Saturday, March 2, 2019

TeenTix Editors weigh in on Steve Jobs

The TeenTix Editorial Staff includes Huma Ali, Hannah Schoettmer, Joshua Fernandes, and Lily Williamson.
Seattle Opera was honored that the TeenTix Editorial Staff chose to attend the opening night of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. The editorial staff is made up of five teens who edit and curate the content for the review section of the TeenTix blog, and lead a newsroom of young-adult writers. "As teens, we feel that art is often made inaccessible for our demographic. We are working to fix that by giving teens a voice in the adult-dominated world of arts criticism." 

What did you think of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs?
Joshua: I thought it was the most entertaining opera I’ve ever seen since becoming a conscious 17-year-old who actually knows what he’s looking at when it comes to opera. I view this performance through the lens of someone who is more familiar with musicals. With that said, the set design—made up of a series of moving boxes that changed configuration—was excellent. I loved the contrast between the contemporary subject matter, and the historic tradition of this art form. You take a little bit of old with the new—that to me seems to be the very concept of a Steve Jobs opera.

Lily: This is a gateway opera: It’s accessible, quite short comparatively at 90 minutes, and it’s fast-moving. I agree; this opera was reminiscent of a musical. It felt like everything was whizzing around. The story deals with contemporary issues; it feels timely and relevant for 2019.

John Moore (Steve Jobs) with members of the Seattle Opera Chorus. Jacob Lucas photo

Steve Jobs changed the world, but he was also a bully who consistently damaged people through manipulation and inhumane treatment. Are we better off for these devices? Should we be telling this story? 

Lily: It’s no simple answer, and the opera does a good job of showing the complexity of Steve Jobs. My smartphone gives me the key to the world. I can learn almost anything I want through the touch of this device that Steve Jobs created. That’s unprecedented.

The opera made you want to root for the villain in a way, because, even though Steve Jobs was a bully, he’s still presented through the archetype of the hero’s journey. Whether Jobs deserves to have his name recognized, I can’t say for sure. There are many artists, musicians, and other important figures who were horrible people, but still make important contributions. You have to look at the whole package.

Huma: In seeing this piece, I thought that the most important part wasn’t Steve Jobs per se. I see Steve Jobs as an example of the role that technology plays in our lives. Through his story, we are able to see ourselves. He lost touch with his humanity, and it encourages us to look at our own relationship with technology. I think our lives are better with these devices, but, it’s as Jobs’ spiritual adviser said—give it your attention, but not all of your attention.

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What are some misconceptions that young people might have about opera?

Hannah: Opera is old and tradition-based. It possesses a certain international clout. I think people assume they won’t be able to understand opera, that it’s going to be very long, and that perhaps it’s not as culturally relevant. With the dissolution of those barriers, I think people will find that this is an art form that can tell modern stories.

What did you think of the non-linear narrative structure in (R)evolution?
Lily: If this story was told in a linear way, it might be too obvious. Instead, by showing these important highlights, Jobs’ story was tied together artfully.

The nonlinear structure lets you develop a more nuanced conclusion that goes beyond, ‘Is he bad?’ or ‘Is he good?’ In the final scene, with Woz and Laurene singing on either side of the stage, it was as if their two perceptions are tied together. Wozniak speaks to ‘Steve 1.0,’ and Laurene to ‘Steve 2.0.’

Josh: With that said, there were a few iconic Steve Jobs moments (product launches) I was disappointed didn’t make the cut into the story.

Adam Lau (Kobun Chino Otogawa) and members of the (R)evolution of Steve Jobs cast. Philip Newton photo

What moment stood out to you in the show?
Josh: In the opera, the moment before Steve Jobs quits Apple was excellent—the tension is so palpable.

Huma: The lighting and set design (by Vita Tzykun) was really cool. Each of the panels on the set looked like an iPhone. I also really appreciated the crew who moved the set pieces with so much composure, fluidity and purpose.

What did you think of the music?
Lily: When I heard there was going to be an electronic influence, I felt pretty nervous. But the music was excellent—contemporary but still melodious. It sounded like classical music to me. It had just the right amount of an electronic touch.

Josh: Some of the music actually reminded me of the ring tones that you hear on an iPhone.

Any last words?
Lily: This was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. And yet, I have a feeling it will help usher in a new generation of opera-goers.

More about the TeenTix Editorial Board:

Huma Ali is a junior at Lake Washington High School who is passionate about the power of words. She is a patron of the arts, an active writer, and works to make teen voices heard through TeenTix’s Press Corps program. She is the founder of her school’s Creative Writing Club, where she and her peers spend hours upon hours reading short stories from The New Yorker. Huma was also the co-founder of her school’s Feminism club, the former president, and currently works on its council. In addition, she serves as a member of the Bellevue Art Museum’s Teen Arts Council. Huma finds that the arts provide her with insight into the world while also enriching her life.

Joshua Fernandes was just an ordinary junior at Ballard High School. The greatest art event he ever attended was seeing the best movie of all time, Spider-Man 2, in theaters when he was 2 years old. Previously, he played the upright bass in his school’s orchestra and fiddle program, and was a part of his school’s film program. However, one fateful day, he got bitten by a bug that changed his life. The writing bug. Since then, Joshua’s participated in KUOW’s RadioActive radio internship program, where he culminated a love of the auditory arts by making podcasts. Joshua still does all the things he used to do, but now he’s got to find a way to satisfy his hunger for writing. Josh hopes to take his experience in a more critical direction as a member of the TeenTix editorial staff, where he hopes to explore more visual art.

Hannah Schoettmer really likes scented candles, and her most prized possession is Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” on cassette. Some of her marketable skills include a passion for music (she plays more than just “Wonderwall” on guitar), a deep love of stories (she asks a lot of questions), and her ability to give facts about sea creatures on demand. Her favorite arts event she’s ever been to is a production of Aladdin she attended in second grade, which really sparked her love of all things artsy. Through arts criticism, she hopes to help others in her quest to add more voices to the world.

Lily Williamson is a sophomore at Shorewood High School. She is currently a member of TeenTix's Teen Editorial Staff and New Guard arts leadership program, and has participated in the Press Corps Intensive writing program. Lily enjoys all forms of art and arts criticism, but is especially passionate about exploring the intersection between social justice and criticism. In her participation with TeenTix, Lily hopes that she is able to expand the appeal of and access to the arts to local teens. Outside of her involvement in the arts, Lily is an avid flutist, pianist, and social justice advocate.

Garrett Sorenson (Steve Wozniak) and John Moore (Steve Jobs). Jacob Lucas photo

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs
plays Feb. 23-March 9, 2019 at McCaw Hall. Learn more about this opera on our Spotlight Guide.