Phillip Glass’s first opera was centered on Albert Einstein. John Adams’s was about Nixon and Mao. Composer Joe Diebes, director David Levine and poet Christian Hawkey, avant-gardists through and through, working as a group for the first time, have gone with Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan—Milli Vanilli. Their opera is called WOW.
On a frigid evening last week, in the black-box theater of Fort Greene’s BRIC Media Art House, where the opera was having a dress rehearsal, the three men were discussing how they chose their subject as singers and instrumentalists warmed up nearby.
BRIC House, a multidisciplinary arts complex in downtown Brooklyn that is set to open in 2013, has commissioned four artists for its inaugural Fireworks residency program. Among them is David Levine, who directed the excellent Habit, a 90-minute one-act play that was performed on a loop for eight hours a day. He will present Wow, an experimental opera inspired by Milli Vanilli, a collaboration with Joe Diebes and Christian Hawkey.
In Habit, a 90-minute play directed by David Levine and performed on a loop for eight hours a day at a warehouse space attached to Essex Street Market, there’s a one-bedroom house with the windows and doors knocked out and no roof. There are three actors inside and, depending upon what time you arrive or what their mood is like or any number of other variables, they are either snorting cocaine, showering, eating cereal, microwaving frozen pizza, firing a gun at each other, asleep or dead. At a certain point during any loop, one of them will always put on Captain Beefheart. Another will always get dressed. Another will flush the coke down the toilet and produce a gun. Beyond that, things are mostly unpredictable.