Elijah in the Wadi – the Seed of Conflict
a multimedia dramatic work by Craig Harris
For several months I have been immersed in creating Elijah in the Wadi – the Seed of Conflict, a multimedia dramatic work about the Prophet Elijah. Early in the development process I would mention the Elijah project to people asking about my current projects, and those with familiarity about Elijah would raise their eyebrows, smile, and make some elusive comment about this remarkable figure who appears so significantly in the stories of the Abrahamic religions – “the People of the Book.” These reactions made more sense to me the deeper I delved into Elijah’s world and character, and I found myself being swept into a whirlwind that became increasingly intense and all encompassing.
The Prophet Elijah is a singular character. He is a witness, and an activist. Elijah’s stories have an epic quality, while preserving the highly personal relationships that he has with people from all walks of life. He speaks truth to power, has a deep connection to his people, and is a fierce advocate for those who are disenfranchised. He spends long periods of time in isolation, escaping and hiding from repeated threats against his life, and he struggles with periods of intense doubt and desperation. Elijah lives in his time, our time, and all time. Late in life in his own time he is carried away in a whirlwind, yet travels through all time embodying an omnipresence as an iconic figure representing our constant struggle to be our best selves, striving to make the world a better place. As the story goes, Elijah makes appearances at every Sabbath in every household each week, at Passover at every Seder every year, and at key moments in human development. Some believe he joined Moses at the transfiguration of Jesus, and will be present as a herald to the coming of the Messiah.
Elijah in the Wadi – the Seed of Conflict focuses on Elijah’s personal experience as an individual dealing with issues of enormous responsibility, extreme challenge, and isolation. The people of Israel are straying from the path of unity and holistic values, a situation exacerbated by King A’hav succumbing to Queen Jezebel’s adherence to her belief system. Elijah tries to convince A’hav and Jezebel to lead the people back to the true path, and is faced with death for threatening a status quo that favors those at the top of the hierarchy. Elijah is in the Wadi Cherith – an isolated valley east of Jordan – hiding from A’hav and Jezebel, waiting for the impact of the drought and famine to move A’hav, Jezebel, and the people of Israel to change their ways. As we spend time with Elijah in isolation, we learn that his challenges are not only due to external sources, but that the seeds of his conflict also originate from within.
We had a workshop and audio/video recording session for Elijah in the Wadi in January. I’m fortunate to have an amazing actor – Pearce Bunting – performing the role of Elijah, and he has fully entered the character; and the rest of the artistic team is fully immersed in Elijah’s world. Jim Peitzman and I are working intensely on video design and are co-directing the show; Candy Kuehn is costuming and developing digital illustrations for the visual world; Randall Davidson (cello) and I have been exploring the musical realm of the show. Mike Grogan is lighting designer; and Tim Donahue is working with us on the live audio creative performance. Those of you who are familiar with my shows know that I have worked with most of these artistic team members on previous multimedia productions. It’s great to have this opportunity to bring this group of talented creative artists together again; their deep engagement throughout the development of the work is critical to my creative process. I learn so much from all of them, and it always makes for a more expansive and clear realization of the vision.
I know when a new work has established its own life when it has completely entered my dreams and my nightmares. And I know when that life has declared independence when sleep eludes me night after night – keeping me from falling asleep, or waking me up after only 45 minutes and pushing me out of bed and back into the studio. It’s actually a perfect setting to explore Elijah’s manic world.
Elijah in the Wadi – the Seed of Conflict appears at Illusion Theatre April 8-10, 2016, as part of The Right Here Showcase, an annual juried platform that supports Minnesota-based, mid-career contemporary performing artists, introducing new audiences to their work. I’m grateful to have received one of the 2016 commissions, as well as a commission from the Southwest Center for Jewish Culture supporting the development of this work. Dance artist Megan Mayer also appears on the program on the same evening with a new work,This is Supposed to be My Fertile Window. Penelope Freeh’s Helioscope and Melissa Birch’s Who Moved My Child can be seen in the showcase’s first weekend of performances, April 1-3, 2016.
Elijah in the Wadi – the Seed of Conflict at the Right Here Showcase
April 8-9-10, 2016, performances at 7:30 and 9:00pm
The Illusion Theater, at The Cowles Center: http://www.illusiontheater.org/events
TICKETS ADVANCE RESERVATIONS:
Admission is through a Suggested Donation of $10-$30.
PRESS CONTACT: Artistic Producer Paul Herwig