It was hard to figure out how to write about "Adam's Run," a climate change media criticism tragicomic opera. I'm editor at large at the paper and was the arts editor for a few years and I wrote the libretto for the opera, which Ruby Fulton composed for Rhymes With Opera. It's an inherent conflict of interest. Which can be fine, but we also really didn't really want this to sound like WYPR's Tom Hall always touting the Choral Arts Society in every question he asks. But CP Field Tripping columnist Kate Drabinski, an opera hater, was hanging out with me and Rachel Dwiggins, the filmmaker, and she had some questions about the movie, which screens at the Charles Theatre this Thursday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m., and we started recording the conversation. Nicole King, who for a further conflict is my wife, was also present. (Baynard Woods)
Kate Drabinski: Why opera? Who wants to listen to opera these days?
Rachel Dwiggins: I think that no one wants to listen to opera these days, honestly; but this particular project could change that somewhat in that it is different and interesting and weird.
Baynard Woods: Opera lends itself to myth, or myth lends itself to opera. It helps you to be able to tell a big story and communicate in a fairly simple way big ideas instead of being super subtle and realist and that helps make it emotional and not just intellectual.
KD: I don't know what it's about. So what's it about?
BW: So it's a climate change story.
KD: Climate change and opera?
BW: It's basically a Romeo and Juliet type of story—
KD: There's a romance?
BW: [nods] And it's about our "bubbles" also. So she's an existentialist weather woman who mocks our inability to predict the weather and he is a televangelist who has a reality show building an ark for his flock. And then their bubbles overlap—
RD: I love that you're starting on this "bubble" vernacular. You're using "bubble" a lot for this suddenly. When you were writing me some [unintelligible] options you were like "two bubbles," "bubbles colliding," "can't mediate the bubbles," "there are bubbles that are bubbly," "bubbles."
BW: I was watching "The Wire."
RD: That's what it is?
Nicole King: Dad joke.
BW: It's where everyone has been talking about how "we're trapped in our media bubbles" since the election.
RD: True, but you're like "bubbles"—
KD: So there's a romance. Is there a redemptive moment? Is it a movie that's going to tell me what to do or is it a movie that's going to illustrate a problem or is it going to try to attach affect to it?
BW: It's not at all going to help you know what to do. There's no redemption.
KD: I'm trying to find something that doesn't have redemptive moments. So I think that would be really helpful.
BW: One of the lines of the big arias is "the battles are all for naught/ but must always be fought/ against the onslaught/ of the time now measured/ not in seasons/ but in the ever-mounting disaster count." And that's the whole thing, you don't even have seasons or anything, just how many people have died now.
RD: Which they say now. "It's hurricane season," "it's blizzard season." It describes a whole section of time in that kind of vocabulary. That's what I like. It's actually happening now. People feel like yeah, we're fucked so let's accept that we're fucked and make some sort of art about it. But there's also the people who are totally delusional about it. "It's because we've sinned. Let's build a compound against the sinners and redeem ourselves."
BW: But it is theologically serious. It was funny filming it because [the crew] only there on Friday thought it was just a sex comedy and [the crew] only there on Sunday thought it was just a religious thing. But it did try to make both sides equally serious characters, not just making fun of the religious guy.
RD: I was looking at it again because I was trying to make some last minute bettering and I was actually like we don't make fun of him enough. Because he's actually well-rounded even though his show is insane but he always kind of equals out what he is saying, like "hey man, I get it, Julie is fuckable, you know, she is, you know, I've seen it and I get it but we probably shouldn't watch her because it's fucked. But totally she's a hot babe." He says that in the show.
KD: Who do you want to see the film and what do you want them to do with it?
BW: We wanted to be able to show it in a lot of places. The whole thing with Rhymes With Opera, they do something and it's gone and so they wanted this to be seen everywhere. They're working on a tour and I think you want film festivals.
RD: I do want film festivals. It's so different as a way to make an opera video. I watched a whole bunch of operas that were filmed and it's very performative, like you're looking at a stage and watching people perform on a stage and if it isn't they're still very stage like. It's like a studio set up from the '50s. What we didn't do is shoot a performance. We made a narrative film and I think if we had more money it could be more interesting, but I think no one's done that, that I can think of, except "Lemonade," but that was like $8 billion, but I want it to be seen by people who make music videos, make opera. I don't think it will be interesting to everybody because it is opera, because it is odd.
KD: But I notice just watching the trailer—and I ask that because I don't like opera actively and I'm not interested in it. To me it's like brutalist architecture, it's like something I get it on an intellectual level that people are into it but I personally don't like it. Just I'm not interested but what the trailer did was… it has an emotional connection that other things don't have, now I want to see the whole thing because it seems like it's also about humor. Is this a comedy about a serious thing or is this comedy and it's also…?
BW: Gallows humor is the real theme because I think that's the only kind of real humor, the necessity of humor.