What is the lifetime track of an entrepreneur? As someone who is on the path to become one, all that I can hope for is success. What do I mean by success? For me it is one five-letter word…MONEY. Not in the sense of becoming a millionaire but having financial security. But if you already have financial security and have accomplished the life goals you have set for yourself, where do you go next? One opinion is to a work on a project you can put your whole heart behind. This is how “Basetrack” was created. Although I am not 100% sure what the project hopes to accomplish, my take away from the performance is that it is a project about what it means to be in the military in this day and age, and uses modern technology, both musically and visually, to tell this story.
“Basetrack” is the most recent project produced by Anne Hamburger, who has worked in several very diverse worlds within the arts: starting her own non-profit theatre in New York City, and creating an international division at Disney to produce the stage shows, fireworks and parades for the parks all over the globe. She recently left Disney and has become involved with “Basetrack,” a project that confronts a universal topic: the military. War has shaped the United States since it’s inception, and is a major component of our history. However, due to advancements in technology, the creation and popularity of social media, and the broadened spectrum of cable channels and news sources, the variety of sources and availability of information is higher than its ever been. In comparison to the 1960s and 70s, when Walter Cronkite’s nightly news broadcast was showing the first color images of the war in Vietnam, today we are bombarded with not only news casts and radio, but pictures and video, tweets and blog posts, all 24 hours a day, providing almost instant information about what is going on around the globe. To me, this was the thing “Basetrack” spotlighted the most. It uses the juxtaposition of projected pictures, video and recorded interviews of both service men in combat and their wives and/or girlfriends at home. The media is projected on a screen over a stage where a quartet of live musicians orchestrates the score by mixing live, deejayed and pre-produced musical elements together. In addition, there are 2 live actors, portraying a couple, who tell their story through both live action narration and a live video feed from a computer camera, which is then projected on to the screen above while the audience can see the actress sitting on stage and talking into the camera.
My biggest fear about producing a work of this kind is that it seems to perpetuate untrue stereotypes about the military, especially the roles of the males and females and what roles they play in the military. This piece did not do anything to change the view point that men are those who go to war and women are the ones who stay home and take care of the family while the man is away. Not only has this story been told, it is not an accurate portrait of the military today where women make up 14.6% of all active duty personnel. For a performance that has so many other evolutionary, cutting edge technical and musical elements, I was disappointed that this part of the narrative did not evolve as well.
Although I am not denying that the project is well produced, having visually stunning media elements and a hypnotic, enchanting score, from an entrepreneur’s point of view, I wonder if that is enough. I enjoyed the music, but overall I did not find it necessary for musicians to be live onstage. The impact of their score would have been the same if it was prerecorded and then the track was played digitally. I also felt like the whole performance did not need to be live. I did not feel any more connected to the characters that were live on stage than I was to those who were shown in the videos. If anything, I felt more drawn to the people in the videos than I did to the characters on stage, mostly because their story felt too scripted where the interviews felt more “real.” Because of these things, if I produced this piece I might have made the whole project a video, widening my audience base as the film could be shown in more places and to more people.
This leads me to a final unanswered question: how is the producer going to measure success for an unconventional piece like this?