If you've ever wanted to be able to hear other people's thoughts, a little taste of what it might be like is coming your way.
"Morning, Noon, Evening, Night" is a unique play for several reasons, among them is that it provides an audio experience in which the audience is able hear the thoughts of main character, said Matthew Schlief, the play's director and assistant professor of scenic design at Colorado Mesa University.
With wireless bone conduction headphones that rest on the cheekbones and use vibration to send sound directly to the cochlea, Schlief is able to send a character's pre-recorded "thoughts" to members of the audience. And voila! Telepathy!
OK, not really, but Schlief and actress Christina Proper will do their best to make it seem that way during "Morning, Noon, Evening, Night," which will feature 12 20-minute performances over three days.
Those performances will be at 6 a.m., noon, 6 p.m. and midnight Friday through Sunday, Aug. 23–25. (Technically, the last performance will begin in the first minutes of Monday, Aug. 26.)
The audiences for each performance will be limited to 20 people as that is the number of wireless headsets available. the performances will take place outside as the audience follows the main character through the show and across part of CMU's campus.
Except for a few subtle variations, every performance will be the same, but the audience's perception of the play's plot could differ dramatically given the time they choose to see it, Schlief said.
He likened it to arriving at a house or hotel in the thick dark of night, then awakening to see it in the brilliant light of day and thinking, "Oh! This is what it looks like."
Yes, it does all seems rather complicated, so let's take a step back to where "Morning, Noon, Evening, Night" began: The Prague Quadrennial in 2015.
Schlief had a friend who had a piece in the festival, which is the largest festival of theater and stage design of its kind in the world.
"It was amazing, and I wanted to be part of it," said Schlief, who has designed scenery, lighting or projections for well over a hundred productions.
In 2017, while teaching at Texas Tech University, Schlief and several graduate students began developing an idea for the 2019 Prague Quadrennial's "site specific" performance category.
"Site specific" means the play must be written for particular spot crucial to the story, Schlief said, and in this case it was written for a park area near the festival site in Prague.
The idea of time of day impacting perception of the same story, as well as the use of bone conduction headphones in storytelling, caught the attention of festival organizers.
And so "Morning, Noon, Evening, Night" was one of 22 projects chosen for the category from around the world, said Schlief, who moved in 2018 to CMU where he did some fundraising and rehearsing for the project.
The Prague version of the play featured two actors, Proper and Eric Eidson, and told the story of a couple at a crossroads of career and relationship.
While the audience heard the actors' "inner thoughts" through the headphones, they also could hear the sounds around them in the Prague park — wildlife, passersby, footsteps, wind — since the headphones don't obstruct the ear canal.
The play was offered over three days during the Prague Quadrennial, June 6–16, and Schlief noticed one woman who attended all four time options.
He asked her if the play actually was different — as they hoped it would be — depending on when she saw it. She responded, half jokingly, "It was like night and day."
At midnight, she thought the couple's relationship was over. At noon, she was hopeful and thought they would work it out.
Divergent reactions are what Schlief is hopeful audiences at CMU will experience as well despite changes to the plot.
Eidson was unable to come to Grand Junction, so Proper and Schlief decided to make "Morning, Noon, Evening, Night" a one-woman show for the CMU setting. Proper will play the same character, but at an earlier stage in her life while attending college and needing to make a decision regarding career and relationship, Schlief said.
The plot of "Morning, Noon, Evening, Night" will offer layers of nostalgia for those in the audience recalling their university years and will be relatable for college students who will be back in classes at CMU, he said.
The way "Morning, Noon, Evening, Night" is set up, it can easily be modified and Schlief is looking into options for taking it to other locations after the CMU performances.
He also is interested in how audiences Grand Junction will react to the experience. As for actually hearing other people's "thoughts," enjoy it while it lasts.