Photo by Slavisa Drobnjaković

AFTER THAT IT HAPPENED

By Nancy Black and Constantine Koukias

The world appears as a complicated tissue of events, in which connections of different kinds alternate or overlap or combine and thereby determine the texture of the whole.
– Werner Heisenberg

 

AFTER THAT IT HAPPENED follows four people who live in disparate parts of the globe in different eras, and never meet. Their choices and actions, however, are profoundly inter-connected, however, as each grapples with a life-changing decision. We propose a universe where past, present and future occupy the same moment, and individual actions resonate across space.

 

Creative Team
Direction & Libretto – Nancy Black
Music – Constantine Koukias
Scenography – Slavisa Drobnjaković & Constantine Koukias
Projection & Sound Design – Mik Lavage
Animated Object Design – Hamish Fletcher

Netherlands & US Cast
Inez Timmer – Voice (role of Michelle)
Judith Weusten – Soprano (role of Robyn)
Ben Le Clair – Bass (role of Theodore)
Ilija Surla – Actor (role of Sergei)

The personal dilemmas affecting the characters touch on major contemporary concerns from politics to mental illness to the search for vaccines. The action, llibretto, music and scenography weave a three-dimensional circular tapestry of connections between the characters Each is torn by conflicting emotions, capable of both good and evil. Time is warped – their trajectories last from a few hours to five years. Each of their stories finishes a few days before Christmas.

Using a fully orchestrated, pre-recorded music score (no live instruments), with 3 voices sung and 1 spoken, we will counterpoint musical genres and styles, creating dynamic threads through the work.

Characters
Sergei (spoken, not sung), a Serbian writer in 1981, has gone into hiding in Frankfurt because his exposé about Slobodan Milosevic’s rise to power has created a furore, and his life is threatened. His publisher wants him in NY. The book is sensational. Nevertheless. he is plagued by fear, self-doubt, and guilt for what he has done to his family. He thinks he’ll be killed if he goes outside. The opera follows him from June until December when he makes up his mind.

In 1939, just before the outbreak of WWII, Robyn (soprano) lands a job in a Melbourne textile store. She’s thrilled because she had not been able to find a job during the Depression. Naïve at first, she quickly learns to charm, bribe and fool almost anyone as the war progresses, but finds herself flummoxed by her sister who is mentally ill and needs her. Does she stop working and look after her? We follow her from 1939 to the end of the war in 1945.

Theodore (bass baritone), a primary school teacher in rural Pennsylvania in late December 1880, apparently loves both the world of the intellect and his students – but gradually we learn he’s just been fired. His world and self-definition have fallen apart. He struggles to find new meaning and a place in the world. We follow him for a week.

Michelle (mezzo) heads a team of scientists working for a pharmaceutical company in France in 2019. They have discovered a way to prevent malaria, and the company wants to announce their findings that night. Her trajectory covers only a few hours.

Resolution
Sergei gradually emerges from his fear and self-doubt, boards Pan Am flight 103 from Frankfurt to Detroit, which explodes over Lockerbie on December 21, 1981.

Robyn morphs from a happy innocent into a charming, manipulative, successful and self-obsessed woman. She delights in manipulating her customers, develops methods for shutting the war out, and tries similar ways to block her sister. They don’t work. The sister kills herself a few days before Christmas. Robyn has to change.

Theodore, seemingly gracious, intellectual, and generous, decides he wants to give his school a Christmas gift – something by which he’ll always be remembered. We discover he has been fired because, he thinks, the school’s headmistress decided to replace him with a woman. In fact, although women were moving into the education system at the time, he reveals dark and volatile aspects of himself that suggest why the headmistress took action. He decides to build for them a model of the schoolhouse – and give it to them at the Christmas concert. When they lift the roof off to peer inside, it will explode and kill them all.

Michelle will end the opera. Throughout she wants to avoid her problem, diverts herself through other things, deflects the CEO of the company, and wrestles with her angst. We learn that she has just had confirmation that their “product, their wonderful discovery, will obliterate the insect population of the world, and eventually wipe out mankind. Does she admit that, stop the operation, or allow it to progress, and find a solution before doomsday? She has to choose.

The opera is dark, but the libretto is laced with humour and tenderness as well. Each character will have his/her own space in the set, but there are also times when they cross through one another’s spaces, transforming the space into a street, a corridor, another room. They sense but don’t see the characters around them.

Duration: approximately 1 hr 15.

Nancy Black

Nancy Black

Direction & Libretto

Black Hole Theatre’s Artistic Director Nancy Black has created and directed award winning shows, produced festivals, outdoor performances, operas, and ten Puppet Slams.  A passionate advocate for Australian puppetry, she has worked tirelessly to develop local, national and international opportunities for Black Hole Theatre, emerging and experienced artists, and independent companies.  Since 2004 work includes: Caravan (Green Room Award, internat’l tour), Coop(Green Room awards), Hutch, Into the Black Hole, 10 puppet slams around Victoria and NSW, Les Méduses (int’l tour), Blind with the Duda Paiva Co (NL) – Green Room nomination, international tour, workshops and developments.  2017 The Book of Revelations. 2018 development of The Line, tour of Blind to USA. 2019 Development of Vault, Listen Up! with the Natimuk community, presentation of Last Lighthouse Keeper, early work on After That It Happened with Foundation IHOS Amsterdam. 2020: online workshops 5 6 7 Create!, short film rEvolvn with 12 artists.

In 2014 she instigated and co-ordinated the professional skills program Fermenting Change. For the Victorian Opera: 2012 What Next?, Master Peter’s Puppet Show, 2016 Four Saints in Three Acts, 2017 Sleeping Beauty. For BIFEM 2016: ###Nude Girls Live!!!  2017 The Gate to Pardise – for the Chinese company One Tree. 2007 She co-produced the Festival of Australian Theatre in China taking 5 theatre companies to Beijing and Shanghai.


Slavisa Drobnjakovic

Slavisa Drobnjaković

Scenography

Slavisa Drobnjaković commenced his acting studies in classical theatre at the age of fourteen in Yugoslavia. Further study took him to the Art Academy and Cultural Anthropology in Belgrade. After moving to Amsterdam in 2001, he has been involved as a performance artist at Das Arts Amsterdam and Amsterdam Cyber Theatre and other artistic collaborations.

He has written several commercial scripts for ComradFilm in Slovenia and worked as a creative assistant on the films of Heidi Vogels and theatre director Boris Todorovic. In recent years, Slavisa dedicates himself entirely to film and works for the stage. He has been engaged as a writer/ director for Sluizer Film Productions for two long features:

       “The Tragic Death of Branka Djukic” follows the painful process within one highlander family, from the moment of the mysterious murder of their daughter to the act of revenge itself. In the development of the story there lie human instincts and irrationalities as catalysts to all further events.”

       “The Waste Land” is the frame tale of a man who tries to escape his homeland and his fate. Historiographic metafiction set in 1923, in the time of the first publishing of T.S. Eliot’s poem of the same name.”

For the stage, he is co-designing a new chamber opera for Nancy Black, for Black Hole Theatre based in Australia. For Foundation IHOS Amsterdam he has written and directed the film sequences for “A Deep Black Sleep”, a chamber opera for solo tenor and six masked musicians. Two short films “Eros and Thanatos” and “The Pain of Others” by Slavisa Drobnjakovic are planned for release in 2021.

       “Eros and Thanatos” is a love story based in an asylum centre, a particular kind of limbo realm where the temporal dimension of past and present intertwine and gradually disappear, reducing the individual to nothing but their life force. A grotesque exemplar, a trivialisation of the Freudian concept of Eros and Thanatos.”


Constantine Koukias

Scenography

Constantine Koukias is a Greek-Tasmanian composer and opera director based in Amsterdam. His avant-garde approach to opera has resulted in hybrid productions such as Days and Nights with Christ, To Traverse Water, MIKROVION (Small Life – 36 Images in a Phantom Flux of Life), The Divine Kiss, and Tesla – Lightning in His Hand. His most recent large-scale work The Barbarians, inspired by Constantine Cavafy’s famous poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” and commissioned by the Museum of Old and New Art.

His works range from large-scale music-theatre and opera to mobile installation-art events. His compositions have earned acclaim as remarkable for their mesmerising, atmospheric qualities and production designs.

In 1993, he was commissioned by the Sydney Opera House Trust to compose ICON, a large-scale music-theatre piece, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House.

Additional theatre works include Kimisis – Falling AsleepBordersOrfeo, Rapture – Sonic Taxi Performance, Schwa – The Neutral Vowel, Antigone and The Da Ponte Project. Prayer Bells, which draws on traditions of Latin, Hebrew and Byzantine chant, had its USA premiere at the Chicago Cultural Centre.

In 2004, he was awarded a Sir Winston Churchill Fellowship. His Incantation II for soprano and digital delay won the International Valentino Bucchi Vocal Prize in Rome in 1997. His design credits include the internationally acclaimed Odyssey and Medea.

In 2014-15, Kimisis – Falling Asleep, a chamber opera for soprano and electric trombone, had its Netherlands premiere at Splendor Amsterdam and later toured to the Karavaan Festival.


Mik Lavage

Projection & Sound Design

Mik Lavage is an Australian sound and vision designer, composer, and musician. Working on stage and screen, Mik has been nominated for AFI awards (screen) and worked on shows nominated for the Helpmann Awards (stage).

Mik has collaborated with a broad range of artists and companies from the ancient Greek leanings of IHOS to the acrobatic worlds of The Tom Tom Crew, Company 2, and Strange Fruit, and has performed worldwide in Melbourne, Munich, Montreal, Detroit, Paris, and Taipei, among other locations. He currently tours globally with The Orkestra of the Underground, Company 2, IHOS, Hermitude, and Toni Childs working as a sound designer, a musical performer, and a designer of interactive visual elements.

Mik is also a graduate of AFTRS (Australian Film, Television & Radio School) in music composition for film, and has produced numerous albums as a solo artist as well as with Toni Childs. His music has been featured in many dance, theatre, and film productions that range from political documentary to feature film.


Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher

Animated Object Design

Hamish is a versatile designer, performer and theatre maker focussing mostly on visual theatre. He has a Masters in theatre (Puppetry) from Victorian College of the Arts(Australia) and has also trained under Philipe Genty, Mary Underwood, Duda Paiva, Laura Sheedy and Peter Wilson. Hamish has worked extensively in theatre, television and cross art forms.  He has collaborated and worked on a range of productions for ABC televisionSticky PicturesSuper Studios and companies Windmill Theatre, Arena Theatre, Victorian Opera, Men of Steel, MIFF and Circus Oz as well as countless small and experimental projects.

He has toured work over 25 cities worldwide including to China, Japan, Malaysia, The UK, Ireland, USA, Singapore, Portugal and Canada. He has won Best Host at Kidscreen 2012 as Hoot The Owl for ABC and Festival Directors award as part of Men of Steel at Melbourne International Comedy Festival.  He is currently developing an experimental theatre/IRL game called Money = Happiness along with some ground-breaking work with Jeff Achtem and Bunk Puppets.