Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Theater Preview: Squonk Opera's "Mayhem and Majesty"

Squonk Opera returns to town with Mayhem and Majesty, the company’s most surreal project yet. No story. No characters. Just pure sensation.



(page 2 of 2)

The pair took cues from such New York performance artists as Laurie Anderson. Squonk’s first major production was Night of the Living Dead: The Opera, which debuted in 1995 in Pittsburgh. Soon after, the company debuted off Broadway—then on Broadway—with its madcap fantasia Bigsmorgasbordwunderwerk.

“We found some inspiration in Chinese opera,” says O’Hearn, who is now 52 and lives in Russellton, Pa. “In Chinese opera, the audience boos the bad guys and cheers [for] the good guys. It’s like a football game. They fart and belch and pat each other on the back. We wanted that kind of democratic accessibility.”

Since its Broadway splash, Squonk traveled the world—from Germany to South Korea. Today, Squonk continues to tour its many shows across the country. Each concept is different from the last: Inferno was a retelling of Dante’s hell, using the coal-fire town of Centralia as a setting. Rodeo Smackdown was a political fable that placed the ancient Greek minotaur in the Wild West.

Mayhem and Majesty is about sound. Like Bigsmorgasbord, there are no plots or characters in Mayhem. The Squonkers wanted to create a simpler show, more of a rock concert than a musical. Mayhem is still heavy on spectacle, but the audience is encouraged to free-associate during the performance. The show behaves like a three-dimensional Rorschach test.

“We’re really thrilled when we talk with people after the show,” O’Hearn says. “They think [the show] is about this or that. They start to tell their own story.”

“Human beings are programmed to create meaning for themselves,” says Autumn Ayers, Squonk’s lyricist and lead singer. In general, Dempsey, who’s 44 and lives in Turtle Creek, composes a piece of music “with several movements,” and then Ayers writes lyrics and makes suggestions.

Ayers is also an acclaimed solo artist, but she has relished Squonk’s communal spirit since joining in 2007. “All the shows are collaborative,” she says. “But [for Mayhem and Majesty], we all brainstormed about everything. I feel really proprietary and proud. It’s the most collaborative thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

Mayhem and Majesty may be a simpler production, but the spectacle is as epic as ever. Like all Squonk shows, Mayhem is fairly physical, with five of the 10 touring performers migrating around the stage and moving set pieces themselves. In a rousing finale, the audience is forced to look up at a scrim fan with moving images projected on the surface. The visuals are so overwhelming that they threaten seizure.

At its core, Squonk Opera is a proud Pittsburgh company. No matter how far the company travels, the group’s always happy to return to its home turf. The First Night show was a resounding success—with three separate performances, an incredible feat for only four hours of prep time.

“There’s something about Pittsburgh that we love,” O’Hearn says. “There’s something about our art form that is inherently Pittsburgh. Work like ours can’t be produced in the hothouse culture of New York or L.A.”

As for the future, O’Hearn says the company is wary of becoming “commercial” in the style of Cirque du Soleil or Blue Man Group—producing shows that are stunning to behold but rarely evolve. Squonk is ever-changing.
“We feel authentic doing it,” he says. “Our hope is to just keep creating new work.”

(Mayhem and Majesty, New Hazlett Theater, Allegheny Square East, North Side. March 31-April 3: Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Also, preview party Wed., March 30 at 6 p.m. $20. Info, tickets: 412/320-4610, newhazletttheater.org, squonkopera.org)
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

USPS will dedicate a new forever stamp to Fred Rogers and celebrate with a party in March.

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Heningin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Peters Township Native Wins Silver Medal in Speed Skating

After swine flu kept him from competing in Sochi in 2014, short track speed skater John-Henry Krueger finally won a spot on the podium at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

Perspectives: A Better Life

A former Pittsburgh television reporter recounts the lessons taught to him by his grandfather who spent more than four decades as a Pullman Porter.

Pittsburgh MultiStories: Phipps Legacy – The Fulton Building

With its distinctive seven-story archway, the Fulton Building (now the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel) remains a beloved Pittsburgh landmark.

Kick Back and Relax with a Baby Sloth

For $150 you can book an up-close hang out session with Vivien the two-toed sloth.

Jack Kerouac: Manager of the Pittsburgh Plymouths

In a league of his own making, the famous writer cast himself as the skipper of a (fantasy) Pittsburgh ball club.

Bucking the Trend: Gallagher’s Groovy Growing

Megan Gallagher is part of a small cadre of young farmers bucking demographic trends.

Meet the Woman bringing Dignity and Diversity to Twitter

As Twitter's vice president of intersectionality, culture and diversity, Candi Castleberry Singleton, who splits her time between Pittsburgh and San Francisco, works tirelessly to bring inclusion and respect to companies.

Where's the Flu Bug Biting Hardest? There's an App for That

The Doctors Report Illness Tracker has the scoop on germ hotspots all over the region and beyond.

Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Reviews of "Black Panther" and "Early Man," plus local movie news and notes.

First Look: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville

PM dining critic Hal B. Klein takes a look at the new Richard DeShantz restaurant ... and he has the scoop on what's next from the energetic restaurateur.

Meet Pittsburgh's James Beard Award Semifinalists

Pittsburgh has eight nominations in six categories.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

Comments

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

USPS will dedicate a new forever stamp to Fred Rogers and celebrate with a party in March.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
First Look: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville

First Look: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville

PM dining critic Hal B. Klein takes a look at the new Richard DeShantz restaurant ... and he has the scoop on what's next from the energetic restaurateur.

Comments

Avenue B is Closing

Avenue B is Closing

The Shadyside restaurant ends its 8-plus year run in a few weeks.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Sweet Ideas: Our Favorites for Valentine's Day

Sweet Ideas: Our Favorites for Valentine's Day

Where to eat, where to go, what to buy –– some of our favorites to make your Valentine's celebration memorable.

Comments

5 Best Ways to Go Beyond Regular Recycling

5 Best Ways to Go Beyond Regular Recycling

Recycling your cans is great. Recycling your couch is better.

Comments


After Dark Hall of Fame: Stage AE

After Dark Hall of Fame: Stage AE

The North Shore concert hotspot is the latest inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Comments

Five Essential February Events in Pittsburgh

Five Essential February Events in Pittsburgh

Pajama cinema, laser-aided indie rock, Pittsburgh punks and more February activities.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
The Quest is No Less Recognizable Even if Team USA Is Not

The Quest is No Less Recognizable Even if Team USA Is Not

They’re still playing hockey at the Winter Olympics, but without NHL players. Which means the guys doing the playing are relative nobodies. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Comments

Steelers Headed in Wrong Direction on The Stairway to Seven

Steelers Headed in Wrong Direction on The Stairway to Seven

A year ago at this juncture, the Steelers could legitimately perceive the Patriots as the only team standing between them and yet another championship. Now, a lot more more than just one team is in the way.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Reviews of "Black Panther" and "Early Man," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments

At Last, We're Freed from Fifty Shades

At Last, We're Freed from Fifty Shades

Reviews of "Fifty Shades Freed" and "The Cloverfield Paradox," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Heningin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Comments

Cookie Table Contest: And the Winner Is ...

Cookie Table Contest: And the Winner Is ...

We introduce the winner and the runners up for our biannual cookie table contest.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Comments

Great Mews: 68 Townhouses Underway for Lawrenceville

Great Mews: 68 Townhouses Underway for Lawrenceville

Located on the site of former Hanlon-Gregory Steel galvanizing plant, Mews on Butler should have its first townhomes ready for occupancy by fall.

Comments