A Light in the Void Interview
A Light in the Void is a symphonic theater event premiering this Friday. Put together by composer Austin Wintory (The Banner Saga trilogy, Journey) and writer, director, and producer Anthony Lund (Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman), A Light in the Void looks to blend science, music, and visuals in one memorable experience. Three world-class scientists, the Colorado Symphony, soloist Tina Guo, and actors Troy Baker (too many games to list) and Hana Hayes (The Last of Us) are joining forces to tell a structured story examining three big questions about our existence.
RPGamer was able to put some questions to Austin Wintory ahead of the worldwide premiere — which takes place at the Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver at 7:30pm Mountain Time on October 5, 2018 — about its creation and the ideas behind it. The concert will also be broadcast live worldwide on Twitch.
Alex Fuller (RPGamer): Firstly, can you give an overview of the event and some of the ideas and goals behind it?
Austin Wintory: A Light in the Void is a symphonic theater piece that has one simple goal: instill in the audience a sort of ‘renewed vows’ for all that’s greater than themselves. It’s a story about science itself, told through a marriage of narrative, brilliant on-stage scientists and big lush symphonic music. My personal goal is people leave not so much having learned anything, but feeling the sheer power and beauty of science. Of feeling moved by the exposure to the exciting great unknown.
AF: How did the creators and the project come together, is this something that has been an idea for a while?
AW: This idea began about 4 years ago in a very basic way and gestated for a while before I realized it needed a creative partner. I brought in Tony Lund, a dear friend and acclaimed science filmmaker (3x Emmy nominee for the Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman). With Tony’s guidance, the show transformed practically overnight into something far deeper. That process has now been about 2 years of development.
AF: How did you decide on the subjects and scientific experts that would be featured?
AW: That has been an organic development, but the idea of having a particle physicist (the very very small), a biologist / anthropologist (the human, the familiar) and a planetary scientist (the cosmic) really covered the breadth of existential questions. It’s hard to imagine being left wanting after that!
AF: Can you describe the roles that Troy Baker and Hana Hayes will be playing and how they relate to the event and the scientific talks (without spoiling too much of course!)?
AW: Troy has been a good friend for years and we’re always looking for new projects to do together. We started writing parts for him in the show in small bits at first, then scaled up his involvement more and more. He’s just an unending fountain of talent. For Hana, we needed a central protagonist (who we call “The Seeker”) and we simply asked Troy who he recommended. Hana had played his daughter in The Last of Us and so it was an amazing fit.
AF: How different is the event to some of the other roles or performances the cast members have done in the past?
AW: It’s basically completely, wildly unlike anything any of us have done! The fusion of theater and science content, with the full 80-piece, is a truly alchemical blend of strange elements. It’s wildly good fun!
AF: How much collaboration has gone on between all of the cast? Did the scientists have any influence or input over what they wanted from the music or did that all come together naturally?
AW: It’s been broadly collaborative across every department for sure. The actors in particular have been deeply helpful in shaping the characters, and the scientists likewise.
AF: How has the preparation and creation of the project gone in general? Are there are any particular fond memories from putting it together?
AW: As I said earlier, over 4 years in total at this point. It’s hard to pin a particularly fond memory among them all, but my very first meeting with Tony will always stand out. I gave him the idea for the show over dinner, and a few nights later he invited me to his house. He had marinated on the idea and wanted to re-pitch the concept back to me. I ended up staying until 4 or 5 in the morning. It was an explosion of brainstorming and creative energy. An absolute blast.
AF: How has your work in video games helped you prepare for or influenced the composition? Following that what have been some of the differences or challenges unique to the event?
AW: My game work has been instrumental in helping me really figure out how to adapt the music to live performance. There are certain hidden elements of the show where I can react dynamically, in real-time to account for the actors. I learned that from doing Journey Live all over the US the last few years!
AF: Have scientific ideas or science helped inspire or influence you in your prior compositions?
AW: Absolutely yes. The aesthetic and general concept for the music during the whole show is deeply informed by the science it’s presenting. That’s not to say it’s directly derived from it (like using some relevant formula or calculation to ‘generate’ musical material). But the inspiration is a straight line, for sure.
AF: What have been some of the challenges in meshing together the different elements of the event?
AW: Making something dramatically sensible that alternates between a fictional narrative and factual science “speeches” has been enormously hard. I feel we finally cracked it and I’m excited about it, but for months I had a knot in my stomach wondering if the premise of this was a horrible idea.
AF: What made you decide to use Kickstarter to help fund the event? Has going through it provided any additional challenges or let you do things you might not otherwise?
AW: Kickstarter was a huge challenge, for sure. It’s daunting to run a campaign. But we did it because our idea had gotten so huge in scope that we knew we couldn’t finance it ourselves, and it was beyond what the Colorado Symphony could support internally. In the end, that money has made an absolutely gigantic difference.
AF: What do you have planned following the premiere? Are there any plans to follow up A Light in the Void with similar events in the future?
AW: We’re hoping to book the show as often as possible, in as many places as possible! We’re already in talks with orchestras all over the world and hope to share it constantly!
AF: Is there anything in particular you are hoping for audiences to take away from the event?
AW: I can’t convince any audience member that science is useful, or even important. But by framing it as a work of art, I hope I can at least convince them that science is beautiful. That battling back the darkness of our own ignorance is not just exhilaration but a truly profound legacy to leave for future generations.
RPGamer would like to thank Austin for taking time out from his preparations for the premiere to answer our questions. We would also like to thank Javier Garcia and The Krakower Group for facilitating the interview.