Purple State Purple Haze

Written by Jonathan Tignor

Within American political commentary, satire has become a formidable way of pleasurably dispersing information – the tradition is evident from a variety of sources, such as Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, or even The Onion. Moreover, this election season has been especially ripe with nonsensical and laughable situations, filling mainstream media with a wide array of humor to draw on. However, Purple State Purple Haze seeks something beyond affirmation and simple humor; through music, interviews and theatrics, the concert experience hopes to seize the audience with raw and jarring perspectives.

Purple State Purple Haze, a project long in the making (since January of this year), draws inspiration from the work of musical theatre composer Michael Friedman in addition to a multi-disciplinary approach. Through the collaboration of the Music, Theatre, and Political Science departments, the concert attempts to create a powerful commentary on the United States’ current political climate.

Originally suggested as an excursion for music students to interact with Friedman through a semester-long adjunct situation, the project eventually evolved into a more student-led initiative to bridge departmental divides and answer the question, how do we have events that are compelling and engage students?

Purple State Purple Haze cast and crew members rehearse. Photo by Tyler Sym
Purple State Purple Haze cast and crew members rehearse. Photo by Tyler Sym

“We hope to be satirical, honest, and provocative. Instead of repeating the scandals and clichés of mainstream media, we seek to delve into real people’s relationships with the political climate,” says Andy Post, a recent CC graduate involved with the production. In preparation, Post and other students travelled across the country following the primaries and gathering interviews. The show will present a diverse range of views, from Trump Supporters in Colorado Springs to urban farmers in New Orleans. “I’m actually really excited and trying not to think too much about catering to the CC kid or the Colorado Springs Liberal/Conservative . . . it is sort of liberating in a way because we get to use the people’s words.”

Unlike your typical script or screenplay, Purple State Purple Haze is unoriginal in the most magnificent way. Using exclusively the words of others, the script consists of direct quotes and actual experiences of real people across the country. In order to capture the essence of the United States’ messy election cycle experience, Post and his fellow collaborators arranged the performance and main characters around these interviews in the way they found most compelling. “Sort of like arranging in music, we’re not writing something original, we’re covering these people’s stories trying to put a cool spin on it.” In doing so, they move away from the grit of the election and shine a light on American’s personal lives.

“The whole premise was that it was going to be about the election, but we heard so much more about their lives and their stories than ‘What do you think about Hilary or Trump?’ . . . We hope our performance encourages people to ask: “how did we get here?” on issues like immigration and race relations,” describes Post.

Whether your interests lie in politics, music or theatre, Purple State Purple Haze offers an eclectic approach to presenting intriguing narratives. “It’s an opportunity to see a lot of people’s talents rolled up into one cohesive and new art form.” Beyond that, the concert offers the opportunity to experience a new and innovative medium of theatrical presentation.

Purple State Purple Haze debuts live this Saturday (November 5th) at 7 p.m. in Armstrong Theatre. Don’t miss it!

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