Whatever is Squonk Opera?

otaylor@thestate.comMarch 1, 2013 

Squonk Opera is ...

“Whatever it is, that’s whatever it is,” Steve O’Hearn, the co-artistic director, said.

OK. Let’s see what we can come up with.

Squonk Opera is ... a musical, a live concert and an audiovisual performance art piece. Formed in 1992, Squonk Opera, a cadre of Pittsburgh-based artists, combines live singing and musicianship with projected images to stimulate, surprise and suggest.

There are two performances this weekend – 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday – at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College.

“We’re making shows, theater, essentially, out of music and imagery,” O’Hearn said. “We do think that it’s more compelling and interesting.”

Squonk Opera is ... not an opera in the traditional sense.

“We decided that it was close enough to be considered an opera,” O’Hearn said. “We’re more like a multimedia entertainment group.

“We don’t want to do shows for college academic friends of ours. For us, the interesting part is engaging the public.”

Opera is considered a high-minded art that, along with subtitles for many, requires an invested knowledge. As Squonk Opera toys with stage design, it also pokes at the serious bubble some arts enthusiasts find themselves in. Nobody falls in love and then kills themselves on stage. In fact, there’s no story to follow.

Squonk Opera is ... a symphonic indulgence.

“I think that’s one of the notions that art should be fun,” O’Hearn said. “In fact, that’s kind of a better, more adult position.”

In 2011, Squonk Opera reached the quarterfinals of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” thus introducing the quirky performance to millions of viewers. The company currently has four touring productions. “Mayhem and Majesty,” a proscenium show, will be performed at Harbison Theatre.

The first Squonk Opera performances were staged, to use the term loosely, in a Pittsburgh junkyard. Cranes moved choreographically as musicians played on terraces of crushed cars.

Squonk Opera is ... part of a larger movement of musical spectacle that includes the Blue Man Group, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Cirque Du Soleil, among others.

“I love this show because you can have such a sensual impact,” O’Hearn said of “Mayhem and Majesty.”

Squonk Opera is ... not a puzzle waiting to be solved with an academic perspective. Squonk Opera, quite simply, is a visceral experience.

“It’s about the not rational,” O’Hearn said. “That means the audience participated. They made that meaning. I think that’s generous art. (The audience is) creators of their own experience. We just put some loud and bright (stuff) out there.

“We just make something we’d like to see and hopefully other people will like it.”

If you go Squonk Opera

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College, 7300 College Drive, Irmo

Tickets: $20

Information: www.harbisontheatre.org

Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service