Karen Jantsch is the super star Long Center programmer responsible for Trailer Food Tuesdays, All Summer Long and many of our other exciting, progressive offerings…including “The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer,” opening next Tuesday. The show runs April 29-May 3.
In January of 2013, I visited Philadelphia for the International Performing Arts for Youth Showcase (or IPAY). I’d really been looking forward to this conference in particular since we’d acted as the host city the year before, and I was excited to experience it all as an attendant as opposed to a hostess. My favorite part about IPAY is the amount of amazing international work that you get to see, and did I ever see work. 21 full-length pieces for a range of ages and audiences are presented over a four day period…it was intense.
On day three, I was especially excited to see “The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer” by an Australian artist named Tim Watts. Beyond the buzz I’d heard about the piece, Australia has a reputation in the Arts world as being a major exporter of amazing work for youth. If Theater for Young Audiences was the Olympics, the Australian team would be favored to dominate across the board; however, presenters of this kind of work tend to be some of the toughest, most discerning audiences in the world, so nothing is a given. Even to a notably tough crowd, this show delivered in every way.
The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik is a tale of a man who is living happily at the end of the world. Though the seas have risen, and only a handful remain, Alvin with his loving wife have made a quaint life together, until she lets out a cough, and suddenly he’s contemplating the lonely world without her. With nothing left to lose, Alvin takes on the brave task of traveling to the bottom of the ocean to find a volcano that’s releasing oxygen. If only he can find the volcano and bring it to the surface, humanity will be saved. Along the way he makes friends and enemies under the sea, and through his journey happens upon the soul of his lost wife. In the end he must make the difficult choice between saving the world and forever being with his love, and in doing so, he is rewarded.
The piece, a well-woven tapestry that mixes medias seamlessly between projected animation, puppetry & stage acting, helped congeal an understanding in me I’d been grappling with for a while: that all of the best work for “young audiences” can truly be described as work for youth of all ages. It may be a disservice to staunchly categorize this show as one for families, although that is certainly true—the themes of love, loss, survival, courage and selflessness are all points of conversation worth exploring with your kids, but the bigger picture is that this piece is for humans who feel, at any age. It was funny, it was sad, it was exciting, and it was hopeful; it hit on almost the whole range of human emotion, and it did so with the simplest gestures and nuances of sound. I was touched. I was moved. I was changed.
I’ve thought about the show a countless number of times since, and the possibility of bringing it to Austin to share with our community. When the news broke that we would in fact be bringing the show, every other delegate from Austin that attended IPAY that year (all a veritable who’s who of TYA in our fair city), immediately posted about it on social media and began urging their friends & communities not to miss this show, so that’s what I’m doing for you, now. Families, Children (from around 10 & up), High School students, Middle School students, Artists, Arts Patrons and all Humans of Austin, please join us as we welcome The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer next, April 27 – May 3.
Tickets to “The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer,” are available now. Watch the trailer: