Triple Tony winner Kevin Adams returns to the BLMC this year with a look at the concept of rock and roll theatre, speaking about the rock/pop shows he’s worked on and relating them to several ideas: “How the visual "event" of those shows is conceived as a thing that has a relationship to other shows that have recently run or are currently running and that the "event" of a show extends beyond the walls of the theatre that contain it,” he says.
“How I use strategies from fluxus and conceptual art to collaborate with the set designer and director; and conceptualizing an event, in these cases a contemporary rock/pop musical, partly based on subverting the spectator's expectations. Those are the things I have been thinking about for the last couple of years in relationship to these pop/rock theatre events, which all hopefully suggests there is more than one way to skin a cat. To create something."
Adams’ goal is to give each of these shows, many of which ran at the same time, a different style and use of rock spectacle. “I combine Spring Awakening, Passing Strange and Next To Normal into a trilogy of pop/rock fluorescent light-bulb musicals. All three contain a dominant usage of fluorescent tubes, fluorescent light bulbs, incandescent light bulbs and LED and glass neon,” he explains. “American Idiot relies heavily on strobe effects and various kinds of audience blinders.”
What about LEDs? “I am crazy about new LED technology,” Adams admits. “I used LED birdie sized units as small blinders in Passing Strange and American Idiot; LED strips as cyc units on Spring Awakening and Next To Normal; and the new Vari-Lite VLX on American Idiot and Prometheus Bound,” he notes. “I like that the color is the same a year later as it was when it went into previews. I like that heat does not build up in cyc areas like other units might. And the color saturation and ability for quick color changing and strobing is not like that of any other unit and just knocks me out.”
In terms of design influences, Adams comments: “I am greatly influenced by the mid-80's conceptual art movement that Cal Arts was at the center of when I attended and that many of my friends practiced. And it was seeing work in museums and galleries by artists that use light in their work that steered me from set designing to lighting design. And working on my own work as a photographer and videographer has certainly helped train my eye and given me a more complex ability of ‘seeing’.”
Adams is a featured speaker at the 2011 BLMC (May 24-26 in NYC). His current projects range from a new play and an old play by Tony Kushner, both part of the Signature Theatre Tony Kushner season and the revival of Rent to the national tour of American Idiot, an upcoming play and musical for Broadway, and Mildred Pierce for HBO.