By Kendra Jones
Astronauts. Scientists. An old man in a crosswalk.
Emergence, by Patrick Olson, invites us on a journey exploring big ideas revolving around science. Are we alive? How do we perceive things? “When” are we? From where does human love come? What led to human existence? Are things really as they seem?
Emergence Creator and Performer Patrick Olson took moments throughout the show to talk directly to the audience, once during which he explained the inspiration behind his show. A live performance was formed from a single creative’s own music recordings, the knowledge and inspiration found through a career in scientific publishing, the evident passion to present scientific ideas.
Olson’s brief, seemingly insignificant encounter with an old man in a crosswalk roused the energy and intention in sharing his music with the world. While Emergence included these interludes accompanied by dancing, this telling of Emergence’s back story was the single part of the performance that I connected with the most.
As the lights are engaged and curtain drawn, Olson lays on the floor in a bright and bold orange-to-hot-pink suit, limbs outstretched. Fog machines puff and strobe lights briefly wave through the audience.
“Am I alive?”
I found myself caught between a sixth-grade science class watching a Bill Nye episode, in a network of supporters for some culture leader, listening to a daily horoscope podcast, and at a performance of They Might Be Giants, rocking to their song “Why Does the Sun Shine?”
The row in front of me began head bobbing when Patrick broke out into his own original songs, “Like This” and “In My Mind.” Both Olson’s musical numbers and spoken word explored the human experience and how we perceive even the seemingly simplest aspects of life: color, direction, distance, time.
The questions, pondering, and effort presented themselves–but establishing an equilibrium of professional dancers, singers, and a live band, along with the spoken word and singing of the show’s creator himself made it difficult to participate in a serious reflection of the world as we believe we know it.
I wanted it to be mind-bending and experimental and I wanted to question my existence. I wanted the performative ideas and psychedelic elements to go farther–to readily, eagerly close my eyes when summoned and immerse myself into the experience;
but the mesmerizing experience didn’t meet me.
Though, while leaving the theater with a friend who had recently moved to NYC, and while later walking in our neighborhood, I did find myself pointing in directions of streets: left, right, then we’ll go straight for two blocks.
“That’s our spatial paradigm, that’s what we assume is normal. It ‘seems’ like we exist in a world that is familiar and stationary, with fixed and absolute positions.”
Is anything really as it seems?
WITH: Patrick Olson (Creator/Performer), Cherry Davis (Vocals), Samara Brown (Vocals), Miya Bass (Vocals), Steven Styles (Bass/Band Leader), Nadav Hezi (Guitar), Jordan Coker (Drums), Thomas Nickell (Keys), Summer Sheldrick (Dancer), Dana Liebezeit (Dancer), Lavy Cavaleire (Dancer).
Emergence will run from through January 7, 2024 at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theater at The Pershing Square Signature Center. It will play Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 PM, Saturday at 8 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM.