Editor's note: The workshop premiere of “Real Enemies,” is on Thursday, Sept. 10. The story was updated to correct the date.

BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 20, 2015 – Grammy-nominated composer Darcy James Argue brings his 18-piece jazz big band for two performances that uniquely blend music, art, and storytelling live onstage — “Brooklyn Babylon” on Friday, Sept. 4, and the workshop premiere of “Real Enemies,” on Thursday, Sept. 10 — as well as a series of engagement activities with Virginia Tech students and faculty as part of a two-week artist residency.

Presented by the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, both performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be held in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Moss Arts Center’s Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall. 

Big band jazz punctuated by stunning video animation and live painting, “Brooklyn Babylon” tells the tale of Lev, a carpenter in a future Brooklyn, tasked with building a carousel to crown the tallest tower in the world. This urban fable unfolds wordlessly for the performance on Sept. 4, through the combination of graphic novelist and illustrator Danijel Zezelj’s animation and live painting and Argue’s original score performed live by 18-piece big band, Secret Society.

The expressive immediacy and impact of live music and painting are channeled through the dramatic structure of the storyline and the flow of the animation. The performance is built on a carefully orchestrated interchange between live music, painting, and animation. It combines the rhythm, time, volume, and space of these elements, creating a unique narrative language.

Patrons have the opportunity to be part of the very first audience for “Real Enemies” during its workshop premiere on Sept. 10. This evening-length, multi-media, jazz-fueled exploration of American paranoia is based on research of the history, aesthetics, and psychology of conspiracy. This marriage of music-theatre and hybrid nonfiction marks the first collaboration between composer Argue, filmmaker Peter Nigrini, and writer Isaac Butler, who together chronicle a shadow history of post-war America that may—or may not—be true.

Beginning with Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA data collection and moving through a dozen conspiracies, “Real Enemies” mimics and deconstructs how information overload, a need to make sense of the world, and government wrongdoing form the basis of a conspiracy culture. Equal parts spirited concert, impressionist documentary, and lyric essay, the performance blends both music-theatre and hybrid non-fiction, continuing Argue’s boundary-pushing work.

“Real Enemies” will have its official premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in November.

A question-and-answer session with the “Real Enemies” artists will be held immediately following the Sept. 10 performance in the Moss Arts Center Cube. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be moderated by Jason Crafton, assistant professor of trumpet and jazz studies in Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts.

Other events with Virginia Tech students are also scheduled during the artists’ visit. Musicians from Argue’s Secret Society will lead a jazz music masterclass for Virginia Tech music students, while “Real Enemies” artists will meet with students and faculty from the School of Architecture + Design’s Foundation Design Laboratory course in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.  

Argue will participate in a podcast interview and roundtable discussion with faculty and graduate student leaders of Community Voices, a team that engages leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors in sharing stories and insights about their creative leadership initiatives and innovative approaches to problem solving.

"Brooklyn Babylon" was made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Tickets for “Brooklyn Babylon” on Sept. 4 are $20-45 for general public and $10 for students and youth 18 years old and under. Tickets for the performance of “Real Enemies” on Sept. 10 are $25 for general admission, free for Virginia Tech students, and $10 for all other students and youth 18 years old and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300.

Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Virginia Tech faculty and staff possessing a valid Virginia Tech parking permit can enter and exit the garage free of charge. Limited street parking is also available. Parking on Alumni Mall is free on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Kacy McAllister at 540-231-5300 or email kmcallis@vt.edu during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to the event.

The Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech presents renowned artists from around the globe and from close to home, with a special focus on experiences that expand cultural awareness and deepen understanding. The Center for the Arts and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, with which the Center for the Arts is uniquely partnered, are housed in the Moss Arts Center. The Moss Arts Center is a 147,000-square-foot facility that includes the Street and Davis Performance Hall and its 1,274-seat Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre; visual art galleries; the four-story, experimental venue the Cube; and research studios.

Share this story