New Music-Theater Production at MASS MoCA Contemplates Magic of Ordinary Life

Aging Magician (photo Jill Steinberg)

Aging Magician (photo Jill Steinberg)

(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – “Aging Magician,” a multimedia music-theater collaboration among theater-maker Rinde Eckert, composer Paola Prestini, director Julian Crouch, and instrument-maker Mark Stewart, gets a work-in-progress showing in the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA on Sunday, February 28, at 2pm.

Produced by Beth Morrison, whom audiences will remember from October 2014’s arresting music-theater production, “The Source,” and VisionIntoArt, “Aging Magician” follows a man near the end of his peculiar life on an odd but strangely sweet journey to Coney Island, all punctuated by the lovely Brooklyn Youth Chorus, under the direction of Dianne Berkun-Menaker.

“Aging Magician” is a haunting, genre-defying adventure that combines theater, music, puppetry, one-of-a-kind instruments, scenic design, and film mediums. The creative team of Prestini, Eckert, Crouch, Stewart, and Morrison constitute an all-star team of avant-garde theater today. The show follows an ordinary man named Harold, coping with the final stages of his life, as he muses on the movement of time and his own mortality while confronting past loves both lost and imagined. His mind begins to wander while in transit to iconic Coney Island, with fantasy and reality blurring along the subway ride in the “magic show of time itself.”

In this workshop presentation at MASS MoCA, Eckert plays the titular Magician in this one-man play, sharing the stage with 24 members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and a string quartet. Eckert’s performance combines interdisciplinary training as a writer, director, musician, and librettist, as he maneuvers a set that gets played like an instrument — a stage comprised of various mechanisms for striking, plucking, and whistling. MASS MoCA audiences may recall his 2009 performance with Roomful of Teeth and his sensational lead performance in the Obie Award-winning “And God Created Great Whales” in 2001.

Paola Prestini

Paola Prestini

“Aging Magician”’s mesmerizing soundscape is crafted by visionary composer Paola Prestini, named by NPR as one of the “Top 100 Composers in the World Under 40.” Prestini’s prolific career includes the creation of over 70 multimedia productions around the world through her leadership at the nonprofit VisionIntoArt, a production company she cofounded while studying at Juilliard in 1999 to develop collaborative, interdisciplinary new projects by emerging and established artists. She first visited MASS MoCA in 2012 with her full-length multimedia opera, “Oceanic Verses.”

Beloved actor and vocalist Eckert is a writer, composer, and director, in addition to having tremendous performing skills, and his work has been seen in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Eckert was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. His career began in the 1980s, when he wrote librettos for composer Paul Dresher, before he began to compose dance scores for choreographers Margaret Jenkins and Sarah Shelton Mann. In 1992, Eckert toured the United States and France with his own work, “The Gardening of Thomas D,” and continues to compose and perform original music-theater pieces.

Mark Stewart

Mark Stewart

Director, set designer, and writer Julian Crouch began his career in London, fabricating masks and puppets, eventually co-founding London’s beloved Improbable theatre company. Crouch’s work spans theater, opera, ballet, film, and television, and he has been an artist-in-residence at the Park Avenue Armory and BRIC House Fireworks Residency Program. His major works include set design for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (for which he received a Tony Award nomination) and “The Addams Family” on Broadway, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” for the National Theatre, and “The Magic Flute” for the Welsh National Opera.

Journey through time, memory, and Coney Island with “Aging Magician” during a work-in-progress performance with some of the greatest theater-makers of our time, in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Sunday, February 28, at 2pm. Tickets are $8 for students, $12 in advance, $18 day of, and $22 preferred. Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays through spring 2016. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during box office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA. All events are held rain or shine.

MASS MoCA is one of the world’s liveliest (and largest) centers for making and enjoying today’s most important art, music, dance, theater, film, and video. Hundreds of works of visual and performing art have been created on its 19th-century factory campus during fabrication and rehearsal residencies, making MASS MoCA among the most productive sites in the country for the creation and presentation of new art. More platform than box, MASS MoCA strives to bring to its audiences art experiences that are fresh, engaging, and transformative.

MASS MoCA’s galleries are open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays through spring 2016. The Hall Art Foundation’s Anselm Kiefer exhibition is seasonal and reopens April 30, 2016. Gallery admission is $18 for adults, $16 for veterans and seniors, $12 for students, $8 for children 6 to 16, and free for children 5 and under. Members are admitted free year-round. For additional information, call 413.662.2111 x1 or visit MASS MoCA.

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