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Peering Inside the Band’s Life: A Fresh Perspective on Stage Drama

A fresh production has landed on Broadway featuring music inspired by Arcade Fire’s tracks, chronicling the tumultuous journey of crafting a rock and roll album throughout the 1970s.

The fictional band at the core of the story bears a striking resemblance to Fleetwood Mac – comprised of two couples, one American and one British, whose relationships unravel amidst the album’s creation.

However, for playwright David Adjmi and his team, the narrative delves deep into the sacrifices and triumphs inherent in the artistic process.

Drawing inspiration from bands of the 1970s and the era’s recording studios, Adjmi adopts a documentary-style approach to the play, inviting the audience to witness the behind-the-scenes drama unfold.

The stage design for Stereophonic mirrors a functional recording studio, complete with a weathered mixing console, a 24-track tape machine, and expansive glass windows offering glimpses into the soundproof room where the musicians jam and listen through their headphones. The authenticity of the vintage equipment is so palpable that director Daniel Aukin remarked, “I’ve learned recently that the song ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ was recorded on it.”

Throughout the three-hour performance, spectators are immersed in the lives of the band members and engineers. They observe the musicians bonding, indulging in junk food, engaging in conversations about films, and engaging in occasional disputes.

Adjmi revealed that he embarked on writing Stereophonic during a period of disillusionment with the theater, reflecting his internal struggles through the characters’ interpersonal conflicts.

The transformation of actors into musicians was a pivotal challenge for the production. By enlisting individuals with musical aptitude and the ability to embody complex characters, the team navigated the complexities of this task.

Will Brill, portraying the band’s bassist, shared his experience of learning to play the instrument just before rehearsals commenced, highlighting the intensive process of skill development during the production timeline.

The evolution of the actors into a cohesive band was a gradual process, with initial focus placed on musical rehearsals rather than acting. As part of their preparation, the quintet even performed as an opening act for Will Butler at a Brooklyn club, a transformative experience that solidified their bond and understanding of the band dynamic.

In a poignant final scene, the audience witnesses the lone engineer onstage, manipulating the faders of the vintage recording console. This introspective moment, as Brill described, encapsulates a sense of solitary reflection akin to an artist contemplating their creative journey.

Image: Julieta Cervantes / Stereophonic

The play unfolds the band’s year-long odyssey in crafting an album, offering a profound exploration of the artistic process and human dynamics within a creative endeavor.

The emotional resonance of the production is encapsulated in the poignant final scene, where the engineer, surrounded by the vintage recording equipment, symbolizes the introspective essence of artistic creation.

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