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Finnish rock opera begins conquering America in Manhattan

The combination of a rock concert and a theatre performance, created by philosophers from Aalto University, tells about gene technology ethics.
Playing God show, Matti Häyry in the middle with his red suit as the crooked science merchant in the opera.

Playing God is a combination of a rock concert and a theatre performance that was composed, written and produced by two Finnish philosophers, Research Manager Tuija Takala and Professor Matti Häyry, and Canadian-born Laurence Corky Laing. The topic is the ethics of gene technology.

The Aalto University School of Business researchers Tuija Takala and Matti Häyry have been examining the ethics of genetics for years, and have also published many studies on the subject. The latest of these is the Ihminen 2.0 book by Häyry, which came out in 2012.

A matter of humanity, choices and responsibilities

Rather than offering answers, the opera asks people to consider the opportunities provided by genetics, as well as any ethical problems that may be related to them. The themes addressed include immortality, saviour siblings, genetic testing, and designer babies.

The third member of the writing team is Corky Laing, a music legend who is best known from the 1970s bands Mountain and West, Bruce and Laing. He has also worked with Bo Diddley, Leonard Cohen, John Lennon, Meat Loaf, Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople), Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience), and Eric Schenkmann (Spin Doctors).

The performance is based on a concept album released internationally in 2013: Playing God – Corky Laing and the Perfect Child Perform Original Music from Test: The Rock Opera, in which Laing, Häyry and Takala perform together with eight other American and Finnish musicians. The album received outstanding reviews and has been compared to such genre classics as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, Pink Floyd's The Wall, Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare, Paul Williams' Phantom of the Paradise and Jim Sharman's Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Rock opera played to full houses

The venues were packed with listeners when the performance came to Basel, Switzerland in summer 2013 and Culture Arena Gloria in Helsinki in early spring 2014.

Playing God will make its American premiere on 23 April 2015 at the Kaye Playhouse theatre in upper East Manhattan. Kaye Playhouse is a respected Off Broadway theatre where performers such as Jussi Björling, Andrés Segovia, Marcel Marceau and Philip Glass have made their debut.

The main financing for the performance comes from the renowned Cornell University, and Professor Joseph J. Fins, Chief of the Medical Ethics Division of Weill Cornell Medical College, has been instrumental in bringing the rock opera to the United States.

Prior to the Manhattan performance, Playing God will visit Yale University, where a preview will be held on 18 April.

On stage in America

Corky Laing (Canada/USA)
Matti Häyry (Finland)
Johanna Ahola-Launonen, Project Coordinator (Finland)
Sebastian Bisso Mifflin (Finland)
Maya Korvela (Finland)
Mikaela Mansikkala (Finland)
John Vihervä (Finland)
Harri Väyrynen (Finland)
Phil Baker (England)
Peter Baron (USA)
Stefan Berggren (Sweden)
Denny Colt (USA)
Bonnie Parker (USA)
Niall Scott (England)
Ken Sidotti (USA)
Joe Venti (USA)

Director

Kate Mueth (USA)

Producer

Tuija Takala (Finland)

More information:

Thank you letter (27 April 2015) to financier, mainly Aalto University, from Joseph J. Fins, M.D., M.A.C.P., the main organiser in New York:

"Thank you for your support of Professors Hayry and Takala and their innovative scholarship. You should be exceedingly proud of what they have accomplished. I hope that there will other opportunities to collaborate with them and further disseminate Playing God both in Europe and the United States. The quality of the opera deserves nothing less than a large international audience in the years ahead. Thank you for sharing some of Finland's most creative thinkers with us. We certainly benefitted from this trans-Atlantic partnership."
Joseph J. Fins, M.D., M.A.C.P.

Enquiries and interview requests:

Tuija Takala
Aalto University School of Business
[email protected]

Matti Häyry
Aalto University School of Business
[email protected]

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