Welcome to New Hope City.
This month, the Bushwick Starr presents a new play from Pass Kontrol, a futuristic, post-apocalyptic rock and roll show set in various New Hope Cities, places that have been taken over by a mega-corporation.
Drawing from a range of influences (“1984,” “Brave New World,” Corey MacAbee’s “American Astronaut”) and aesthetics (community theater meets rock show), “New Hope City” tells the story of three dudes on the outskirts — literally and figuratively — of these cities, in search of their Holy Grail — a former pop star-turned-robot.
“It’s like a ‘Wizard of Oz’ story. This band of brothers comes together and goes on this journey and figures out a way to maintain a pure lifestyle amidst the brainwashing that’s happening,” says Sue Kessler, artistic director at the Bushwick Starr, which commissioned the play. “When we decided to start producing works, PassKontrol were at the top of our list.”
In the past, the band has not been shy of theatrically, employing live painting and modern dance in their rock shows. The play also employs dance, as well as film, live music, of course, and motion-controlled projections to reach beyond the fourth wall and connect with the audience.
In bringing “New Hope City” to the audience, the Bushwick theater will be completely transformed.
“When audience members arrive, they’re going to feel immersed in this make-believe universe,” says Kessler. “They got it down to every detail – what people wear, what people drink.”
In the weeks leading up to the show, the band has been busy shooting commercials to run throughout the play of things people would buy in New Hope City, and also plan on having people use New Hope City currency at the shows. Audience members are also encouraged to come in costume, for a cult-following vibe a la “Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
“Think the future – whatever the future means to you,” says Oliver Ralli, frontman of Pass Kontrol. “If you come in costume you get a free fart beer – the beer of choice for frat boys in the future.” (Don’t worry, it tastes better than it sounds.)
The play started as a way for the Bushwick-based band, whose members hail from Chicago, Sacramento, and Gainesville, Fla., to process living in New York City and the differences inherent in each borough.
“Manhattan – you go in there and in some ways it feels like such a mind-f—,” says Ralli, “the consumer culture, mass production and corporate power.”
The three main characters in “New Hope City” strive to maintain artistic freedom in a similar world, producing their own pirate radio to get their music – and message – heard.With undercurrents of individuality and free speech, as well as some anti-consumerism flavors, it’s a good ol’ stick-it-to-the-man story for the hipster set.
“This whole thing can be seen as an allegory for people living in Bushwick,” says Kessler, “the challenges there are in living in an area that’s on the outskirts, and also the extreme freedom and excitement that lies in choosing that lifestyle for yourself, and how do you protect that and make sure it remains untouched.”
Here’s looking at you, Williamsburg.
New Hope City runs at the Bushwick Starr (207 Starr St.) February 11-13, 18-20, and 25-27 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.00 online at www.brownpapertickets.com and $12 at the door. For more information, go to www.thebushwickstarr.org. For more on the band, go to http://www.passkontrol.net.