Beginning May 3, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to get a peek at the world premiere of a major American play set in songs featuring words by African-American Studies Professor June Jordan.
"I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky" is a two-act song play dubbed an "earthquake/romance" by Jordan, which marks the award-winning poet's second libretto.
John Adams of Berkeley composed the score. The show is directed by Peter Sellars, one of the world's leading theater, opera and television directors.
The production, said Jordan, "is a fusion of contemporary politics with contemporary romance."
The work is set in present-day Los Angeles, where seven characters struggle to fill their lives with love, hope and meaning as they deal with racial tensions and a catastrophic earthquake.
The multi-cultural cast presents "the diversity of California and the demographic forecast for the United States," said Jordan.
"All these different people must live together, well, or not."
To set an authentic urban tone, 20 top graffiti artists in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego were commissioned to paint sets for the work.
"I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky" was co-commissioned by an international roster of presenters: Cal Performances; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Thalia Theater (Hamburg, Germany); MC 93 Bobigny (Paris); and the Helsinki Festival (Finland).
Following its Berkeley premiere at Zellerbach Playhouse, the production embarks on a six-month tour that includes the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland and a one-week engagement at Montreal's Festival de Theatre des Ameriques, as well as engagements at the venues of the other commissioning partners.
Preview showings of "I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky" are at 8 p.m. May 3 through May 6, and May 9-10.
Matinee performance at 3 p.m. May 7. Tickets are $16-32. Regular engagement is May 11-21. For tickets and information, call Cal Performances ticket office, 642-9988.