Theater Grottesco moved to Santa Fe in 1996. So did San Francisco choreographer Colleen Mulvihill and composer J.A. Deane (Dino). Grottesco saw a video of Mulvihill dancing and invited her for coffee to explore her interest in joining the company. A good conversation ended with “no way I’m speaking on stage.” That was that. Until Dino said, “I’d like to work with you guys.”
Thus began a long collaboration with Dino creating Grottesco sound designs and compositions, while taking the company to new places with live sampling, locational sound sources and actor created sound. A couple of years in, Grottesco Artistic Director, John Flax joined Dino’s Out of Context (OOC) Conduction orchestra as a vocalist. Conduction is a composition created in real time driven by a vocabulary of gestures transmitted by a conductor and interpreted by an ensemble of musicians. Dino was a long time collaborator of Butch Morris, Conduction’s Illuminario. He started OOC to dig deeper into the gestures and relationships.
In 2006, Dino and Flax began imagining a spoken word opera delivered with OOC. They started with texts loosely organized around the future: ancient Taoist writings, William Burrough’s Blade Runner (the first Blade Runner) and several well known science fiction excerpts. Then they zeroed in on environment as a lens for the future. People were upset when they treated climate change as just one of many impending crises but environmentalists were tracking peak oil, mass extinction, food crises, shrinking potable water reserves and, oh yeah, pandemics. Dino and Flax kept coming back to the notion that despite overwhelming evidence, the United States in particular is unable to act. What is in our paradigm that leads to that? They angered some audience members by being more interested in questions than in providing answers. STORM was the first Grottesco show where the audience talk-backs were consistently longer than the show itself, and often heated.
The Out of Context Orchestra is the foundation of STORM. Two actors play 6 characters with instantaneous changes. Multiple projection screens track the discoveries of an environmental scientist, a social scientist and a human ecologist. Burning Books and Robert Breer contributed animation, moving image artist David Aubrey coordinated and dozens of artists, writers, young people, environmental and social scientists contributed to STORM.