What if telling stories could postpone the inevitable? If by swapping tales, one could delay every sorrow, so-long or other heart-pinching pain life might bring?
Attack Theatre chases answers to these questions in its latest modern dance offering, "Soap Opera," which runs Friday and Saturday and Feb. 6-10 at the Pittsburgh Opera Building, 2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District.
The troupe was inspired to produce the piece by the legend of Scheherazade, in which a king ordered his former wives beheaded before moving on to the next one. One managed to stay alive by telling stories, always leaving out the next intriguing part until the coming day.
"What we did was we began to flip it around," says co-artistic director and founder Michele de la Reza.
In Attack Theatre's version, a young man is fighting for his life in hospice care, while a woman tries to fill -- and prolong -- the time through storytelling. With movement and music, the characters exchange "stories of life together or great stories of literature or opera to continue to share time together before the eventual embrace to say goodbye," she says.
Other inspirations were the memories Ms. de la Reza and her husband, co-artistic director and founder Peter Kope, share of losing a friend and former board member to brain cancer while he was in his 30s. The run of "Soap Opera" coincides with the anniversary of his death.
"While this is absolutely not a biography in any way, it is so clear that Peter and I are always very affected by the lives around us and the people and the experiences that we share," Ms. de la Reza says. "Then our interests are how can those very, very personal experiences translate into larger and more universal challenges and themes."
Throughout the two-act show, realistic situations are paired with grandiose operatic elements.
"There's a real, concrete, emotional journey, but it's juxtaposed with the grandest of the art forms when you look at opera," Ms. de la Reza says. "All these really larger-than-life situations that occur within the world of opera are juxtaposed against the very poignant, simple and universal themes of two main characters."
The two characters are joined by other dancers as well as a singer appearing courtesy of Pittsburgh Opera, an actor and a musician/percussionist. The sound track is a combination of live and recorded instrumentals and vocally based opera music, woven with more contemporary songs.
Longtime Attack followers know the company has crossed paths with opera before as movement consultants or performers in such projects as the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's "Euridice and Orpheus" at the Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville in 2011. But "Soap Opera" will be an opportunity for Attackers to adapt the genre to modern dance.
"Whether people love opera or maybe if they don't .... be not afraid because you're not going to get anything like a traditional opera," Ms. de la Reza says. "You're going to get an Attack Theatre show with lots of humor and lots of sadness and intense physicality within the framework and contextualization of these great operas."
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org.