Even before an audience member reaches Prophetika’s “stage” at The Club at La MaMa, the experience has already begun. Audio recordings of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. can be heard from the stairwell. Lights can be seen pulsing through the darkness as the stage nears. Coming around the corner, a bold visual landscape comes into view. Prophetika: an oratorio is an environment—a total immersion of the senses into a world outside of the realties left behind at La MaMa’s entrance. The audience has entered a new space where opposites inhabit the same time and space: light and dark, silence and sound, energy and stillness, and freedom and restriction.
The term “stage” is meant in the loosest sense. Prophetika does not adhere to the normal theatrical standards and demarcation of the audience from the performers. Here the lines are purposefully blurred. The integration and immersion of the audience emphasizes the sense that the performance about to take place is not so much for the audience, but happening with the audience. Audience members can sit anywhere – chairs line all the walls surrounding the instillation—and have the ability to get up anytime during the performance to walk around and get a closer look.
As the audience begins to settle in, the lights continue to pulse and flicker all around. The three musical performers, Justin Hicks, Brandee Younger, and Courtney Bryan, emerge. Their shimmering painted faces of silver and gold and their equally iridescent clothing shine through despite the darkness.
Jadele McPherson, the fourth performer of the evening, has a rich and potent voice, unrelenting in its emotion throughout the hour. The four performers know how to channel their energies and McPherson in particular with her unrelenting ability to give herself entirely to the moment.
The mythological and cosmological of the environment is enhanced by Abigail DeVille’s set installations. The centerpiece of the instillation is in the middle of the floor- a large, silver structure composed of metallic looking beams laced together, flanked by the three musical performers.
In the corners of the room large, tree-like installations reach towards the ceiling, which is covered in blue and black tattered tarps. Scattered around the instillation s are an array of illuminations, from strobe lights to good old fashioned white Christmas tree lights, thanks to lighting designer Kent Barrett.
Director Charlotte Brathwaite and composer Courtney Bryan set out to create an evening that is part theatrical event, part visual art, and part ritual ceremony. What emerges is a performance and soundtrack that succeeds in blending all three of these elements – theater, art, and ritual – into an experience that has more feeling and unity than thought and answers.
While there is no blatant story to follow or neatly wrapped up ending like a play or musical, ‘Prophetika: an oratorio’ does something else—it takes you on a light filled journey where the audience makes its own meaning. ‘Prophetika: an oratorio’ runs for three weekends from March 20 to April 5, 2015. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 10pm and Sunday at 6pm. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased online or at the door. For more information about ‘Prophetika: an oratorio’ or La MaMa, visit the website www.lamama.org.
By Courtney Antonioli