César Alvarez's "Elementary Spacetime Show" Debuts
"ELEMENTARY for dealing with fundamentals, SPACE for where you are, TIME for when it all takes place, SHOW because we know you need for us to bear witness to…
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The spatial scenery is composed of an absurd vaudeville game show with a gender-bent high-heeled host in red, a robot with an uncanny appearance to the artist Sia, a contemporary “hipster” Hamlet with a Latin twist, a mosquito insecure of himself, a black goddess in white, a satirical pastor, the French Father of Absurdism Albert Camus, and twenty-something twenty-somethings in prison jumpsuits (with flare). Somehow, the ridiculousness of this unique and comical cast augments the dark and occult realities that it intends to unravel about life, and, more specifically, grapple with the contextual and existential question of deciding to end one’s life.
The protagonist, Alameda, is a modern adolescent that decides to commit suicide at the opening moments of the musical, and she finds herself wrapped up in a prismatic, engaging, and garish vacuum titled “The Elementary Spacetime Show,” where she needs to win to choose whether she can die, or she stays condemned to continue her life. With philosophical, cosmological, and religious lyrics, Alameda struggles with her macabre decision through eclectic indie-rock music that inspires us (the audience) to contemplate our existence, joining Alameda until the climactic end.
César Alvarez, the writer and composer of this peculiar musical, obtained the creative impetus due to a “confluence of strains” in his own life, especially his inner-conflict with his bicultural identity- born to a Cuban father and a white mother- in the South of the United States, and his struggle to understand the “Why?” of his close-friend’s suicide in 2013:
“There is an important monologue in the piece when Alameda describes drawing a spaceship underneath her desk, where she can escape her situation, and occupy herself with questions of existence inside of her imagination. This story is taken from my own childhood in Georgia and in North Carolina. I lived in towns that were economically and racially segregated in the South, and I felt abnormal and like an ‘other.’ My dad had the classic tough experience of an immigrant, and my mother was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister in the South. The injustice that I observed all around me, sometimes, made me get these impulses to escape to the universe… It’s an impulse very similar to Alameda’s decision”
“The objective of the piece is not to judge the egoism or the selfishness of suicide, the objective is simply to consider the incredible and awe-inspiring state of being in the universe, and considering how leaving all of these infinitesimal possibilities of the universe can be transformative. The comedic retrospective of the events and the reasons as to why Alameda intends to commit suicide aren’t notable or subjective, they’re things that we’ve all encountered, and they’re moments that make us feel that we can’t handle or deal with being alive. No one likes to feel hopeless, no one likes to feel purposeless. The community of “The Elementary Spacetime Show” is a community that accepts Alameda, that doesn’t judge Alameda for having dark feelings or questions about existence. The power of the piece is in its ability to be representative… My goal is that someone that is fighting with their own mental health or with their own sadness can see this piece and see themselves in Alameda, and that the piece can capture that, yes, there are people that exist that are willing to accept your darkness. Specifically, I want the teens and the young adults (the group that commits suicide the most in the United States) to feel represented in this emotional and riveting musical. I want to start an important conversation without stigma or a critical tone.”
Prepare to die laughing, tear-up a bit, and reflect deeply with the absurd characters in “The Elementary Spacetime Show,” currently showing at Philadelphia Arts Bank in collaboration with The University of the Arts and the FringeArts Festival until the 24th of September.