“The first day, we all pointed to our countries,” wrote Saudi-born astronaut Bin Salman Al-Saud after his milestone voyage in 1985. “The third or fourth day, we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day, we were aware of only One Earth.”
The discontinuation of NASA’s manned space program left many of us here on Earth feeling grounded, even isolated from the sense of wonder that seemed within our reach not so long ago. For those of us who lived our dreams through the explorations of the astronauts, the music and poetry had been replaced by the silence of space — and a nostalgia for a future that had somehow slipped away.
On the evening of Friday, April 27 — and in observance of Earth Day 2012 — the Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University is transformed into a vehicle for an epic voyage of re-discovery; a “Poetic Vision of Earth from Space” in spectacular visuals with an ensemble of world-class musicians and performers presented under the name Bella Gaia (Beautiful Earth).
Conceived and created (in collaboration with NASA) by filmmaker and musician Kenji Williams, Bella Gaia is a “Living Atlas” multimedia presentation described as “a new immersive theater experience, a portal for an audience to develop a deeper connection and empathy with our planet Earth.” Employing high definition projections of breathtaking scenes, realized through state of the art (and science) photography as well as computer generated images alongside live musicians, Bella Gaia offers an astronaut’s-eye view of a world that’s changing right before our eyes. It’s a tour of a still-young planet that’s forever in motion as it enters an epoch called the Anthropocene — a time in which the challenges of human-driven climate change and the demands of burgeoning population become the agents of environmental change.
Serving as navigator for this voyage, and present on the Pollak stage, will be director, composer and classically trained violinist Williams with a live ensemble of internationally acclaimed musicians & performers. Playing a richly layered fusion of electronica and world music, the five multi-instrumental musicians (violin, voice, Egyptian flute, saxophone, Indian tabla & voice, Japanese Koto) bring authentic rhythms and melodies from Japan, India, Egypt, and New York City into one fantastic musical tour of the world hopping from one country to another, traveling to the next by returning to orbit and coasting along with astronauts in space. Dancers representing Egyptian Bellydance and Indian dance further deepen the cultural expressions in the Bella Gaia experience.
During the 8 p.m. event, presented on the area’s largest HD screen (the setting for Monmouth University’s popular series of broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera and London’s National Theatre), passengers on this journey will look upon the smallest living things in our amazingly diverse ecosystems, and gaze at the bright blue ball of Earth from just outside the thin blue band of our fragile atmosphere. They’ll travel from the farthest-flung points on the globe, to a vantage point that’s been occupied by a mere handful of humans. It’s a place beyond politics, beyond the gravitational pull of our most pressing everyday concerns — a place of hope and beauty that puts our all and everything into clear perspective.
To purchase tickets, please contact the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at www.monmouth.edu/arts. To schedule an interview, please contact Eileen Chapman at 732-571-3512.
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Media contact: Petra Ludwig at 732-263-5507