By Yvette Aguilar
The concept of multiple personalities has never been more
evident than it was on Saturday evening at the Pomona Downtown
Cal Poly music professor Peter Yates put on a memorable
performance, acting and singing as different characters in his
original puppet opera “Radio Rodia.”
Yates performed for more than an hour, singing the entire opera
to music he composed. His talent as a music composer, actor, singer
and mentor was on display.
Yates said he composed the opera about 12 years ago, creating
the fictional character of Simon Rodia, a man who creates eight
towers out of “junk.” The town becomes consumed with Rodia’s
creation, and the opera draws on that mishap to entertain.
He wanted to add a female character to his composition, and
Tressa “Grandma” Prisbrey, who builds a house of glass bottles, was
Yates wanted to show what Rodia’s character was going through
while the other characters obsessed over his towers. That turned
out to be a brilliant idea, as Rodia becomes senile, spending 33
years on the towers and then disappearing once they are
The opera embodied human emotion to its fullest extent. Yates
was able to cleverly convey his characters as eager, senile,
aggressive, greedy, sad and happy. The intensity from Yates
produced quiet giggles from the crowd of about 30, making for a
more personal experience.
Sexual innuendos, mysterious thoughts and behaviors, and extreme
characters were all part of the performance. The set flourished
with meticulous detail, which made for an even more enticing
Characters were made from computer printouts, metal robot-like
toys, glass bottles and cardboard. A broken glass box with a big
yellow phone receiver was used as the phone booth.
Barbie doll legs were used as the television antennae, which
elicited a smirk from the crowd as Yates opened the upside-down
legs to get better reception on the fake television.
Another pair of legs was used as the tripod for a camcorder,
which was made from a small, black recording tape.
“Characters were uniquely designed,” said UCLA student Nelson
Ngo. “The show was definitely something.”
Yates used a box with a different mask on each of the four sides
to transform into that character quickly. As the different
characters took turns singing, Yates would turn the box clockwise
to show which character he was now impersonating.
Toward the finale, Rodia tells Genie Morgen, the character most
obsessed with his creation, “Only a fool would worship a person
because of that person’s refusal to worship others.”
Rodia, though insane, is momentarily restored and gives perhaps
the most common-sense advice. Recognizing others’ talent and
neglecting one’s own talent is, at least to Rodia, illogical.
Cynicism, suspicion and fright were all integrated to make for
an entertaining and successful performance.
The reaction from the crowd at the end of the performance was
fitting. As Yates walked behind the black curtain, the crowd
remained in silent suspense, unaware the opera had ended until a
cheerful Yates, still hidden, announced, “That’s all folks!”
The audience clapped and whistled loudly, seemingly satisfied
with the performance. Audience members walked over to congratulate
Yates on a great performance and inquired about the birth of his
The public has another chance to catch “Radio Rodia” on Saturday
at the Pomona Downtown Center at 7 p.m.
Allen Chen/Poly Post
Multiple personalities come out in ‘Radio Rodia’
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