In the spring of 2015, Eric Hamme was perusing the new selections at Fingerprints music store when something unlikely caught his eye: the iconic names of Tom Stoppard, the British playwright, and Pink Floyd gracing the cover of a thin book simply titled “Darkside.”
A 2013 radio play written by Stoppard for BBC Radio 2, the script incorporated Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon in honor of its 40th anniversary. Using the music as its backbone, the story follows a Wizard of Oz-like thought experiment exploring themes of morality and shared humanity in the face of corruption and greed.
“It was two worlds that I love coming together: theater and rock music,” says Hamme, Garage Theatre co-founder and director of the production. “And it seemed to me that it could be done on stage. I thought it would be really interesting.”
And so, with a hard-earned green light from Stoppard’s crew, the Garage Theatre premiered the first-ever stage adaptation of “Darkside” in 2015 to much acclaim. This fall, it has returned for a reprisal at the Found Theater in Long Beach. It will run every weekend—Thursday, Friday and Saturday—until Dec. 1.
Inside the dimly lit theater, white curtains and drapes hang overhead, covered in scribbles of unfinished math equations, Chinese characters and phrases that suggest an overarching riddle that has yet to be solved. The wide projection of an oncoming train enters the frame, and the journey begins.
The story follows the character of Emily, a philosophy student, and her quest for truth and the greater good. Along the way, she meets a series of eccentric characters that offer her their own two cents on the matters of altruism—the Boy, the Ethics Man, the Fat Man, the Wise Man, the Witchfinder, the Politician and the Banker.
“[These themes] were relevant three years ago, but three years ago we lived in a political climate that, at least in our bubble, was full of hope and felt like we were headed in the right direction,” Hamme says. “Now, it’s a different environment. I think we’re all very aware of that. And so now the show takes on a whole new meaning. It’s still so relevant, but the ominous elements of it are a little more real.”
“The acts of kindness are becoming seemingly less every day,” adds Matthew Anderson, Garage Theatre co-founder who plays the role of Witchfinder. “In our little bubble that we live in, most of the people we know are kind, but on a bigger scale it seems like those kinds of things are less celebrated and looked at funny when you start to fear the caravan or whoever is next.”
Because the script was not originally written for the stage, Hamme and the production crew had free reign in how to visually portray the world of “Darkside,” including the characters, costume and set design. The hour-long show makes strong use of lighting and visuals, which, paired with Pink Floyd melodies weaving in and out overhead, lends itself to a surreal experience.
The songs from the album are laced throughout the show, much like a narrator that drives the story forward. With additional sound design by Anderson, disembodied voices and ambient soundscapes float about as if in a dream.
“I saw Pink Floyd in 1994 on their last tour at the Rose Bowl and it was very moving to me,” Hamme says. “I still remember much about it and I wanted to bring those elements into it. I wanted it to feel more like an installation as opposed to just a play.”
The Garage Theatre was founded in 2001 by a group of theater undergrads at Long Beach State with the intention of putting on affordable shows they wanted to see. Hamme and Anderson are the two remaining founders, and they have kept the DIY spirit alive and well with hands-on involvement in every production.
“I think music and theater are one of the last human experiences where there’s an exchange of energy between the performer and the audience and they affect each other directly in real time,” Hamme says. “And I think there’s a human desire for that.”
“Darkside: Incorporating The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd” will be performed this upcoming Friday and Saturday and next week at the Found Theater. For tickets, visit www.thegaragetheatre.org. The Found Theater is located at 599 Long Beach Blvd.
Free news isn’t cheap.
We believe that everyone should have access to important local news, for free.
However, it costs money to keep a local news organization like this one—independently owned and operated here in Long Beach, without the backing of any national corporation—alive.
If independent local news is important to you, please consider supporting us with a monthly or one-time contribution. Read more.