Artists Rep's 'A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS' to Celebrate Season of Hope This December
Much like the political strife facing America today, this play is set during a time when the country is divided by conflicting ideologies and convictions following a contentious presidential election. Vogel's sweeping, music-rich story plays out one frigid Christmas Eve on the banks of the Potomac River. Amid the hubbub of holiday preparations, an array of abolitionists and assassins, slaves and freemen, Union and Confederate soldiers, along with President Lincoln and Mary Todd, all pursue their paths to liberation. Propelled by traditional American songs, marches and spirituals - all revitalized for this production by a diverse range of Portland musicians - A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS is a lively reminder for people of all beliefs about humanity's potential for compassion, reconciliation and hope.
"Though the word 'Christmas' is in the title, Vogel's timely play arrives post-election just in time to celebrate our shared humanity," said Artists Rep Artistic Director Dámaso Rodriguez. "The play is rife with metaphor, beauty and healing moments that echo our modern, polarized national conversation."
Working with an entirely local group of artists, the production aims to reflect today's world with a 15-member ensemble and arrangements from seven local musicians, all of intentionally diverse perspectives. Artists Rep's production of this musical will be unlike any other in the nation. With special permission from the playwright, Artists Rep commissioned new arrangements of the Civil War era songs and carols from a group of seven well-known, Portland musicians. These new treatments and how this cast brings them to life, will offer a rich, complex theatrical experience that reflects the many hues of Portland's musical landscape in tune with the story at hand.
A unique seasonal excursion, this play offers an unconventional storytelling that features known historical figures like President Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Elizabeth Keckley, John Wilkes Booth and Walt Whitman as characters in the story. The fictional story is woven with musical pieces to tell the tale of one night when people came together in Washington, D.C. mid-Civil War to find peace.
MUSIC. With special permission from the playwright, Paula Vogel, Artists Rep's production of A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS pioneers new arrangements of the period songs in the play's original composition. The company has commissioned seven Portland musicians from various musical and cultural backgrounds to re-arrange the original score's songs (holiday, hymns, marches and spirituals) by composer Daryl Waters. The result is a new score that merges their work with Daryl Waters'. Each musician has arranged multiple songs throughout the play. The production includes stylistically diverse arrangements by Darrell Grant, Holcombe Waller, Mark and LaRhonda Steele, Okaidja Afroso, Edna Vázquez, James Beaton and Brian Adrian Koch of Blitzen Trapper. Familiar song titles include: What Child is This? (arr. Waller), The Yellow Rose of Texas (arr. Vázquez), Balm in Gilead (arr. Steele), Children Go Where I Send Thee (arr. Afroso), I'm A-Gone Away to Shiloh (arr. Koch), God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (arr. Beaton), Follow The Drinking Gourd (arr. Grant).
"A beautiful thing about asking this set of composers to take a new look at the music in the show is that through their interpretations and perspectives they've created a palpable feeling of timeliness and forward momentum," said Director Paul Angelo.
On December 6, the theatre is offering an intimate evening of music and storytelling with MUSIC IN THE MAKING: The Sounds & Sights of A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS. Hosted by Susannah Mars, who plays Mary Todd Lincoln in the production, these musicians and other contributors to this production will perform on the set of A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS and talk about their experience creating the music for the show.
CAST. The large, ensemble cast of Artists Rep's production is among the most diverse casts ever assembled by the theatre and is pointedly reflective of America today. This ensemble of actors will generate all of the live music for the production and play their own instruments. They will be costumed in contemporary clothing, with simple suggestions of the 19th Dentury period, to further blur the time period and connect the play to modern day.
"Matching the voices and musical talents of this cast to the 24 pieces of music has been a joy, and a challenging puzzle," said Music Director Andrew Bray. "For me, it is like being a chef. We have all the ingredients to make an exquisite feast, filled with boldness and nuance alike, and the delight comes when those elements are explored and mixed together to create something spectacular."
The company hopes that how the music was developed, and how the actors bring it to life, creates a dialogue between the United States' troubling past and our still-struggling present.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
Paula Vogel has written HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE (Pulitzer Prize, New York Drama Critics Award, Obie Award, Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and many more.) Other plays include A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS, THE LONG CHRISTMAS RIDE HOME, THE MINEOLA TWINS, HOT 'N' THROBBIN, THE BALTIMORE WALTZ, DESDEMONA, AND BABY MAKES SEVEN, and THE OLDEST PROFESSION. Her plays have been produced by Second Stage, New York Theatre Workshop, the Vineyard Theatre, Roundabout and Circle Repertory Company. Her plays have been produced regionally all over the country at the Center Stage, Intiman, Trinity Repertory, Woolly Mammoth, Huntington Theatre, Magic Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, American Repertory Theatre, Dallas Theatre Berkeley Repertory, and Alley Theatres to name a few. HarroGate Theatre and the Donmar Theatre have produced her work in England. Her plays have been produced in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand as well as translated and produced in Italy, Germany, Taiwan, South Africa, Australia, Romania, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland Slovenia, Canada, Portugal, France, Greece, Japanese, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Brazil and other countries. John Simon once remarked that Paula Vogel had more awards than a "black sofa collects lint." Some of these include Induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame, Thornton Wilder Award, Lifetime Achievement from the Dramatists Guild, the William Inge Award, the Elliott Norton Award, two Obies, a Susan Smith Blackburn Award, the PEN/Laura Pels Award, a TCG residency award, a Guggenheim, a Pew Charitable Trust Award, and fellowships and residencies at Sundance Theatre Lab, Hedgebrook, The Rockefeller Center's Bellagio Center, Yaddo, MacDowell, and the Bunting. But she is particularly proud of her Thirtini Award from 13P, and honored by three Awards in her name: the Paula Vogel Award for playwrights given by The Vineyard Theatre, the Paula Vogel Award from the American College Theatre Festival, and the Paula Vogel mentorship program, curated by Quiara Hudes and Young Playwrights of Philadelphia.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Paul Angelo makes his Artists Rep debut as a director with A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS. As an actor, he has been seen here previously in ITHAKA by Andrea Stolowitz. He serves as the associate artistic director of Staged! musical theatre and as a director in residence with defunkt theatre. A resident of Portland since 2005, he has directed five musicals for Staged!. LES MISERABLES, which received two Portland Area Musical Theatre Awards (PAMTA) including Outstanding Ensemble; BIG RIVER, also awarded two PAMTAs; the Portland Premiere of Jason Robert Brown's '13,' which earned four PAMTA nominations including Outstanding Direction. Also, Jason Robert Brown's PARADE, nominated for five PAMTAs, including Outstanding Direction and awarded Outstanding Ensemble, and DOGFIGHT by Pasek and Paul, four PAMTA nominations including Outstanding Direction. Other Portland directing credits include THE HOMECOMING by Harold Pinter, LET A HUNDRED FLOWERS BLOOM by David Zellnik, BLASTED by Sarah Kane (defunkt theatre), HAMLET by William Shakespeare, EQUIVOCATION by Bill Cain and COYOTE ON FENCE by Bruce Graham (Post5 Theatre), ROMEO AND JULIET (Portland Actors Conservatory) and RUTHLESS! THE MUSICAL (Stumptown Stages). Paul will direct THAT PRETTY, PRETTY OR THE RAPE PLAY by Sheila Callaghan for defunkt theatre in Spring 2017. Paul is a proud member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). Training: BFA: Musical Theatre, SUNY Fredonia. MFA: performance, Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
ABOUT THE SHOW:
Music Arrangements by Okaidja Afroso, James Beaton, Darrell Grant, Brian Adrian Koch, Mark and LaRhonda Steele, Edna Vázquez, Holcombe Waller
Ayanna Berkshire*^ | Mrs. Keckley & Ensemble
Jimmy Garcia* | Ward Hill Lamon, James Wormley & Ensemble
Amy Hakanson | Ensemble
Val Landrum*^ | John Wilkes Boothe, Chester Saunders & Ensemble
Susannah Mars*^ | Mary Todd Lincoln & Ensemble
Crystal Ann Muñoz+ | Rose & Ensemble
Laila Murphy | John Hay, Anna Surratt & Ensemble
Ted Rooney* |Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman & Ensemble
Seth Rue* | Willy Mack, Louis Weichmann & Ensemble
John San Nicolas*^ | Mary Surratt, Moses Levy & Ensemble
Vin Shambry*^ | Decatur Bronson, John Surratt & Ensemble
Blake Stone | George Keckley & Ensemble
Kai Tomizawa |Raz & Ensemble
Andrea Whittle* | Hannah & Ensemble
Miya Zolkoske | Jessa & Ensemble
Paul Angelo° |Director
Andrew Bray | Music Director
Tim Stapleton| Scenic Designer
Bobby Brewer-Wallin^ |Costume Designer
Peter West | Lighting Designer
Mary McDonald-Lewis^ | Voice & Text Director
Lauren Noyes | Wig/Hair/MakeUp Designer, Dresser
Emily Wilken | Props Master
Kristen Mun | Dance & Movement Choreographer
Luan Schooler | Dramaturg
Steven Cantor | Assistant Music Director
Samie Pfeifer | Assistant Scenic Designer
Okaidja Afroso |Ghanaian recording artist
James Beaton | Everclear/Storm Large & The Balls, Crazy Enough & Lizzie at Portland Center Stage
Darrell Grant | Internationally recognized Jazz pianist, composer and educator; PSU Music Professor
Brian Adrian Koch | Blitzen Trapper
Mark and LaRhonda Steele |Blues, Jazz and Gospel artists
Edna Vázquez | Latin American singer-songwriter
Holcombe Waller | Folk and pop singer, composer and performing artist
Dawn Moothart | Portland Apparel Lab (PAL) Textile Artist, set backdrop
Thomas Phillips | Art Design Portland (ADX) Director of Fabrication, piano/harp
Bill Wessinger | Art Design Portland (ADX) Fabrication Technician, piano/harp
Rio Wrenn |RAW Textiles, Fabric Dyer, set backdrop
* Member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers
° Stage Director and Choreographers Society
^ Artists Rep Resident Artist
+ Equity Membership Candidate
For the holiday season, Geezer Gallery will exhibit the life-long Outsider Art collection of Jane Kearns in conversation with A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS. Geezer Gallery's American Outsider Art - Kerns Collection Exhibit provides a visual illustration of historical elements rooted in the Civil War era. These two expressions of history come together to illuminate a more comprehensive story of American culture and will expand ideas of what art can be.
Highly collectible and admired, Outsider Art breaks the mold of the artistic establishment. With minimal contact to the mainstream art world, outsider artists' drive to create is unstoppable. Using unconventional materials such as sugar mud and styles unadulterated by artistic culture, they produce one-of-a-kind pieces portraying the inner workings of their psyches. They feel that their experiences and messages must be heard, using creation as a form of communication and therapy. Stemming from each piece is a grasping story that will surely capture the heart and mind of its viewers. Working with collector Jane Kearns, Geezer Gallery has discovered the secrets behind these captivating windows into American history.
Outsider Art is known by names such as Art Brut or 'Raw Art,' and falls into many categories such as art of the mentally ill, tramp art, prison art, and folk art. Each of these groups faces disadvantages that bring about stigmatization, but this does not hinder their artistic pursuits. Currently displayed in reputable institutions such as the American Museum of Folk Art, the Smithsonian National Museum of American Art, as well as in galleries around the world, Outsider Art has become a highly valued genre.
This exhibit for A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS runs November 22 to December 23. Exhibit receptions will take place on November 30 at 6:30pmand December 15 at 6:30pm.
Staged! produces stellar contemporary musical theatre and nurtures young talent. Since bounding onto the Portland arts scene in 2005, Staged! has become the city's premiere training destination for teens and young adults. Dedicated to story-driven musicals and growing the next generation of artists, we never put musicians in a pit.
Artists Repertory Theatre's mission is to produce intimate, provocative theatre and provide a home for artists of varied backgrounds to take creative risks. Artists Rep is Portland's premiere mid-size regional theatre company and is led by Artistic Director Dámaso Rodriguez and Managing Director Sarah Horton. Founded in 1982, Artists Repertory Theatre is the longest-running professional theatre company in Portland. Artist Rep became the 72nd member of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) in May 2016 and is an Associate Member of the National New Play Network (NNPN).
Artists Rep's 2016/17 season offers a stylistically diverse season of seven imaginative and entertaining plays that grapple with family and the pursuit of happiness. The season features one World Premiere commissioned by Artists Rep's new play development program Table|Room|Stage, along with five Northwest Premieres (including a musical) by some of the best contemporary playwrights in the country, and one re-imagined classic featuring an all-female cast. The 2016/17 selections emphasize the aesthetic and scope of work Artists Rep has been committed to producing for almost 35 years as Portland's premiere mid-size regional theatre company.
Artists Rep has become a significant presence in American Regional Theatre with a legacy of world, national and regional premieres of provocative new work with the highest standards of stagecraft. The organization is committed to local artists and features a company of Resident Artists, 24 professionals of varied theatre disciplines, who are a driving force behind Artists Rep's creative output and identity. Artists Rep is committed to developing new work through the recently launched new play development program Table|Room|Stage. With T|R|S , Artists Rep strives to empower and support Oregon-based playwrights while also creating a Portland home for writers from around the country to develop their work. Additionally, this program will make a meaningful impact on equity in the arts by mandating opportunities for women writers and writers of color, and cultivating the next generation of theatre- goers by creating work specifically for young people (13 and up). Artists Rep makes a significant impact on the Portland arts community with its ArtsHub, creating space and offering a home to more than eight multidisciplinary arts organizations within its facility.
RESIDENT ARTISTS - Artists Rep productions feature the work of a core group of 26 multidisciplinary theatre professionals. Hailing from around the country, our Resident Artists are nationally renowned and award-winning actors, directors, writers, designers and educators who have chosen to make Portland and Artists Rep their artistic home. Working together and independently, they create inventive and theatrically rich experiences for our audiences while playing a major role in defining Portland's cultural landscape.
TABLE|ROOM|STAGE - Through T|R|S, Artists Rep is committed to becoming an engine for new play development. As a recipient of a $125,000 Oregon Community Foundation Creative Heights grant to establish a robust new play development program, the company is creating opportunities for local and national playwrights to ensure that underrepresented voices are heard on stage. The T|R|S program will commission a total of eight plays by 2017 - at least four of the eight commissions will go to writers of color, at least four will go to women, one play will be written for young adults and one will be the Oregon Play Prize, awarded to Oregon playwright Steve Rathje for his play SIGNS. Artists Rep has now extended five of the eight play commissions to Yussef El Guindi, Linda Alper, Larissa Fasthorse and Andrea Stolowitz.
ARTSHUB - Artists Rep is also home to the ArtsHub, serving as a community arts center, where its performance venues and lobbies buzz with creative energy and Portland's arts-loving audiences can gather. Artists Rep offers a home within its facility to a diverse range of artists and arts organizations. They can thrive here with access to affordable administrative, performance and rehearsal space, as well as a myriad of support services. Over the last year, hundreds of performances, events and happenings by Portlanders found a place in Artists Rep's building.