Serj Tankian Brings Rock To the Theater with ‘Prometheus Bound’ Play
This May, Serj Tankian will be rejoining his System Of A Down band mates for one of this year’s most anticipated tours. However, before he takes the stage with System, Tankian is conquering a new world: the theater.
‘Prometheus Bound,’ Tankian’s collaboration with acclaimed playwright Steven Sater, is currently in the middle of its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sater previously teamed with pop-rock singer Duncan Sheik for the play ‘Spring Awakening,’ but says he believes that Tankian is doing something totally unique.
“He’s brought a sound to the theater like you’ve never heard before,” Sater tells Noisecreep. “We’re doing a very ambitious and radical show. We’re taking an ancient, classic piece of theater and wedding it to real rock ‘n’ roll music. But there’s much more: there’s hip-hop; jazz; scat. I think this show reveals Serj as a composer in ways we’ve never heard before.”
For Tankian, many aspects of working in the theater are totally new experiences. Sitting in the audience while hearing somebody else sing his words is a very different role for a man quite used to being on stage. The shift in perspective took some getting used to.
“When you’re up [on stage] you have a certain degree of control over what you’re doing, of how it’s presented, and how to kind of control an audience. But when you’re a composer, then you’re doing your work ahead of time. [You're] letting go of the moment and seeing how everything pans out,” Tankian says. “So, yeah, it’s a different set of nerves. In the beginning, I was a bit nervous just because I wasn’t performing.”
Speaking as an audience member, Tankian pays the highest compliments to his cast. “There are a few scenes where I’m brought to tears at every show,” Tankian says. “I’m trying to step back and be the composer and make notes logically, but it drags me in every time which means the show’s gotten really good. Even though I know I have to be detached, I can’t help but fall in.”
The play is currently running in Cambridge until April 2nd. Both Sater and Tankian think the show will go on. “The way that theatrical shows go to other cities is having producers interested in those cities,” Tankian explains. “The place that we would target first would be New York, and we do have some interest to take the shows forward into New York at this point. Obviously, if it does well in New York, then it’ll travel everywhere.” Sater is also quite confident. “I have no doubt that there’s a long future ahead for this show,” he says. “I can imagine this show being done all around the world.”
According to Tankian, the score consists of “beautiful huge rock songs and gorgeous underscore, dark, weird underscore. There are also these gorgeous string pieces where the girls sing with three, four harmonies.” The composer and Sater are also considering the possibility of a cast album. “We’ve had a couple of labels approach us about it,” Sater says. “I’m confident there will be [an album] and it will knock people out. The songs are great.”
Tankian may also record some of the songs from the play himself. “I’m also considering putting some of the songs on my next solo record, although there’s going to be other stuff on my solo record as well,” he says. “[The 'Prometheus Bound' songs] kind of fit the vibe of some of the new stuff.”