"Aeterno Elementum" is a heavy metal opera that blends old and new

  • By Theresa Goffredo
  • Thursday, November 8, 2012 11:33am
  • LifeEverett

Mill Creek resident John Stevenson is a huge fan of Historic Everett Theatre and the heavy metal opera,

“Aeterno Elementum” that plays this weekend of HET:

“Aeterno Elementum”, 8 p.m. Nov. 9 and 10, Historic Everett Theatre, 2911 Colby Ave., Everett. Tickets are $20 through the box office – in person – or by telephone 425-258-6766 – or online at .Etix

John, who is a freelance writer, sent me a copy of this piece he wrote, paying tribute to Historic Everett and sharing his preview of the show.

I thought I would share this with you all:

Thanking the Old for the New

by John Stevenson

For most people my age, a weathered 24 years, plays and operas mean dry actors rehearsing Shakespeare and fat ladies in horned helmets shattering glass with their shrieking. I was no exception to that prejudice.

To be fair I was born too late to see “The Muppet Show”, which took place exclusively in a theater, and just in time to take part in the technological revolution that taught me to avoid anything that isn’t in a downloadable format. I was deprived of any real opportunity to gain a proper appreciation for live theater. After all, theaters are old, very old. In fact they don’t get much older than the Historic Everett Theatre, which will be celebrating its bone-creaking 111th anniversary on Nov. 4.

Surrounded by modern structures of glass and concrete, the brick façade of the Everett Theatre sticks out like a sore arthritic thumb. For someone whose best friend as a child was a computer, old meant it was time to update. A computer is obsolete a year after you buy it, so when you say this building is older than both my parents combined, I’m inevitably going to ask why it hasn’t been knocked down and replaced.

I’ve seen the theater more times than I can count, for years I’ve walked or driven past and never given it a second glance. After all, what could it possibly offer me? This is the age of video games, Blu-ray and streaming Netflix. If I want to see Shakespeare, I have the pick of any number of movie adaptations. If and when the Everett Historic Theatre got Wi-fi, then we could talk.

Yet a year ago a friend invited me along to see a stage play called Aeterno Elementum. My first thought was: great, look at that title, it’s in Latin or something. My second thought: can they do subtitles during a live performance?

I was still trying to figure out if they could superimpose subtitles using lasers when the lights darkened in the theater. In a little under 90 minutes all of my assumptions about theater were lost amid the carnage of a world lost in darkness and decay. The actors I had once imagined as dry as the powdered wigs which I was sure they still wore, were vibrant and passionate. They could do something not even the finest actor on the silver screen could do: reach out and touch you.

I was startled when assassins came creeping through the aisles, blades drawn, glinting in the dim light. I even jumped when a band of Vikings came roaring onto the scene, screaming their war cries and banging their shields. Then there was the Imp, who was constantly flitting through the theater causing mayhem and a ton of laughs with the audience.

And that was something else I discovered, the sense of communal enjoyment to be had with a live performance. You don’t get that sense of involvement with the other audience members watching a film at a movie theater, we’re simply sitting in the same room. During a play, you’re sharing an experience. By the way, did I mention that the whole play is set not to a classical orchestra, but to a heavy metal band?

“Aeterno Elementum” is a merging of old and new. It has the traditional operatic themes of betrayal, tragedy and rebirth and it has soliloquies by the actors that wouldn’t be out of place in one of Shakespeare’s plays. Yet right alongside all of that are roaring guitars and pounding drums, with lyrics that actually tell the story as it unfolds in front of the band.

Knights in full armor and wielding real swords battle it out in beautifully choreographed fights, and fire dancers spin their flames with dazzling skill. It is a strange and yet completely captivating meld of many distinct elements, old and new, strange and familiar all brought together to create something entirely unique.

It’s no coincidence that the Historic Everett Theatre is the one to nurture and host this strange new play, this Heavy Metal Opera. Over its long history the theater has always been eager to host new plays, and nurture young playwrights.

Richard Mansfield performed his famous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, made famous by the fact that his Mr. Hyde was so convincing that he was suspected to be Jack the Ripper for a short time. Mansfield’s performance inspired a local actor who often performed at the Everett Theatre, a man who would eventually become famous for his silent movies: Lon Chaney.

It was also one of the earliest theaters to embrace the coming of Mickey Mouse, basing a Mickey Mouse club out of the theater and producing its own newsletter. So if it was new, strange, unfamiliar, or any combination of the three, it was the Historic Everett Theatre that chose to embrace it.

That’s why despite being gutted by a fire in 1923, almost going under financially during the Great Depression and again in the post-war era, the Historic Everett Theatre continues to thrive.

That’s why it managed to teach me, a technophile with no appreciation for live performances, to love plays. In embracing new ideas, ones that drew me in, the theater also succeeded in making me appreciate older things I had thought obsolete. I found a new appreciation for Shakespeare, Williams, Shaw and other great playwrights.

So I’d like to thank the Historic Everett Theatre, for teaching me to appreciate the old by embracing the new.

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