This is a new production of Robert Ashley’s 1993 opera Foreign Experiences for seven voices and pre-recorded electronic orchestra, co-produced by Roulette Intermedium and Performing Artservices. May 9-11, 2024.
Foreign Experiences follows Don, Jr., who leaves the Midwest to take a position at a small college in California. But everything goes wrong. He loses his family and friends, he loses his car, he fears that he will lose his mind. He lives alone in a small, cheap apartment near the campus where he cooks rice and vegetables in a single saucepan, drinks vodka and reads books on esoteric subjects.
In his madness and isolation Don concocts an elaborate plot to explain to himself the situation he is in. He remembers important and unbelievable premonitions. He confuses his past with the present. He imagines that he has been called to some secret purpose other than the work at the college and that this purpose will be revealed by a message that he finds in the “personals” of the local newspaper. He is sure the message is meant for him. It is a simple statement, “Higher than eagles he wanted to learn to fly,” along with a phone number.
Don calls the number, and he is told to learn to curse. Cursing overcomes emotions embedded in language and clears the mind to recognize premonitions as they appear. He curses in almost every statement. Finally, after multiple hallucinated adventures, he gets to “the man” who will reveal to him priceless information about the meaning of life…….
This is all happening in the sordid apartment in the middle of the night in Don’s imagination. Too many broken dreams. Too much vodka. Too many esoteric books. Too much loneliness. Too much California.
We will never find out what happens to Don. Maybe he will go into writing screenplays.
BRIAN MC CORKLE
Music Director and Sound Design
Stage Design and Lighting
Created by ROBERT ASHLEY