ON FRIDAY NIGHT, Portland performer Holcombe Waller inaugurates the first public phase of his next big performance piece, Wayfinders, a show inspired by themes of navigation and orientation that incorporates a classical music ensemble, sophisticated technical elements, and the golden-voiced Waller himself. Waller will eventually tour the show to festivals nationwide, and this performance is something of a work-in-progress, giving Portland audiences a sneak peek of what's to come.

MERCURY: How does this show fit into your development as an artist?

HOLCOMBE WALLER: Wayfinders is a larger scale work—touring with some 12 or more people—so it's my attempt to see what happens when I try to scale up a bit. Possibly bankruptcy. Short of that, it's also a part of my shift toward working with ensembles and composing work that stands alone, outside of the context of my performance or my band.

Can you point to any specific inspirations for Wayfinders?

Wayfinders borrows its name from the title of a book and lecture series by anthropologist Wade Davis. I was inspired by the depth to which Davis connects a sense of contemporary purpose and meaning to ancient cultures from every dimension of Earth's history. The libretto of Wayfinders explores how the technological, moral, and metaphysical solutions we apply to navigation and orientation can form the basis of our vision of the world, now and into the future.

Is there anything that's been particularly surprising or difficult about putting the show together?

Absolutely everything is difficult when it comes to trying to integrate disparate theater technologies, like lighting, sound, and video, without TONS of money. I'm trying to raise what I consider tons of money to do it, but it's still not enough. Arranging is also a lot of work. It's very time consuming. But I love it. It's like going to the musical gym for my brain.

What can people expect from Friday's show?

Friday's show is going to be a bit like an unstaged reading. We will be working from music, on stands before us. But it's going to be very intimate and fun, because I'm going to talk about each piece of music, and the kinds of ideas, musical forms, and theatrical staging I have in mind. It's a bit like a shared vision of the project of the future, and a chance for me and the ensemble to see how the music functions in performance before going down the theater rabbit hole.