Tandy Beal’s representation of the afterlife looks downright inviting
“HereAfterHere: A Self-guided Tour of Eternity” is a new musical produced by Tandy Beal that deals with a topic intimately connected to each and every one of us—death and the afterlife. Logically, we know this point in our lives is inevitable, yet no one seems to want to face the macabre topic head on. “HereAfterHere” will force you to confront your destiny in an honest and at-times humorous way and will leave you pondering the possibility of the afterlife like you never have before.
This multi-media extravaganza was the brainchild of local director and choreographer Tandy Beal, who has been directing and choreographing a dance company and a circus company for many years. This talented dancer and director has produced shows as far and wide as Moscow, Abu Dhabi and Basil. Beal has worked with renowned figures such as Frank Zappa and Tim Burton and is thrilled to produce a show that will tackle a subject as intimate as death.
Not only is “HereAfterHere” a musical, it is a multimedia extravaganza combining the best of video artists, personal interviews, acting, magic and music that will truly make spectators ponder what the afterlife is all about. “It starts out like it’s a movie,” Beal says. “The whole show will keep you off balance. We did interviews at the Santa Cruz Public Library and had people as diverse as doctors, World War II vets, children and the homeless describe their ideas of the afterlife. Then we chose the widest range of ideas from these real people, many of whom are Santa Cruzans.” Also included in the show will be 16 multi-generational dancers between the ages of 6 to 62. Also involved are four actors, a circus artist and a magician. Original music and videography will also be key features in this performance.
An unexpected feature of the show will be audience participation. According to Beal, approximately one hour before the show starts, a video booth will be open where people can collect their thoughts, come in, and do a one minute statement on what they think happens after death. “When we did it at the public library, we had a very wide range of ideas on what people thought,” Beal says. “One homeless man told a story that was astonishing. He said ‘I think that each one of us has a star that knows our name. And when it calls our name, the moment I hear my star calling my name, that’s the moment I get to die.’ It was one of those wonderfully breathtaking intuitions if you will.” Beal says that here in Santa Cruz there seems to be a common theme of central unity, or becoming united. She goes on to share that she hadn’t realized quite how intimate the topic is, until she thought about the fact that she had never before asked people she’s known for years, “What do you think happens after you die?” Beal relays that audience participation will also be utilized to open up a community conversation. “We want to open up a dialogue with people in the community to see what the general opinion is on life after death,” Beal says. Though she is determined to keep one aspect of audience participation a secret, Beal encourages the audience to bring their cell phones. “What we are trying to do is keep the audience off guard by doing things that will keep surprising you,” she says. “The aspect of surprise, like death, always comes at the wrong time and usually a little too early. I think people are concerned that this is going to be a heavy performance. But I’ve worked really hard to make sure there’s a light touch and I want people to enter this discussion as it is—to question together whether the topic should be heavy or not. There are a couple parts that are almost slapstick funny—after all we need to be able to laugh at it and feel our humanness in all the ways: tender, thoughtful, questioning, generous and frightened. As a theater director, what’s important to me is that I get the audience to relax into the question,” Beal says.
Depending on one’s stage of life, Beal understands that the performance will affect different people in myriad ways. “You don’t think about death when you are 20,” she says. “You think about it a different way when you are in the second part of your life. As you get older, you also get more involved in how you give back to your larger community. I feel like this work really can do this. Sometimes I feel that art for art’s sake isn’t enough for me. I feel this project is gathering the things that are most meaningful to me. How do I make a difference within the community and use my art as a springboard?” she says.
Considering the pessimistic nature of the performance, Beal has received a handful of less than positive reactions. “Somebody put something on the website, ‘Death should not be about this.’ It triggers people’s opinion. When we did the overview, I have never heard so many people talk back to me about the show. At first after 40 years of making shows I have never had that many people come up to me with their thoughts. That’s when I realized that this topic triggered something very deep in the psyche. People said that there was not enough anger and sorrow depicted. But it’s not about that; it is about the ultimate imaginative leap—what happens after. If we can think in that larger imagination, it brings us to a place to think about non-human experience. It brings us to the big questions,” she says. “Another level of experimenting is just having the community wrestle with the idea of what happens after we die. Death is the last taboo and people don’t know how to talk about death without getting embarrassed or worried or tongue tied, we are confused by it,” Beal concludes.
‘’HereAfterHere: A Self-guided Tour of Eternity” will be performed Friday and Saturday, Sept. 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 12 at 3 p.m. at Cabrillo Crocker Theater, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. Tickets are $12-$35 at 420-5260 or santacruztickets.com. Tickets for Hospice benefit on Sept. 10 are $50, 430-3082.