Imagine walking into a darkened theater, only to see an empty dance floor, instruments without players and a giant, floating sandwich projected onto a screen telling you to turn your phone off. It may sound like the convoluted plot of a trippy dream, but it was real. It was actually part of the performance of the Sci-Fi Rock Opera, “Zolk Tizzer,” put on last Thursday and Friday night at UC Irvine’s Experimental Media Performance Lab at the Claire Trevor School of Arts.
If there’s one thing that “Zolk Tizzer” does, it has put the “experimental” back in Experimental Media Performance Lab. Crafted as an MFA thesis project by Hassan Estakhrian, the ambitious audio-visual experiment definitely paid off. The show — a mixture of sound, screen animations and interpretive dance — had many elements in it besides the ever-present floating sandwich in the background.
The choreography was fantastic; a troupe of five interpretive dancers — and one break dancer — managed to perfectly capture the “true story from an imaginary world” and match the funky, 70s-esque tone of the music.
The show’s visionary, Hassan Estakhrian, led a highly talented eight musician ensemble through the 45-minute performance with his hard-rock guitar riffs and surprisingly strong voice. The strong musical aspect of the performance provided an excellent platform for the show’s experimental choreography.
The plot and concept, albeit interesting, is bare-bones. The story, outlined lyrically, is told mostly through the tone of the instrumental music and dance choreography. The musical is more of a 45-minute space-themed interpretive dance than anything else but somehow, it works.
The basic context of the world of “Zolk Tizzer” is that on the planet Tagerges, two communities exist next to each other but are separated by a literal wall. On one side of the wall lives the wealthy and upper-class “Privils,” while its downtrodden counterparts on the other side of the wall are the poverty-stricken “Fabricits.” Fabricits have always been persecuted by Privils because, while they have Privil DNA, they were fabricated in a laboratory hundreds of years before the events of the rock opera, and are not pure Privil.
The eponymous hero is the illegitimate offspring of a Privil and a Fabricit, and is thus cast out of Privil society for being “impure.” After he is shunned from his home planet, Zolk Tizzer endeavors to travel through space and time to establish a planet where both Privils and Fabricits can live in peace.
Whatever social message the show may or may not have had was overshadowed by the sensory overload of the performance. However, that wasn’t necessarily a detriment, as the show did what it was intended to do — entertain. Many people don’t go to shows for the social message but for the theatrical elements. The audience was definitely pleased with Mr. Estakhrian; they swarmed around him to compliment the performance.
The few words that Estakhrian had to say at the end of show were wrought with gratitude for being able to bring a childhood dream to life.
“I always wanted to do a rock opera. It started as an idea I had as a young kid and I wrote it with friends. It was great to see all of that come to life — especially the turkey sandwich.”