Considered a crown jewel of psychedelic musical storytelling, Pink Floyd’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon is a tale of conflict, the passage of time, greed, death, and – inspired by the mental health struggles of one of its members – insanity.
In 2013, the album’s 40th anniversary, eclectic stage and screen writer Tom Stoppard created Darkside, a radio play blending the music with dialogue and audio images. It was later turned into a stage play and is coming to Sacramento State’s Playwrights’ Theatre as part of the University’s Arts Experience.
Performances are at 8 p.m. March 2-5 and 11-12; 2 p.m. March 6 and 13; and 6:30 p.m. March 9-10.
Darkside is described as comedy, absurdism, realism, and fantasy. As envisioned by co-directors Professor Roberto Pomo and dance instructor Lisa Ross, Darkside melds dialogue, dance, acrobatics, and video projections. “It’s more a play about images – audio images and ideas – and we wanted to make them into stage images,” Pomo says.
It’s also the story of Emily McCoy, a young woman who is trying to find herself and is very misunderstood. “That speaks to me on a personal level,” Ross says. “So there is that connection with an audience. We all feel lost in our own world sometimes.”
McCoy is played by theater major Jessica Masuhara. She describes Emily as someone with an intense thirst for knowledge, constantly questioning the world around her, a practice that causes her trouble with others. “People accuse her of a lot of things, and one of those is being crazy, so it gets her thrown in the mental hospital,” Masahura says.
Recent alumnus Joshua Thompson returns as one of the production’s dancers, who play a number of roles in the play, including scenery as part of a living set. “Sometimes we are Emily’s thoughts, and we move her and manipulate the actors,” Thompson says.
The dancers also appear and disappear from Professor Ron Reisner’s designed stage, which consists of a large elevated set piece in the sunken area of the theater. Here the dancers will join the action via trapdoors, and elements of the production will climb to the ceiling. “It feels very much like a jungle gym,” Ross says.
Helping to convey the otherworldly feeling of Darkside are the costumes designed by costume shop manager Audrey Walker. The clothing is inspired by rock icons such as David Bowie and the group Kiss, combined with animalistic and mechanical elements.
Walker sees Emily’s trip through life as the hero’s journey through a dream world. “Through that journey she meets these people who are her thoughts, and they move her along,” Walker says.
Stoppard’s credits cover a wide arc of styles and genres, including the Tony Award-winning play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and the original screenplay for the movie Shakespeare in Love, for which he won an Oscar.
When asked what they hope the audience will take away from Stoppard’s Darkside, Ross observes that she was born the year the album was released, and grew up with it. “It’s kind of cool to be able to introduce it in a new way to a younger generation,” she says. “And maybe the people who have heard the album over and over could possibly see it in a new way.”
“What’s really precious to me is the collaboration between our theater majors and the dance majors,” Pomo says. “I would like for the audience to go ‘Whoa!’ ”
Tickets for the 6:30 p.m. performances are $8 general, $5 for children. All other performances are $12 general, $10 seniors and students, and $8 children. Seating in Playwrights’ Theatre is limited, so advance purchases are recommended at the University Ticket Office, (916) 278-4323 or www.csus.edu/hornettickets.
For more information, visit the Theatre and Dance website at www.csus.edu/dram or call (916) 278-6368. - Craig Koscho