During the dreaded Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, many people across the United States, and even all across the world, were affected by the disaster. Some people donated money for the cause, others volunteered, and some provided shelter for those that no longer had one. Dominique Serrand, Granada Artist-in-Residence, and founder of “The Theatre de la Jeune Lune” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_de_la_Jeune_Lune) felt the power of the hurricane and decided to write a production about it. After years of hard work, it accumulated to the work known as “Come Hell and High Water”.
So, tell me a little bit about yourself.
My name is Dominique Serrand and I’ve been an artistic director of companies for 30 years. I used to be a part of a company that won the Tony Award in 2005. It was a collaborative work and we were well known and recognized for doing it. Our work included original pieces and reworks of classics. We provided new ways of looking at classics. So, I continued that. This is part of it. When I first started, I departed from traditional theater for a while. As I grow older, I’m confirming my dedication to theater in a new form involving many disciplines, including music, media; it’s more of an event. I think a good English word is to call it a “Spectacle”. I’m very attracted by the idea of doing something intelligent, complex, and spectacular. I want to combine all three.
I noticed that your title is “Granada Artist-in-Residence”. What does this mean?
You caught me there [laughs]. I think they created this residency as “Granada” under someone, this Granada person, but I don’t know what it means [laughs]. It’s like a commissioner. It’s a very comfortable position. It’s a great thing.
So the next performance you directed is “Come Hell and High Water”. What can the audience expect from it?
“The Flood” was a working title. “Come Hell and High Water” is the official title. It’s based off of Falker’s Novella, “Old Man”. I wanted to do something about Hurricane Katrina, but I didn’t want to do a show directly about Katrina. I wanted to find something more evocative. It’s one of those… things. I want the taste of sea salt to touch the audience’s tongue and bring you back to the idea of the ocean. I’m not coming at the them with a hammer [about Katrina]. There’s no point in doing that.
Working with my collaborators we felt, when we read Falker, the story we wanted to tell about Katrina. What they have in common, is, of course, the famous flood of 1927 and of 2005. But when you think of Falkner, who’s music rises like a river, so extraordinary, and long, like a stream of thought. It’s such great companions, his language and the water. Not only a show about the flood, but the flood of music. If i could, I would do a seven hour play. The material is so rich, so wide! We wanted to contain it in an hour and a half show. The show is an “oratorio” of sorts. In the sense of it’s construction, the way it tells a story, it’s very musical in the narrative. The refrain, four or five characters, is closer to an oratorio than a symphony. Because of the mix, when you start to mix the language, and the music, and the gesture, and the images, well, eventually, the sum of it all, brings us closer to the musical peace. It’s not a musical by any means, but it’s definitely not a play.
How many people are going to be in the performance?
I can’t remember [laughs]. I think it’s like 17. I’m not sure. Basically there are three principal roles, several smaller ones, and a chorus. It’s not so much dancing, but mostly movement, music, blues, country, gospel, opera.
Were you thinking of taking this anywhere outside of Davis?
I’m also doing the show in Minneapolis with my company. I’m doing it with my collaborators. The production will be smaller there. Because I’m teaching it here in Davis, I opened it up so more people could be a part of it. The show at Davis is a show with the students.
What other shows have you done before?
About a hundred or so. Plenty. I’m done renditions of classics, from Shakespeare, Operas, and a whole of bunch of creations with my playwrights. There were plays that weren’t written that we developed. There are so many. So many many.
Anything else you would like to add?
Our program is one of the programs that are threatened by the budget cuts. It’s a great way to bring accomplished artistes to work with students. There is no greater way for students to learn than by working with residencies. There is so little money in the arts around the country, so theaters are very hesitant to do the business. It’s very risky. By doing residencies, it allows the artists to test heir work. The students get to be part of that development. It’s a win win. The public, the students, and the artists all win.
Finally, I really do think, I do hope, that people will regain interest in the arts. I know the new language tree is Facebook and Twitter, which is fantastic, little did we know it would create a revolution in Egypt. It comes out of the creative part of our mind. We need to continue exercising, subsidizing, pushing this part through with the arts.
Here are some extra pictures of the production: http://theatredance.ucdavis.edu/season/archives_detail.aspx?a=Come+Hell+and+High+Water
The production will be coming to the “Main Theatre” in UC Davis. The performances will be on Thursday-Saturday, March 3-5th at 8PM, Sunday, March 6th at 2PM, Friday-Saturday, March 11-12th at 8PM, and Sunday, March 13th at 2PM. Tickets are $15/$17 for general admisison and $11/$13 for students and seniors, availble from the Mondavi Center Box Office [(530) 754-2787 or (886) 754-2787 or through www.mondaviarts.org] Get your tickets soon!