Performance artist sees pigs in space

Now for something completely different: an intergalactic post-human and a 1980s rocker contemplate mortality.

This is the thread of “The Success of Failure (or, the Failure of Success),” the third and final installation of Cynthia Hopkins’ “Accidental Trilogy,” onstage at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Thursday through Saturday.

Hopkins, a performance artist and musician, whose work has earned her numerous Obie and Bessie awards as well as a Guggenheim fellowship, offers a humorous and poignant exploration into the big questions in life through song, dance and film.

“Success” opens with Hopkins in space gear (and pig nose) existing in the far-distant future when the earth can no longer sustain human life. In the second act she appears in contemporary times, a woman struggling with a more personal form of loss.

“The two parts of this piece are intentionally opposites of one another,” Hopkins says. “The music for the outlandish science fiction plot line is orchestral and pre-recorded – kind of like a film score.”

There is, in fact, a sci-fi film designed and executed on stage by Hopkins longtime collaborators Jim Findlay, Jeff Sugg and director DJ Mendel.

In the second act, Hopkins reveals her credentials as an indie pop lyricist and composer, through which she is better known as the front woman of Gloria Deluxe, the band that opened for such notables as punk poetess Patti Smith and cerebral anti-pop icon David Byrne.

Hopkins mined a challenging personal history for “Success”: the early death of her mother to breast cancer, the imminent demise of her father to Parkinson’s and a subsequent downward spiral that took her into alcohol and drug addiction.

“My work is born of disturbance,” she says. “What disturbs me provokes me to want to learn and do research.”

And considerable research it was. An avid reader and fan of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, Hopkins and her collaborators spent months viewing “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the entire “Star Wars” series and all of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” episodes in preparation for writing the score, script and film.

“A lot that early technology was done with miniature models before everything went digital. That's the kind of hands-on low-tech/high-tech hybrid that we are making.”

With humor and hope, Hopkins takes the audience back from the future to an optimistic present.

“The trilogy is a meditation on self transformation” she says. “It’s about overcoming trauma to remake oneself as a happy joyous and new person.”

 

IF YOU GO

The Success of Failure (or, the Failure of Success)

Presented by Cynthia Hopkins

Where: Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 18-21
Tickets: $20 to $25
Contact: (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org
Note: Hopkins will talk about the trilogy with Erika Chong Shuch at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Novellus Theater. 

 

 

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