New play takes Interlochen students to Detroit with award-winning mentors and alumni

  • Alumnus Don Dixon's concept of the character "Kenzoku."

Academy Award-winning composer Luis Resto and several other noteworthy artists join students from Interlochen Arts Academy at DeVries & Company in Detroit this Nov. 4 for an informal and family-friendly reading of Kenzoku, a new, original play.

Resto may be best known for his Oscar-winning work with rapper Eminem on the song “Lose Yourself” in the 2002 feature film 8 Mile, and has been a frequent collaborator with students at the world-renowned fine arts high school. Along with the talented composer, professional animator Don Dixon will be sketching during the performance, and award-winning author Anne-Marie Oomen (“Love, Sex, and 4-H,” “Uncoded Woman”) will also be present. Award-winning filmmaker Matthew Arnold (The Long Green Line) will film the event, as well.

This illustrious group of artists have collaborated with Interlochen’s Comparative Arts program to create a new play from the ground up. Combining film, creative writing, music and more, this event will be a reading and run-through of the play, Kenzoku, which tells the tale of dedicated lab workers in a dystopian future tasked with caring for the Kenzoku, the friendship egg. However, in this fractured society, the intricacies of friendship, along with the knowledge of procreation itself, have all been lost, leaving nothing but myth and legend. Working in an abandoned dance club, the lab workers accidentally hatch Kenzoku, who is awakened by the musical sounds created by the researchers using vintage techno-instruments.

“It's a story about friendship in times of tension, surrounded by music and motion,” says Nicola Conraths-Lange, Director of Comparative Arts at Interlochen. “Kenzoku is a collaboration between our Comparative Arts, Music, Visual Arts and Motion Picture Arts students, our academic faculty and the creative forces of many of our school’s talented guest artists, mentors and alumni.”

With Interlochen’s Comparative Arts division, Resto has been leading the project throughout the school year. In addition to being a Detroit-based Grammy and Academy Award-winning musician, Resto is also an Interlochen Arts Camp alumnus. After several teaching residencies with Interlochen, he has joined with his longtime recording partner, DJ and producer Salar Ansari, to create Kenzoku’s beats with drum machine applications.

As part of the project, various programs in Interlochen’s academic and fine arts departments have combined to express aspects of the school’s theme of “Friendship through the Universal Language of the Arts.” Brian McCall, Instructor of History and Political Science, has led exercises on empathy and compassion as a force for artistic creation by studying social justice aspects relating to Detroit and Flint, and Resto and Ansari have explored the history of electronic music with students, developing an understanding of the socio-political underpinnings of commercial music and how these relate to Detroit. Dr. Mary Ellen Newport, chair of Interlochen’s math-science division, led students in explorations of evolution to better understand the development of organisms, and add life to the project’s theme and look.

With this mentoring, students composed an all original score for Kenzoku, featuring vintage instruments and synthesizers such as the theremin and the moog. In addition, award-winning author and former Interlochen faculty member Anne-Marie Oomen has led the comparative arts majors through the task of writing the play. Students developed the fictional character of Kenzoku, created and developed stories around friendship, and wrote monologues and dialogues surrounding the concept. Yet another Interlochen alumnus, animator Don Dixon, worked with Interlochen Instructor of Visual Arts, Peter Abrami, in helping students integrate sound and animation into a ten-minute video that will be used in the performance.

“Interlochen sees the artist as a visionary force for positive change,” says Conraths-Lange. “By integrating academic and artistic viewpoints in the learning process, we hope to ignite a global conversation addressing our most pressing societal concerns through a social, scientific, humanistic and artistic lens.”

Kenzoku is a free presentation, and will be performed Sat., Nov. 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the 3rd floor of the DeVries Cheese factory building, located at 2468 Market St, Detroit, Michigan 48207. For more information, contact Nicola Conraths-Lange at nicola.conraths@interlochen.org.

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