R. B. Schlather to Bring Gertrude Stein and Susan B. Anthony to Historic Hudson Hall in THE MOTHER OF US ALL
Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House, in partnership with The Millay Colony for the Arts, marks the centenary of Women's Suffrage and the reopening of New York State's oldest surviving theater with a new production of Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein's 1947 opera, THE MOTHER OF US ALL - a comic and profound musical pageant of 19th Century American social and political life.
Five performances take place November 11, 12, 15, 18, 19 at 4:00 p.m. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased from hudsonhall.org or (518) 822 -1438.
This production of The Mother of Us All is conceived as an ambitious, site-specific "town meeting" by the daring young opera director R. B. Schlather (born and raised in Cooperstown, NY, Schlather first saw The Mother of Us All at Glimmerglass Opera as a 12-year old boy in 1998). Schlather is a rising star among directors who are staging opera in new and often radically different contexts. He is known for his ability to not only shed light on the work itself, but on the audience's own involvement as observers and participants in what could be seen as a communal ritual.
Schlather has cast over 30 locals from the Hudson Valley for the opera's many roles and instrumental ensemble. Mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens stars as Susan B. Anthony, depicting Anthony's life-long fight to gain voting privileges and civil rights for women in the United States. Martens made a splash as Marilyn Klinghoffer in The Metropolitan Opera's The Death of Klinghoffer in 2014.
Schlather's collaborators include music director Tony Kieraldo, costume designer Marsha Ginsberg, and his longtime lighting designer JAX Messenger. His dramaturg is Joan Retallack, the distinguished Gertrude Stein scholar and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor Emerita of Humanities at Bard College. Retallack, in partnership with the Millay Colony, will conduct a four-day multidisciplinary workshop with Perfect Ten, a teen empowering after-school program for underserved girls in Hudson. Retallack will work with the young women to explore Susan B. Anthony's legacy, early feminism and Gertrude Stein's primary works.
Social reformer and women's rights activist Susan B. Anthony spoke at the Hudson Opera House in 1860 and 1898, in the very hall where this opera will be performed. Gertrude Stein's text presents Anthony as a noble, moral voice in a landscape of mythic and invented 19th century American characters, navigating the social and political issues relating to women's suffrage. R. B. Schlather reimagines the two-act opera as speaking directly to today's heated political climate and the struggle between the personal and the political in an era of armchair activism.
From Director R. B. Schlather: "I conceived of this production as a response to the history of the site. I wanted 'locals' to make up the band and the cast so that the performance is perceived not as a history piece, but as an accessible, diverse social happening about our shared contemporary 'now' in the Hudson Valley."
The Mother of Us All addresses gender, race and poverty, and provides timely commentary on contemporary American social issues, and our right as diverse individuals to gather, voice our beliefs, and be represented with respect and equality. The work also echoes the anxieties expressed in comments on our social media feeds: Who am I in the face of patriarchy, ideology, false rhetoric, and the oppression of basic rights? Do I speak up or remain in my comfort zone?
More than just a theatrical production, The Mother of Us All is conceived by Schlather and his collaborators as a major community exhibition designed to engage and reflect the issues of today by creating spaces for dynamic exchanges of history and performance. The historic ground floor spaces of Hudson Hall will be activated to become experimental salons, spectacles and public gatherings led by some of the region's best minds, makers and musicians. These public conversations are a modern-day call to civic engagement, while highlighting the unique history of the building as the central hub of Hudson's 19th century civic and cultural life.
"Since its opening in 1855, this landmark building has reflected the spirit and culture of the City of Hudson and its people," says Tambra Dillon, co-director of Hudson Hall. "Housing New York State's oldest surviving theater, Hudson Hall is one of the city's greatest treasures. With restoration complete, we're excited to return our magnificent theater to public use for the first time in 55 years. R. B. Schlather's vision for The Mother of Us All envelopes and embraces our goal of bringing our city's town hall back to life as a gathering place reflective of its unique and vibrant community. It's more important than ever to recognize the vital role the arts can play in making Hudson a dynamic place to live, work and visit."
More details and a schedule of events will be released in the coming months.
Hudson Valley Residents Include: Ngonda Badila • Elena Batt • Kam Bellamy • Amanda Boyd
Teresa Buchholz • Matthew Deming • Veronica Forman
Christopher Johnstone • Margot Kirsis • Phil Kline
Brad Lorenz • Ella Loudon • Nancy Allen Lundy
Marie Mascari • Marc Molomot • Michael O'Gara • Robert Osborne
John Phillips • Parker Shipp • Kent Smith • Tea Boris
Libby Sokolowski • Charles Perry Sprawls • Ryan Tracy
Wheelock Whitney • Dylan Widjiono
and Michaela Martens as Susan B. Anthony
About R. B. Schlather (www.rbschlather.com) - Hailing from Cooperstown, NY, and now a Hudson resident, director R. B. Schlather has been nationally and internationally recognized for his experimentation with form and access, and has been described as "having a gift for drawing out vivid performances" (The New York Times) and an "ability to demolish the barriers of propriety and politeness that seem to plague much of traditional operatic experience" (Opera Today). In February this year, Schlather directed a critically acclaimed production of John Adams' Doctor Atomic for Curtis Opera Theater, and is an artist-in-residence at Williamsburg's National Sawdust. Recent performances include David Lang's Pulitzer Prize winning The Little Match Girl Passion at The School | Jack Shainman Gallery in Kinderhook, NY; Orlando (2015), named in WXQR NYC's "Top 10 Pivotal Moments for Opera and Classical Performance 2015"; and Alcina (2014) at Whitebox Art Center. The New York Times' classical music editor Zachary Woolfe hailed these exhibitions as "a gift given to the New York cultural scene."
About Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House (hudsonhall.org) - Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House is a cultural beacon in the Hudson Valley, offering a dynamic year-round schedule of music, theater, dance, literature, workshops for youth and adults, as well as family programs and large-scale community events such as Winter Walk. Located in an historic landmark that houses New York State's oldest surviving theater, Hudson Hall underwent a full restoration and reopened to the public in April 2017 for the first time in over 55 years. The newly restored Hudson Hall reflects Hudson's rich history in a modern facility that welcomes residents and visitors from throughout our local community, across the nation, and around the globe.
Hudson Hall was built in 1855 as the City Hall for Hudson, New York. From its founding until the building was abandoned in 1962, the magnificent performance hall provided a space for some of the most exciting cultural, social and political events of the day. The great Hudson River School showed their paintings here, Bret Harte read his poems, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a talk titled "Social Aims", and Susan B. Anthony visited twice, lecturing to abolish slavery and rallying the cry for women's suffrage. In 1914, Teddy Roosevelt even regaled a crowd with his adventures in Africa. On August 1, 2017, Governor Cuomo paid a visit to Hudson Hall to award the city of Hudson $10 million in his Downtown Revitalization Contest. In his remarks, Cuomo lauded Hudson for building a new economy based on arts and culture and its assets of history, location, landscape, and rich cultural heritage.
Pictured: R. B. Schlather on the stage of the restored and renovated Hudson Hall (Photo by Matthew Placek)