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Multimedia Musical Hybrid The Infinite Hotel, Conceived and Directed by Michael McQuilken, Premieres at Prototype Festival (Jan 5-12)

Michael Joseph McQuilken – a musician, actor, writer, director, and filmmaker who “has redefined collaborative art” (Philly Voice) – announces the world premiere of his music and multimedia hybrid piece, The Infinite Hotel, at the 2019 Prototype Festival from January 5-12. Described by the director as “next-generation media for the millennial mind,” this unique and immersive work is simultaneously a music theater piece, rock concert, and elaborate single-take film shoot that explores themes of human interrelatedness, creativity, and artistic visibility in a profoundly technological culture. Made in collaboration with the Windmill Factory arts collective, whose co-founder Jon Morris serves as creative director, and McQuilken’s own live performance company, Old Sound Room, The Infinite Hotel’s through-composed score also features music from a variety of sources. Six of the songs were adapted from material written for this production by Dresden Dolls vocalist Amanda Palmer and her collaborator Jason Webley (an experimental folk multi-instrumentalist and former Seattle street performer). The songs were then turned over to McQuilken for completion and re-orchestration to suit the needs of his storytelling. Additional songs are by singer-songwriter Leah Siegel, who also plays Jib, the character at the musical heart of the show. McQuilken (under his musical moniker THE FEW MOMENTS) along with the band SKY WHITE TIGER composed the balance of the score. Some canonic music is also folded into the soundscape, from Mendelssohn and Beethoven to old soul songs, and live Foley artist and Percussion Designer Eric Farber provides sound effects that are then made into rhythmic components propelling the music.

The Infinite Hotel tracks the stories of five central characters who are creating, in their separate but metaphysically linked worlds, the common musical and sound tapestry that anchors the story. The vein of musical inspiration the characters all tap into (in frequently overlapping scenes) provides McQuilken with a metaphor for interconnectedness and the way actions ripple out into the world in unforeseeable ways. One scene’s foreground is another’s background; one person’s performance becomes another’s texture. This same theme of interconnectedness is built into the form of the piece by making the audience a character. Since the spectators occupy seats in the balcony and move through the performance space as part of the narrative, in a sense they are watching themselves. The frame within a frame is emphasized by the film that is made of the performance each night and then distributed online, a technological coda that reverses the audience’s immersive experience and illustrates the dual role that technology plays in artistic creation: freeing in terms of access, but restrictive in terms of content.

As McQuilken says of the work:

The Infinite Hotel has been lovingly created as a balm for the division of people in our modern world. Tech may bring us closer in certain regards, but it’s all too common now to feel pulled apart from our fellow travelers across political lines, geographic lines, professional lines. This is a project to unite creatives across myriad fields, to unite its audience with the performers, to unite narrative forms often kept separate — it is a kinetic prayer for oneness, focused upon characters who are determined to make the most of the resources they have.”

The Infinite Hotel is an ideal fit for the Prototype Festival – called “essential to the evolution of American opera” by the New Yorker – which, since its inception in 2012, has been devoted to providing a home for cutting-edge contemporary, post-classical, multi-disciplinary opera-theatre and music-theatre work. McQuilken made a stunning directorial debut at Prototype in 2016 with Angel’s Bone, composed by Du Yun with a libretto by Royce Vavrek, which was hailed by the Washington Post as “devastating … disturbing, powerful, and original.” The New York Times declared that McQuilken “drew courageous and memorable performances from all.”

The Prototype premiere marks the culmination of a long evolutionary process for The Infinite Hotel. It began life as McQuilken’s thesis at the Yale School of Drama, which earned him the distinction of being the only student to write and score his own thesis project. A variety of musical/theatrical projects and tours since then have helped him accumulate both collaborators and material for the piece, until it was presented in its last incarnation under the name JIB in Philadelphia in 2016. Since that production, Leah Siegel has taken on an important role as a collaborator on the development of the script and musical contributor, and McQuilken has continued to refine his vision of the work, but even at that stage the critical reception was outstanding. D.C. Metro Theater Arts called it “haunting … a provocative vision” that “evokes a perplexing hallucinatory state of altered consciousness and alternate realities”; according to the New Haven Advocate, it “blew the boundaries of conventional playmaking; … it was inspiring.” Leah Siegel’s performance was hailed as “mesmerizing and electrifying” by Broad Street Review, while Philly Voice declared that the piece “sets a new standard in the creation of live theater,” before going on to say that “Michael McQuilken has redefined collaborative art.”

About the Artists

Michael Joseph McQuilken originally hails from Portland, Oregon, where he was raised in a working-class home by public servant parents who were terrified that his artistic tendencies would leave him perpetually broke. These fears were not allayed when 20-something Michael became a professional street performer for three years, making music with garbage. Fortunately, he finagled a scholarship-fueled higher education, and now he is a not-quite-broke director, writer, filmmaker, and composer in New Jersey. He holds degrees in directing and sound engineering, and has an amazing wife, Adina, who tolerates his restless creative tendencies that have taken over the majority of the space in their home. His recent directing work spans installation concerts at BAM (Epiphany: The Cycle of Life), new opera (Angel’s Bone), music videos (Daniil Trifonov, Andrew McMahon, Amanda Palmer), and concert visuals (Drake).

The Windmill Factory is an international creative collective based in Brooklyn, New York, founded by Jon Morris with Ana Constantino, which takes as its motto and mission “manufacturing the sublime.” It partners with visionary organizations, artists, bands, festivals, cities, and private collectors to conceive, design, build, direct, act, choreograph, dance, sing, paint, consult, produce, invent, and solve problems with creative solutions. It has produced art installations, performances, and events: from a Nine Inch Nails tour to re-creating the night sky on the Hudson River to residencies at the Watermill Centre and La Mama to 5-star productions at the Edinburgh Fringe. Its work has been acclaimed internationally by WIRED, Rolling Stone, SPIN, the New York Times, The Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The Scotsman, NBC News, and The Creators Project, among others.

Old Sound Room is an internationally recognized and award-winning performance ensemble created in 2013 by a group of like-minded theater artists, all Yale School of Drama graduates, to build new work. OSR’s original works include OSRLear, October in the Chair (Araca Project Grant recipient, Best of Fringe Amsterdam), Origin Story (Innovative Theater Award for Best Performance), and Machine Makes Man (best int’l performance Fringe Amsterdam, National Arts Festival of South Africa). Artistic Director Michael Joseph McQuilken‘s latest work, Angel’s Bone, was part of the Prototype Festival 2016 and received rave reviews from the New York Times.


Michael Joseph McQuilken: The Infinite Hotel

January 5-12, 2019
New York, NY
Prototype Festival
Michael McQuilken, creator, director, co-composer, co-lyricist
Jon Morris, creative director
Leah Siegel, co-composer, co-lyricist
Select songs adapted from material written by Amanda Palmer & Jason Webley for this production
The Windmill Factory
Old Sound Room

Jib: Leah Siegel
Gary: Joe Trombino
Marris: Laura Gragtmans
Ben: Daniel Reece
Turner: Tommy Schrider
Telly: Jennifer Harrison Newman
Hoarder: Austin Durant
Angie: Marianna Hoitt-Lange


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© 21C Media Group, November 2018

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