People’s Light is committed to become a leader in the incubation and production of new music driven theatre. This emerges from a passion among our artists for jazz, folk, rock, and other styles of music, as well as a clear excitement from audiences for productions that feature music as a prominent aspect of its storytelling.
Our highly successful presentations of The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith, Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie, Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash, and The Road: My Life with John Denver launched our exploration into new works built around the songs of one iconic musician. Meanwhile, Jonatha Brooke’s My Mother Has Four Noses and Loudon Wainwright III’s Surviving Twin were experiments in new forms of solo music-theatre performance: part monologue, part concert, performed by the author/composer.
These productions inspired and informed our decision to commission, develop, and produce new homegrown theatre pieces infused with both classic and original music. The first project to reach our stages was Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole, a powerful exploration of race in America through the experience of the iconic singer as he anticipated the final broadcast of his NBC variety show. Conceived and created by Colman Domingo and Patricia McGregor, Lights Out is a fever dream that probes beneath Cole’s elegant veneer as he questions whether to exit with grace or “burn it all down”. As a result, the production asks the audience to encounter classics like “Unforgettable”, “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, “The Christmas Song”, and “The Party’s Over” through a completely new lens.
Lights Out at People's Light: Dulé Hill in Nat 'King' Cole's agony and ecstasy
In addition to Lights Out, People’s Light currently supports the development of ten new music driven theatre projects as part of our Harmony Lab program. This program provides new teams of theatremakers, singer/songwriters, and music experts the space and resources to conceive of a new project together, start its development, and connect with others in the field.
Participants in the Harmony Lab include Zak Berkman, Elijah Bridges, Jonatha Brooke, Stuart Carden, Katie Deal, Angel Desai, Jessie Fisher, Jane Gillman, Jacqueline Goldfinger, Christina Ham, David Lutken, Sherry Lutken, various artists affiliated with New Neighborhood, Titus Tompkins, and Mary Tuomanen.
Slated for further development and production in 2018 is Such Things As Vampires, the Harmony Lab project by Zak Berkman, Stuart Carden, Jessie Fisher, and Mary Tuomanen. Part concert, part passion play, this folk-punk exploration of the fears that can distort our understanding of the world around us is inspired by the story of Mina in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Listen to these early “scratch” recordings of two of the songs from Such Things As Vampires.