Sunday, November 1, 2009

Year of the Flood Event

I was very fortunate this past Friday to have the opportunity to attend one of the few Year of the Flood Events.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, this is the promotional tour for Margaret Atwood's new book, The Year of the Flood, and it's unlike any promotional book tour you've ever seen or heard.  Rather than a typical reading and Q&A, The Year of the Flood Event is a multimedia presentation, narrated by Atwood, dramatically read by actors and accompanied by live music, in a vein similar to a holiday cantata or a medieval mystery play

What I found so fascinating about this event was how it evolved in an organic manner, which is thematically consistent with the book.  Central to the plot of The Year of the Flood is a new religion called God's Gardeners, who strive to unite faith, science and nature, and like any other religion God's Gardeners have their own hymns.  According to Atwood, her agent's partner was so inspired by the hymns in the manuscript that he began setting them to music, and when Atwood heard his compositions, she thought they were a perfect match for the narrative, and the idea evolved from there.

And what was really fantastic if that they made every attempt to make this tour eco-friendly, especially considering that this is a major theme of the book.  Rather having a traveling cast and musicians, the only participant to travel with the production was Atwood herself; nearly every actor and musician was a local artist, selected by those producing locally (the one exception was that for this production, we were lucky to have Orville Stoeber, the composer, serve as guitarist and lead vocalist).  Also, each production was allowed to freely interpret the script and score, so that each performance was unique.  So, not only did they minimize fuel emissions by not using a traveling company, they are also highlighting local talent.

This event was a great introduction to the narrative, giving me enough to get interested in reading the book (I only purchased it a few days ago, and so didn't have the opportunity to read it in advance), but it didn't give too much away.

For the event, they only performed seven of the fourteen hymns featured in the book.  I was pleased to learn that Mr. Stoeber produced a CD of all 14 hymns, which I bought immediately after Ms. Atwood signed my book (I was fortunate to be in the front of the line), and I am looking forward to listening to the whole thing!

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