Rick Miller’s multimedia journey through the highlights of the baby boom generation
BOOM is Rick Miller’s baby and he describes his new one-man show as if he is a proud anxious parent. It’s an apt comparison — BOOM is a grand multimedia performance about the post-70s baby boom generation many of whom became proud anxious parents themselves. The creator director (with help from Ravi Jain) and performer takes audiences through the highlights from Janis Joplin and Vietnam War protests to Pierre Trudeau’s “keep the state outta the bedroom” speech.
“It’s exciting — this Calgary show is its first light of day” he says. “It’s been workshopped a lot for several years and this show is a huge step in the process of its creation.”
He says the idea for the show began with thinking about his kids. “I thought about how we perform things for future generations” he says. “How we record things the different ways we remember history.” Miller says it was from that spirit of family and posterity that he chose to narrow in on a particular 25 years of history starting with 1970 the year he was born. (Which doesn’t make him a baby boomer by the way; the generation contains everyone born between 1946-1964.)
“I was born right after Apollo 11 a huge moment for humankind” he says. (That’s when humans first landed on the moon.) “I think people felt a renewed surge of optimism.”
Miller says it was an era when culture moved from something benign to something revolutionary. There was the Vietnam War the civil rights movement and rock ’n’ roll. “Culture had so much impact” he says.
Though each generation tends to criticize the one that preceded it Miller says he approached BOOM more objectively. He talked to boomers who were overly nostalgic about the ’60s and ’70s and others who were cynical about a generation of hippies turned yuppies.
What surprised him however was learning how isolated people were post-Second World War. In a pre-Internet pre-smartphone world Miller says people had little awareness of what was going on down the road or across the ocean. “People lived in little boxes: they drove in one worked in one ate out of one…. They were seeking order out of postwar chaos” he says.
The technical challenges of the show are numerous says Miller who is also co-artistic director of Wyrd Producions. The performance uses photographs (many provided by Miller’s father) film and sound clips featuring key figures from the boomer cultural consciousness. Miller says the show will evolve over the next year into a fully finished product by 2015 but that doesn’t mean audiences should expect an unfinished show. “I’m asking the audience for feedback after the shows making them part of the artistic process.”
Additionally there’s the challenge of playing the myriad characters — hundreds of them — that appear in the show. He says it’s a several years-long process in finding the correct rhythm and balance of seriousness and humour.
“I could have gone and done a variety show” he says. “Twenty-five years of music with Rick Miller! That could be fun too I guess but I wanted something more substantial.”