Orson Rehearsed is a 70-minute multi-media Joycean stream of consciousness dreamscape comprised of the Zuzu's petals-like memory shards of life streaming through the mind of American filmmaker, actor, activist, and visual artist Orson Welles during the last hour of his life. Welles is portrayed by three singers, accompanied by musicians and performed live to three synchronized 70-minute montages of visual images created by the composer that correspond to musical and textual motives in the piece. The first iteration of the work debuted at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago on 15-16 September 2018, starring Robert Orth, Robert Frankenberry, and Omar Mulero of the New Mercury Collective, in association with Atlas Arts Media, and the Fifth House Ensemble.

This website is an Internet-based composition comprised of the electro-acoustic cues, acoustic performances, libretti, and images that, collectively, form the musical, aesthetic, emotional, and psychological DNA of the work--which all takes place in American filmaker, writer, actor, and visual artist Orson Welles' mind during the last moments of his life. These "beats" (which will not necessarily be performed in the order displayed) will be combined "on the fly" in performance with all, some, or none of the following elements: live performance of notated music, live improvisation, and pre-recorded improvisation.

Orson Rehearsed...

  • suggests that the American Experiment is a Creative Process.

  • advances the notion that Welles’ quest to “go beyond himself” was more than a thirst for self-actuation; it was an intertwined quest for social justice and creative liberty.

  • exists in torso.

  • takes a different shape every time it is performed.

  • expands and contracts in size depending on the venue, whether it be a Church Basement or High School Gym, a Homeless Shelter or Park Avenue Brownstone, a Dive Bar or a Black Box, a Recital Hall or a Grand Opera House.

  • is called a prestidigitation because it is comprised of 52 sound collages that are triggered by The Magician in performance “on the fly” in an un-predetermined sequence. Taken together, and combined with live and pre-recorded performances by singers and instrumentalists of both notated and improvised music, they form Welles’ consciousness.

  • manifests the creative vision of Daron Hagen, who is crafting a stream-of-consciousness, intertextual, post-genre score and libretto that adheres to no single cultural-aesthetic hegemonic hierarchy or dogma.

  • is a complex, tightly-organized sonic mobile that shuffles and reshuffles scraps of dialogue and interviews, totemic motives such as “Rosebud,” fragments of half-forgotten tunes, the sound of rain, bells, applause, footsteps—all pressed into service in the pursuit of the truth about a mystery more profound than the meaning of the name of a child’s sled—Art was not his life, the Process of Making Art was.may last from 60-90 minutes.

  • may or may not have from one to one hundred instrumentalists who may or may not sing, vocalise, move, and improvise.

  • may be staged or un-staged.

  • may or may not include any number of roles, spoken, sung, and mute for children and adults.

  • may be declaimed or danced rather than sung.

  • may exist entirely as an interactive website.

  • may, in fact, not exist at all, except as a set of options.

  • may simply be a memory; or the dream of an idea.

  • ends with Welles’ death and apotheosis.

Orson Rehearsed  at the Studebaker Theater in September 2018 (Photo: Elliot Mandel)

Orson Rehearsed at the Studebaker Theater in September 2018 (Photo: Elliot Mandel)


ORSON REHEARSED debuted in September 2018 at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago. A New Mercury Collective production conceived, composed, and directed by Daron Hagen starring Robert Orth, Robert Frankenberry, and Omar Mulero, and featuring the Fifth House Ensemble.


Dacia Clay speaks with Daron Hagen about "Orson Rehearsed."