Sunday, October 14, 2007

Roy Faudree's Road to Nowhere

"The performers are not armoured with professional skills," says Roy Faudree, director of Young@Heart, the touring musical featuring senior citizens who first came together at a social club in Northampton, Massachusetts. "But I'm kind of a hick, I like that down home quality."

Faudree, whose other theatre work includes time with New York avant garde company, The Wooster Group, first got involved with the choir back in 1982, when he was invited to create a show with the local senior choir. The experience changed the way he looked at amateur performers.

"The problem with professionals is that they are all about thinking where what they are doing will lead," says Faudree. "At least part of why they want it to look good is to help them get their next piece of work. But you can just get so tired of that."

The members of the Young@Heart choir, who range in age from 71-88, have a completely different attitude, according to Faudree.

"What we have here is people who are enjoying doing the show for what it is, they are enjoying that moment on stage, that experience. They are not thinking about what they will do next, they are thinking about that performance."

That kind of attitude towards putting on a show has a knock-on effect for audience, who, the director suggests: "are not there to judge how it is being done…they are there are just enjoying the experience."

Of course, the group's success, which has seen them touring all over the world for nearly two decades, has been based on more than just a nice attitude. Their selection of music is also unique, bending backwards songs by everyone from Talking Heads, to Sonic Youth, and more recently Outcast's Hey Ya!, to give familiar songs startling new meanings.

It is will be familiar for anyone who knows with The Zimmers' My Generation, or indeed, the Langley School Choir's interpretation of 70s pop music. As it happens, Young@Heart predated the Zimmers by a couple of decades. But Faudree is not particularly interested in 'who
was first'.

"It is something that's in the zeitgeist anyway, isn't it? Years ago lots of people could be doing the same thing in different places and nobody would know about it. Now with YouTube you can immediately see things that are popping up all over…"

While Young@Heart is clearly a celebration of defying stereotypes, the choir's latest show, The Road to Nowhere, as the title might suggest contains a little bit more of the realities than previous outings.

"The previous show, Road to Heaven was just an unbelievable affirming of the human spirit. And we wanted to get a little darker this time. t's good to be optimistic. But there are some things about the final decades that are harsh too"


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