World Premiere Musical of New Orleans Jazz, Blues and Gospel Opens This Week
Dixieland jazz, Delta blues, gospel singers, and voodoo drummers will all share the stage during a world premiere performance of Green Mountain College professor John Nassivera's "PROMETHEUS BOUND in New Orleans." The play runs from Thursday April 26 through Saturday, April 28 with a 7 p.m. curtain. The final evening will be a benefit performance for Americorp's City Year New Orleans program to raise funds to assist school children displaced by hurricane Katrina.
"PROMETHEUS BOUND in New Orleans" casts the ancient Greek play by Aeschylus into 1950's New Orleans one night during Mardi Gras. This staging at Green Mountain College will feature a cast of GMC actors, a gospel chorus, a blues band, a Dixieland jazz band, and a drum ensemble performing authentic voodoo ceremonial drumming.
Rather than being chained to a rock as in the Greek, in this version Prometheus is a blues singer named "Blind Hemmin' Jefferson," and he is brought onstage by the Ku Klux Klan who chain him to an old abandoned gas pump in front of a dilapidated gas station. In his predicament he is then visited by two New Orleans voodoo practitioners, Queen Muddy Water and a young priestess named Mambo Io. All of this is taking place in the course of one wild and macabre night during Mardi Gras festivities.
"When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans I was devastated," says Nassivera. "I couldn't get it out of my mind. But out of this destruction it hit me that New Orleans had to be the setting for a play using blues and gospel music that I'd been thinking about for years." Nassivera teaches 'Prometheus Bound' in his regular course work and decided that the plight of Prometheus resonates with the same tone as the lyrical voice of the blues. In the play, New Orleans has become a 'Promethean' city, seemingly punished by the gods but still holding on, defiant. "Among other things, this is a bluesy love song to New Orleans," says Nassivera.
GMC music instructor and jazz guitarist, Don Goodman, will lead the blues band. Goodman is also a blues and jazz expert who knows the musical forms and their history. Several of the blues songs in the show are traditional, but Goodman has written original material as well. Another GMC faculty member, percussion instructor Gary Meitrott, is a specialist in West African and Haitian traditional voodoo drumming methods. The music includes such well-known songs as Amazing Grace, Empty Bed Blues, Wade in the Water, Nearer my God to Thee, and When the Saints Come Marchin' In. Members of the College's choir will form a gospel group to fulfill the role of the Greek chorus.
Nassivera, who created PROMETHEUS BOUND in New Orleans, was founding director of the Dorset Theatre Festival, a position he held for 30 years. His many previous plays have been seen in New York, Miami, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and of course at the Dorset Theatre.
General admission is $10 at the door. Immediately after the Benefit Performance on April 28th there will be a reception for audience and cast members, featuring coffee and "beignets" from the famed Cafe du Monde in New Orleans' French Quarter.