For Urban Guerilla, the lovelorn protagonist in Gregory Walker's techno-theater piece xy, the search for that special someone is played out as a Doom-like challenge. Against a backdrop of bleeps, beats and animated beasts, our hero navigates the various levels of a romance-themed video game -- where he must meet the challenges of the Internet chat room, the realm of the personal ad and, finally, actual physical confrontation.
"It's basically the story of the mating game in the 21st century, a kind of techno opera," says Walker, a music professor at the University of Colorado at Denver who's known primarily for his classical work as an electric violinist. "I thought of the technology as a metaphor for the virtual world we live in. It seems like the relationship between a man and a woman used to be organic. Or maybe it never was. But now it feels like you have to master these skill levels if you are to obtain access to the opposite sex."
The narrative of xy -- named for the female and male chromosomes, respectively -- can best be described as loose. Like the games it's modeled on, the plot can be determined by which room the characters choose to enter. Crafting this hyper-real reality necessitated the use of a variety of mediums -- from music, to animation and video, to big, giant puppets. Actors from San Francisco's Second Wind Theatre Company share stage time with the creations of Big Nazo, a puppeteer from Rhode Island. Members of the audience might also find themselves unwitting participants in the story, as video cameras and animation technology will be constantly juxtaposing images on a giant video screen in the center of the stage. With Internet DJ Chad Carrier, Walker will provide the amphetamine-fueled soundtrack, a pounding, ambient score that seems pulled from a rave rather than from either of Walker's other domains, the classroom and the orchestra pit.
"It's definitely an alter-ego project for me," he says. "The more straight stuff always has appeal and serves a function, but I like to play with this music to create a balance."
This time, the scales tip heavily toward the bizarre.