20, No. 17, April 5, 2001
Dennis Cleveland: Multimedia-operas
Midwest premiere is April 12-13
News Bureau Staff Writer
(217) 333-5491; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cleveland" reaches out and speaks to America's infatuation
with the culture ofmass media as it recreates the confessional
TV talkshow environment as theater with composer Mikel Rouse
himself as both host and catalyst. The Midwest premiere is
at 8 p.m. April 12and 13 in the Tryon Festival Theater at
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
part priest, part provocateur, the TV talk show host emerged at the
end of the 20th century as an unmistakable icon that continues to reflect
a surreal image of postmodern life.
Composer Mikel Rouse studied those reflections and used them as a launch
pad for creating "Dennis Cleveland," a multimedia opera, which
will receive its Midwest premiere April 12-13 at the UIs Krannert
Center for the Performing Arts. Composed in 1996, "Dennis Cleveland"
is the second opera in a trilogy that includes "Failing Kansas"
and "The End of Cinematics."
Simultaneously a live opera performance and a live, taped TV production,
"Dennis Cleveland" combines aspects of both types of entertainment
including a hypnotic musical score and live video of audience
reactions as a vehicle for examining the underbelly of the talk-show
phenomenon. Under the harsh glare of real TV cameras and bright lights,
real life is transformed into an artform by Rouse, who portrays the
title character himself. Collaborating with Rouse are scenic designer/video
producer John Jesurun; an eight-person ensemble of professional actors
and singers from New York; Krannert Center production-staff members;
UI students, faculty and staff members in the School of Music and College
of Communications; and videographers from WILL-TV and WCIA-TV.
The production is providing UI- and community-based participants with
the rare opportunity to collaborate alongside Rouse and his professional
troupe to redesign and remount the show for a proscenium theater. Previous
runs of the show, in New York, California and Australia, were staged
in more intimate "black box" theater environments. Plans are
in the works to use the Krannert Center production as a model for next
years production at New Yorks Lincoln Center.
According to Rouse, the shows narrative "is derived from
the libretto, which follows Dennis Cleveland through myriad encounters
chronicling the promise of salvation through popular culture."
"There is an Elmer Gantry-like quality to the host and his reality,
particularly the late-20th century phenomenon of television ritual as
replacement of ceremony previously associated with religion. Thus, the
ritual is enforced in real time as the opera progresses and it soon
becomes apparent that the audience exists in Dennis Clevelands
future: that of the ultimate voyeur, the TV talk show host."
Panel discussion scheduled
in conjunction with 'Dennis Cleveland'
In conjunction with the UI production of "Dennis Cleveland," Krannert
Center for the Performing Arts is hosting "Talking TV Talk: TV Talk
Shows in American Culture," a free panel discussion at 4 p.m. April
12 in the center's Foellinger Great Hall.
Topics to be explored include the demographics of talk-show audiences
and how such shows fill needs in people's lives.
The discussion, moderated by speech communication professor David Tewksbury,
will feature Mikel Rouse, composer and creator of "Dennis Cleveland";
UI professor Andrea Press, who has joint appointments in the College
of Communications, departments of speech communication and sociology,
and Women's Studies Program; and Bruce Williams, UI professor in the
Institute of Communications Research and department of urban and regional
also will include television-industry professionals. Among them, UI
theater department alumnus Fred Rubin, a television writer/producer
and professor of film and television at the University of California
at Los Angeles and Loyola Marymount, and an instructor for the Warner
Brothers Writers Workshop and the Disney Writer's Fellowship; and Perry
Chester, vice president and general manager of WCIA-TV, Champaign.