CCA students produce ‘[OK.],’ technology-inspired rock opera

Whether traveling by train or bus or plane, passengers often sit in solitude, wired to their music devices, checking their cellphones, browsing their iPads, communicating with technology, yet isolated from each other.

This irony of modern human behavior inspired the 1997 album “OK Computer” by Radiohead — clearly ahead of its time — which contains 12 songs built on the theme of isolation and technology.

Two Canyon Crest Academy vocal conservatory students, Olivia Capizzi and John Paul Welch, were inspired by this paradox to create, produce and direct a rock opera that includes dancers, choreographers, theater students, musicians and all of the vocal conservatory performing to the music from Radiohead’s entire album.

“[OK.]” will be staged in CCA’s Proscenium Theatre at 4 and 7 p.m. Thursday, May 7, and at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 9. Admission is free.

The theme of isolation is conveyed through a theatrical story constructed around passengers traveling by plane. John Paul and Olivia co-created the story over a weekend in January.

“We presented our story to Ms. Whatoff (Envision vocal music coordinator) the next day at school and she liked the idea,” Olivia recalled. “She told us that we basically had free rein and that she’d be there to help, but it was our show and we would have to do all the work behind it.”

That vote of confidence, supported by Jeremy Sewell (technical theater director) set the two in motion to take on the roles of creative writers, producers and music and stage directors.

Individual groups of students have been rehearsing independently, said Olivia. The entire group will come together during technical week beginning May 4.

Olivia also has a role in the show as one of seven principal soloists playing the role of seven passengers.

“The idea is that all these characters are on a plane and they all end up there from different circumstances, bringing their own stories,” said John Paul about the plot.

“We see them sitting on stage in these seats, like in a plane. When they are telling their story they get up out of their seat and come forward to face the audience to share their experience.”

A major focus of the show is the attempt “to communicate a lack of communication,” said John Paul.

“The idea is that all of these people who are on the plane are collectively experiencing similar problems and stresses of life, yet paradoxically they are going through this all by themselves, as they don’t interact, they don’t share their stories,” he explained.

When they do share their story, it is to the audience, which gets an insight into their individual internal dramas.

One story is based on two lovers who are running away from home. The scene is set to Radiohead’s musical track, “Exit Music,” with two dancers on stage who are symbolically telling the same story through movement.

Both John Paul and Olivia appreciate the creative aspect of Radiohead’s work and the bold statements that the band makes with its music.

“They just have such a powerful message and impact,” commented John Paul. “In ‘OK Computer’ the message has to do with isolation and technology. I think that is really relevant today. With all the recent technological advances, it is very easy to be disconnected and connected at the same time.”

They also appreciate the encouragement from Whatoff and Sewell. “They both have been absolutely incredible and very supportive in helping us get through this process,” said Olivia. “But Ms. Whatoff is also really careful to make sure that it is still our project and that we’re the ones carrying the responsibility,” she stressed.

CCA’s Proscenium Theatre is at 5951 Village Center Loop Road, San Diego.

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