Vocal Theater Works Principal Production: Hydrogen Jukebox

Executive Summary:

During the spring term of 2019, the students of Vocal Theater Works will present the musical theatre piece Hydrogen Jukebox by Allen Ginsberg and Phillip Glass. The Hydrogen Jukeboxproject is an educational outreach performance that addresses ways in which our collective American culture and actions have shaped the modern world, resulting in ongoing issues of cultural suppression, war, and environmental degradation. A regional premier, this production allows Vocal Theater Works to examine central themes of this iconic work and their relevance to our local and university community.  After each performance, a panel comprised of performers and authorities from both the University of Washington and the Pacific Northwest community will engage the audience in conversation about the work and its primary themes. The students of Vocal Theater Works ask for a $6,000 grant from the Campus Sustainability Fund to help us complete this project. The Hydrogen Jukeboxproduction and post-performance discussion sessions will be held in Meany Studio Theater on the University of Washington Campus. This production represents collaboration between multiple ensembles within the School of Music, while also engaging input from across the University in the areas of anthropology, public health, and comparative literature.


For more information on this project, faculty and artistic directors involved please visit: https://music.washington.edu/events/2019-04-26/vocal-theatre-workshop-ph....

Student Involvement:

Role Creation:

Vocal Theater Works’ production of Hydrogen Jukeboxprovides various opportunities for student involvement. Eleven students will perform all principle sung roles in our double-cast production of Hydrogen Jukebox.The production also features spoken poetry and correspondence performed by a student narrator throughout the production. In their role preparation, students of Vocal Theater Works will apply their skills in acting, singing, movement, and musicianship, bringing life to individual and ensemble performances in this technically demanding work of Music Theatre. Each singing actor has the responsibility to establish the narrative world in which the sung poetry occurs, and to articulate Ginsberg’s call for cultural sustainability, peace, and environmental stewardship. 


Narrator:                     Trevor Ainge

Soprano 1:                 Sarah Fantappiè, Lauren Kulesa

Soprano 2:                  Erika Meyer, Tasha Hayward

Mezzo:                        Vivianna Oh, Inna Tsygankova

Tenor:                         Will Schlott, John O'Kane

Baritone 1:                  DJ Jordan, Christopher Benfield

Baritone 2/Bass:         Jacob Caspe

Instrumental Ensemble: The instrumental ensemble of 10 players consists of both students and School of Music Faculty.


Student Development Coordinator:

            Trevor Ainge serves as the 2018-2019 student development coordinator for Vocal Theater Works at the University of Washington. He serves in a leadership capacity in fundraising and outreach for this project.


Discussion Panelists:

            The post-performance discussion panels will consist of the ensemble cast of Hydrogen Jukebox. Cast members will share their experiences in creating the performance and speak to the work’s promotion of themes of peace, cultural sustainability, and environmental stewardship. The panel will also consist of authorities from the wider Pacific Northwest community, including Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge, and Liz Mattson, deputy director of Hanford Challenge. We will seek additional input from the departments of anthropology, public health and comparative literature at the University of Washington as well as local LGBT advocacy groups.


Community Stakeholders:

            In addition to the singing actors, narrator, and instrumentalists creating the production, the performance process includes stakeholders from the student population at the University as well as the broader community in the all-important role of audience members engaged in critical thinking and dialogue in the context of the shared experience of these performances.



Education & Outreach:

The Hydrogen Jukebox performances are by nature an educational outreach project. In their collaboration on this work, Glass and Ginsberg strove to form a portrait of America and assess the fruits of our collective identity. They felt that pressing social and environmental issues, with implications for both Americans and our global community, were not being addressed by contemporary politicians and media outlets. They created Hydrogen Jukebox to call attention to and assess our collective role in occasions of war, environmental devastation, cultural oppression, and the moral, health and environmental crisis occasioned by the proliferation of nuclear technology. Our presentation of this work provides the unique historical perspective of American views on the social and environmental problems that defined the latter half of the twentieth century. While the work stands as a valuable historical document, its relevance is maintained because American society still grapples with many of the same issues today. 

A predominant theme throughout Hydrogen Jukebox is the development and prevalent dependency on nuclear technology during the twentieth century. Nuclear technology in the United States was first developed as a weapon of war, and subsequently harnessed as a source of renewable energy. During the twenty-first century, the international community continues to struggle with issues surrounding the development of nuclear weapons and the use of nuclear energy. In 2011 the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan disturbed surrounding communities and ecologies and posed a complex global engineering problem. We have potent examples of Ginsberg’s themes here in Washington state. Our state is home to an increasingly complicated nuclear containment dilemma at the decommissioned Hanford nuclear production site. This very site is the birthplace of our colored relationship with nuclear technology, having provided the plutonium used in the bombing of Nagasaki. After the second World War, the Hanford Site continued its production of plutonium for nuclear weapons and civilian power until 1987. Many workers involved in the development and ongoing containment of spent nuclear material have suffered due to exposure to radiation. Inadequate containment of nuclear waste at Hanford continues to pose an ongoing threat to the environment and communities along the Columbia river. A startling comparison may be drawn between Ginsberg’s imagery of a landscape marred by nuclear fallout and the tangible environmental and personal effects of living and working along a nuclear site in Eastern Washington and along the Columbia river.

Beyond documenting the largest environmental concerns of the past century, the work treats themes of the twentieth century Gay liberation movement and the lived experiences of LGBT individuals. Allen Ginsberg, author of the Hydrogen Jukebox libretto, lived and worked as a prominent gay artist in a society that criminalized his sexual identity, and his experiences are highlighted throughout the work. While strides toward equality for this community have been made since the turn of the twenty-first century, we are still working towards equal rights for LGBT individuals across the nation. Only twenty-two states have outlawed discrimination against individuals based on sexual identity and gender identity. This leaves the LGBT community with unequal protection against discrimination in housing and employment across regions of the United States. Our production of Hydrogen Jukebox will engage the LGBT community and wider campus population in evaluation of the local impact of themes and issues relating to social justice and sustainability. This Production will also serve to further the historical preservation of this important work, insuring its ongoing potential to provoke thought, discussion, and change.

The Vocal Performance department of the School of Music has a robust publicity program in place for its productions. An event and information webpage created by the School of Music marketing department has been included in this proposal. The marketing department and students of Vocal Theater Works have also created social media profiles, events, and promotional materials for this production. In addition to our internet presence, promotional posters advertising Hydrogen Jukeboxwill be created and distributed throughout campus and the wider community at the beginning of the Spring 2019 term. Invitations to departments whose fields of study are related to this work will also be sent out in the months prior to the two performance dates. If funding allows, there are also plans for local radio and print media advertisements.

Environmental Impact:
  • Living Systems and Biodiversity
  • Environmental Justice
  • Community Development
  • Cultural Representation
  • Social Justice
Project Longevity:

This project does not require any long-term management or maintenance. Preparation for this project began January 7, 2019 and will culminate in two performances on April 26th and 27th, 2019.

Environmental Problem:

The primary sustainability challenge that we are addressing is a need for historical knowledge of how twentieth century American actions and culture continue to impact our contemporary world. Vocal Theater Works’ Hydrogen Jukeboxproduction and post-production discussions will engage the community with a portrait of American culture and demonstrate how our collective actions have resulted in war, environmental degradation, and cultural suppression. We hope that audience members will evaluate their own role as citizens and work collectively to learn from past mistakes in order to create a more just and environmentally sustainable future. 


Our secondary sustainability challenge will be to mitigate the environmental impact of production materials through the use of rented, borrowed and recycled goods. We will use a projector and visual media to minimize the use of physical set materials. When we must use physical goods such as props and costumes, we will use recycled materials. When acquiring goods, we will ensure that they can be reused or repurposed in future productions.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

Sustainability impacts will be measured by attendance to the performance, and through participation in performance talk backs. We will hold two performances of Hydrogen Jukeboxin Meany Studio Theater, a performance space seating 250 guests. Our goals will be evaluated by the percentage of possible attendees who engage with the work.  We will also provide a physical opportunity for audience members to provide feedback as to contemporary issues and themes relevant to the work and the issues raised by the production. 


We will also quantify the physical goods acquired for this project. We will evaluate our success by the proportion of goods acquired that can be recycled and repurposed in future productions.

Total amount requested from the CSF: $6,000
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


Budget: CSF Funding Request
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Projection Design1,00011,000
Stage Sets5001500
Post-Event Disussion Panel and Recognition Ceremony2002400
Body Mics40031,200
Commercial Media Publicity and Outreach4001400

Non-CSF Sources:

Budget: Non-CSF Funding Sources
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal CostFunding Source
Music Direction10,000110,000Friends of Opera Fund and Cisco Matching
Stage Direction and Project Management10,000110,000Friends of Opera Fund and School of Music Budget
Professional Orchestra Player7501750Friends of Opera Fund
Projector Rental2,00012,000Friends of Opera Fund
Music Rental Fee6501650Friends of Opera Fund
Music Rental Liscencing4001400Friends of Opera Fund
Vocal Score Rental1512180Friends of Opera Fund
Project Completion Total: $29,980


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Production Meeting #11 dayDecember 10, 2019
Production Meeting #21 dayJanuary 14, 2019
Musical Rehearsal4 weeksFebruary 3, 2019
Staging and Choreography11 WeeksApril 19, 2019
Orchestral Rehearsals13 WeeksApril 22, 2019
Sound System Confirmation13 WeeksApril 22, 2019
Michrophone Purchase1 monthMarch 6, 2019
Costume Sizing for Cast1 dayMarch 4, 2019
Costuming and Props7 WeeksApril 16, 2019
Set Design Confirmation7 WeeksApril 16, 2019
Lighting Design14 WeeksApril 15, 2019
Projector Rental Confirmation7 WeeksMarch 6, 2019
Projection Design15 weeksApril 22, 2019
Discussion Panel: membership confirmation5 weeksFebruary 25, 2019
Discussion Panel: preliminary meeting1 dayMarch 14, 2019
Promotional Materials: generation10 weeksMarch 18, 2019
Promotional Materials: distributionongoingMarch 18 - April 27, 2019
Lighting Meeting1 dayMarch 4, 2019
Program Materials: compilation1 dayApril 1, 2019
Program Printing1 dayApril 22, 2019
Frinal Room Run #11 dayApril 17, 2019
Orchestra Sitzprobe1 dayApril 18, 2019
Final Room Run #21 dayApril 19, 2019
Projector Delivery and Instalation1 dayApril 20,2019
Meany Studio Theater Load-in1 dayApril 22, 2019
Piano Tech Rehearsal1 dayApril 22, 2019
Production Tech/Lighting5 daysAprill 25, 2019
Orchestra Dress Rehearsals2 daysApril 25, 2019
Performance #1, Discussion Panel1 dayApril 26, 2019
Performance #2, Discussion Panel1 dayApril 27, 2019
Set Strike1 dayApril 27, 2019
Load Out1 dayApril 28, 2019