I am … in an emotional twirl. Two colleagues of mine are singing in a new opera called Trap Door (see the review below from today’s Chronicle) and I am going to try and see it next Thursday. As I was typing out an email to them wishing them luck for opening night, I was overcome suddenly and tears came to my eyes . . . just reading the review was enough to get me started. This is a close-to-home topic for me, and though I want to go see this opera…I know it will not be easy to sit through. Maybe that’s good, though. I need a good cry, I guess. And, well, I’m just glad there is something in the Chron about soldiers that has NOTHING to do with Code Pink, Nancy Pelosi and/or protesting. (Yes…that is a sweeping generalization, but well, I never claimed to represent anything other than my own POV on this here blog.)
So. Here’s hoping that my night off from rehearsal next Thursday is still my night off, and I can go see this:
'Trap Door': A soldier's uneasy life in Iraq
Thursday, June 5, 2008
The inspiration for Lisa Scola Prosek's video opera "Trap Door" came to her, literally, as a dream last year. She was reading contradictory accounts of U.S. soldiers in Iraq - some said they used crass language but others spoke of their propensity to quote Hemingway - and a story came together in a furious vision. She wrote it all up and sent it to Mission art and performance venue the Lab, which contacted her later that week.
"I woke up in a sweat, it was horrible," Prosek says in between music-teaching sessions. "I felt all of their suffering ... then I had to turn it into a comedy, a black comedy."
Prosek spent the past year researching and writing dialogue and songs for "Trap Door." The narrative echoes Camus' "L'Etranger" but also takes a real story from a Princeton grad, Nate Rawlings, who went to Iraq. The protagonist is named Able. He's a smart guy who goes to the Middle East expecting to "kick ass" along with his fellow soldiers but quickly finds himself fighting against an invisible enemy who booby-traps the country with IEDs.
He also learns of the strange relationship between hired contractors and actual soldiers. Prosek says she did much research in this area. "The soldiers were sending all these videos home, and there were all these times where they are next to a contractor making 10 times as much money as them, and the soldiers were washing their clothes. It's humiliating," she says. To compound the insult, when the contractors got in a jam, the soldiers would be the first to be called to protect them, she says.
So, after Able is deployed, wounded and then redeployed, he gets into a scuffle with a contractor and shoots him. "His homecoming is under arrest for shooting an unarmed man," Prosek says. "It's a big feature for the media. He's under arrest, on trial, just like Camus." The media circus propels the situation into new territory. There is, she says, a strange "glamorization" to the proceedings, which make the soldier a celebrity.
Throughout the action, the set is video projects. Prosek uses footage from Iraq to establish the sense of place, and colors, like an intense orange, to make the audience feel the heat. Also, this isn't a play. It's an opera. Prosek wrote 20 songs, most less than two minutes, and promises the show won't be a total bummer.
"I've learned that the work has to be entertaining," she says. Still, though, being immersed in such heavy research has taken its toll. "Oh, man, next time, I want to write about flowers," she says.