Corporate Surrealists prepare for upcoming production

Anna Anderson

War is the latest form of digital art, don’t you know. A city and a cemetery reduced to a conglomeration of pixels played on loop,” Jumah, a Muslim American soldier said – as played by Louisville senior Max Newland in rehearsals for “Jumah Cola Time to Drink.”

The play, written and directed by Taylorsville senior Joel Fickel, who takes the stage name Joel Sena, set in a dystopian alternate reality war zone, deals with the concept of warfare head on – and who pays for it.

Fickel’s play gives a face and a name to the casualties of war, economic exploitation and Western consumerism by deriving certain aspects from current events.

“We’re working with up-to-the-minute contemporary issues,” Fickel said.

Yet, the student playwright said he has incorporated elements from 1920s German writer Bertolt Brecht and the work of Rudyard Kipling from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The script focuses on the present while looking through a “long-distance lens” to the past, Fickel said.

For Newland, the issues addressed in “Jumah Cola Time to Drink” are especially relevant because of the upcoming presidential election.

“I think that this is a really good time to be talking about this,” he said.

Newland hopes people who come to see the show will be driven to think about their values, and possibly question them.

Both Newland and Fickel are used to confronting sensitive issues onstage. They are members of Corporate Surrealists of America, a group of artists, actors and activists who challenge conventional ideas through performance.

“That’s what our constant mission is – to be the wake up call,” Newland said.

The organization, which Fickel founded, has staged performances in the space between the Helm-Cravens Library and in display cases in the Fine Arts Center. The Corporate Surrealists also put on Fickel’s “A Courtroom Drama of Rebirth” in DUC’s auditorium for Earth Week.

For Fickel, “Jumah Cola Time to Drink” is a project two years in the making. After starting with Brecht and Kipling, Fickel began to glean inspiration from other sources.

The final version contains influences from a friend’s unpublished memoirs from his time serving the United States Army in Fallujah, Iraq. Fickel also uses passages from The Declaration of Independence and the Qur’an.

Fickel was able to procure a Faculty-Undergraduate Student Engagement (FUSE) Grant to help cover the cost of rented microphones, a piano and other expenses.

Interspersed between Fickel’s script, Joey Greer will play pieces for piano from Bach, Chopin and Rachmaninoff.

“Tonally, it’s all over the place,” Fickel said.

The cast members will be using props made specifically for the production by Fickel’s friends and other Coorporate Surrealists.

“Jumah Cola Time to Drink” will be performed at 8 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5 and Wednesday, Nov. 7 in Van Meter Hall.

The show is free and open to the public. Fickel cautions those wanting to bring children to the show because of the mature subject matter.