By Theresa Goffredo Herald Writer
Wayne Horvitz admits he’s more fascinated by the characters who formed our American history — the outlaws, the destiny-changers — than he is drawn to the blow by blow.
So there will be characters a plenty in “Smokestack Arias,” all female but all diverse.
Composer and musician Horvitz, along with his wife, writer Robin Holcomb, will premiere a new, multidisciplinary piece, “Smokestack Arias,” on Thursday at ACT Theatre.
The work is inspired by events surrounding the Everett Massacre but takes a woman’s perspective of this history lesson.
Composed by Horvitz with text by Holcomb, the performances include Cristina Valdes on piano with soprano Maria Mannisto. Choreographer and theater artist Dayna Hanson is directing.
Premiering a new work can be rattling, but Horvitz said he is confident in his collaborators.
“Maria is one of the really interesting sopranos,” Horvitz said. “She is classically trained but I find her voice very American in a lot of ways.”
He called Valdes “the best pianist in the Northwest.
“The piece is mostly about the music; that’s what is the most important thing to me.”
“Smokestack Arias” was written for soprano, piano and electronics. Each song assumes the perspective of one of the 12 woman who in some way is affected by the uprising and the deaths of the slain protesters, personalizing this event in the history of the labor movement in the Pacific Northwest.
The Everett Massacre occurred in 1916, when two boatloads of Industrial Workers of the World, known as “Wobblies,” arrived in Everett to hold a free speech demonstration in support of striking shingle mill workers in Everett.
The Wobblies were met at the dock by local police, hired guards and deputized citizens. Shots were fired. Five Wobblies and two deputies died. Seventy-four Wobblies were arrested; all were later released.
Because artists like to make stuff up, Horvitz joked, these women characters are all fictional. That allowed Horvitz to put his perspective on this piece of history.
Horvitz has had a longstanding interest in the history of the American labor movement, especially in the West. Also, the arias let him address his ongoing concerns, the demise of organized labor and the increasing centralization of power, in the hands of the few.
Horvitz has no connection to Everett, though his personal upbringing gave him a keen interest in the labor movement.
Former President Jimmy Carter appointed Horvitz’s father, Wayne Louis Horvitz, to serve as director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, where he helped resolve and prevent major strikes.
“I’m intrigued with history of the West,” Horvitz said. “It’s such a fascinating kind of mish-mash of Native American people, trappers and traders, big dollar signs and all the people who wanted to lose a life behind them.”
Some of the characters in “Smokestack Arias” are a daughter who is protesting, the wife of a newspaper man who is getting pressure from the upper crust to not write about what’s going on and a woman who was at the scene as a young girl and who returns later in life.
The music runs the gamut, Horvitz said. “It’s all my music and runs from more abstract pieces to those that are more tonal, and some electronic music and there’s a bridge between each piece,” Horvitz said.
Horvitz, 56 (www.waynehorvitz.net), has performed extensively and been commissioned by Kronos String Quartet, Seattle Chamber Players and others. He is the recipient of several fellowships, has recorded with The President and was the keyboardist for the group Naked City.
“It all comes down to the artistry,” Horvitz said. “I hope people go away and they like the songs themselves and I hope they think they were beautiful and moving and important.”
“Smokestack Arias” opens at 8 p.m. Thursday at ACT Theatre’s Central Heating Lab, 700 Union St., Seattle. Shows are at 8 p.m. Feb. 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11 and 2 p.m. Sundays Feb. 5 and 12.
Tickets are $22 adults and $15. Call 206-292-7676 or go to www.acttheatre.org.
Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; firstname.lastname@example.org.