we truly live in our cars 'round these parts, surely we can do more in them beyond drive (and eat and drink coffee and sing along to the radio)?
Why can't an opera take place within an automobile?
Curious passengers and lovers of innovative art, your mysterious carriages await.