Arts & Culture News

On The Eve: "Because Time Travel is Fun"

With as much control as we exercise over our own existence, its retelling is left to those who follow us. In some instances, like Christopher Columbus, an inordinate amount of fame is lavished. For others, like Marie Antoinnete, the story would water down a different tributary, and its path of notoriety would be a cruel one.

But if local band Home by Hovercraft and its co-conspirator writer, Michael Federico have anything to say about it, that's all about to change. And it will take a cast of 18, nine musical numbers, some stop-motion video, two Irish dancers and five to six time-traveling hot air balloons to do exactly that.

Don't worry, they're up for the challenge.

Toppling public perception isn't an overnight task. In fact, creating their new rock musical On The Eve, opening November 30 at the Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park, has been a theatrical endeavor several years in the making. As a group, they've been friends since college, but after diplomas were doled out, geography limited their collaborative abilities. Michael wound up in New York and husband/wife team Seth and Shawn Magills hopped around, eventually settling their roots down deep in the Dallas caliche.

But Federico returned as well and joined the company at Kitchen Dog Theatre. It didn't take long them to act. They were soon meeting regularly -- to create a revolution, about a revolution.

The music of Home by Hovercraft lends itself to thematic adventure, napsacked with philosophy. Bold and caring, the anthems are designed to envelop the characters of On The Eve, rather than simply drag them from scene to scene. Its being played live, with a full band. So be warned: you might contract a contact epiphany.

The logical question is, Why Marie? What is it about this matriarch that demands a full-blown stage performance, glossed with time travel?

Well, the gang just kinda likes her.

"History has a really bad habit of demonizing certain people, certainly women," says Federico. For Shawn, it's more personal. She speaks empathetically when referencing the former queen, "If I was born as her, would it have been any different for me?" It's a tough question to answer, and that's why they needed a time machine.

Antoinette had connections to the hot air balloon's inventors, and Federico points out that paintings exist of the orbs lingering seductively above Versailles.

They decided that rounding out the production required moving its central characters throughout different placements in time. In part, to show that truth is murked across all eras. And also because, well, "time travel is fun."

What shakes out is an inventive, childlike world that sheds visual layers of inauthenticity as its plot develops. "We wanted it to look like a show in kindergarten, when you have those cardboard waves," says Shawn, chugging her arms around in a circular motion. To get that effect, the show's director Jeffrey Schmidt (the mind behind Theatre Three's stunning production of The Farnsworth Invention), made a series of hot air balloons that carry the central characters throughout the story, while suspending audience disbelief.

They begin rudimentary. "One is a shopping cart he's turned into a junkyard time machine. Another is a little balloon," says Federico. And while assembled to quite obviously resemble props, "there's a charmingness to them," says Shawn.

They refuse the Observer even a tiny peek (Schmidt would "kill them"), but its promised that the final mode of space/time abandon is appropriately spectacular for the show's finale.

If the next three weekends go well (the show closes on December 15), the flame could be turned up for On The Eve. Its authors would like to travel the production around, showing it off in other cities. We hope they do. After all, it isn't often you hear a musical described as "a little Bill and Ted meets 1984 with a dash of Back to the Future." Plus, you can rock out to it.

Get tickets for On The Eve here. Closest parking for the theater is Gate 5 of Fair Park.

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Jamie Laughlin
Contact: Jamie Laughlin