After a weekend in Lewiston, the ambitious performance piece “Molded by the Flow” is continuing its world premiere run at the Gorham campus of the University of Southern Maine. The 70-minute work develops an engaging confluence of creative energies around the central themes of environmental, cultural and personal change in relation to the state’s waterways.

Conceived by Libra Professor Paul Dresher and his longtime collaborator Rinde Eckert, the piece employs students, faculty and staff from the theater and art departments and the School of Music. The individual scenes use a variety of artistic approaches and, at their best, raise some intriguing questions.

A cast of seven students, dressed in coveralls, inhabits what appears to be an abandoned mill, incorporating scenic elements that they climb on and draw on with chalk and that are projected upon with documentary and animated film and video. The serious tone throughout the 27 brief scenes is enlivened by just a few welcome touches of humor.

Scenes called “Fish Ladder” and “Mill Work” tell harrowing historical tales while “Geese” and “Letter from a Traveler” take things further into the wild. An early metaphor relating to lobsters growing new shells suggests resilience through change, while a later note that Mainers can be “hard to pin down” sets the broad parameters of this unusual work.

In front of the stage, musicians play a combination of modernist and world music on traditional instruments and on some constructed specifically for “Molded by the Flow,” including percussion and stringed pieces which, in combination with often dissonant strains from cello and clarinet, establish mysterious and unsettling soundscapes. Here and there, a few dips into jazz and Eastern musical styles lighten the ambiance.

Offstage vocals and onstage recitations tell a variety of stories, including some from the state’s early history, poetic flourishes and personal recollections. The fractured narrative comes close to flooding the stage with ideas at times, but there are also some drier patches when the audience can, for instance, watch a projection of a freight train passing by.

The efforts on this multi-disciplinary piece by dozens of student writers, composers, musicians, actors, costumers, designers, visual artists, instrument makers and technicians – too numerous to mention here by name – along with their faculty and staff supporters, constitute proof of a continuing vitality within the state.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.