How can a performance tell more than 80 personal stories in just under an hour without resorting to a dizzying hodgepodge of characters and annoying hat changes? The Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus (TCGMC) discovered recently that the job can require 140 singers, 30 original poems, and the combined talents of artistic director Stan Hill, choreographer James Sewell, composer Robert Seeley, and lyricist Robert Espindola. Together, this crew has created "Metamorphosis," which premieres this weekend as part of TCGMC's Our Legacy in Song concert at the Ted Mann Concert Hall. The result is a show that animates two years' worth of interviews and essays by chorus members about growing up and coming out.
According to Hill, the work celebrates "gay men singing about their lives," from their earliest memories through childhood, teen years, and into adulthood. These four stages gave the collaborators "a structure to organize the ton of material we had." Espindola eventually wrote a series of poems inspired by the stories, many dealing with self-recognition and family relationships. Hill points to one remembrance of a farmhouse surrounded by a picket fence--a structure designed more "to keep the family in than others out." The theme of escaping this place appears in the closing section, "I Can Fly."
Sewell admits to being a bit daunted by the task of setting a dance to "Metamorphosis." "My first feeling was what a big responsibility it was," he says. Sewell surveyed the experiences of some of his dancers and ultimately found shared themes. "Every person, in establishing their independence, comes up against expectations of those around you," he observes. But, he continues, "how I feel about me is more important than how you feel about me." (Sewell will reprise "Metamorphosis" for his company's May performances, and the TCGMC will bring the show to Montreal in July for an international gay and lesbian choral festival.)
Appropriate to the grand scale of the piece, the dancers will perform beneath a three-story-high scaffold, where the massive choral cast will stand. For his part, Hill seems happy to yield center stage for the number. "Choral concerts are basically really boring," explains Hill. "They just stand there and sing." This time out, Hill can all but guarantee a moving experience.