I had the enormous pleasure of directing Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s bluegrass musical Bright Star this fall at Lipscomb University. This was one of my favorite experiences ever! This musical is about love, loss, and redemption, set against a backdrop of rural Appalachia in the 1920s and 40s. Here’s what I wrote in the program’s notes from the director:
“If you knew my story…”
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s quiet yet powerful bluegrass musical Bright Star opens with these simple words. The main character, Alice Murphy, invites you directly into her life story. “Tell me I’m not alone,” Alice begs, as her memories unfold and the events of her life play out on the stage. The ensemble, like spirits of the past, help her recount the highs and lows of her moving tale.
When I first saw this musical a year ago, I was deeply touched by the earnest detail in which Alice recounts both the beautiful and haunting moments of her life. There’s such power to owning our narratives, isn’t there? In Bright Star, dark and unruly moments are as essential as beautiful ones.
Crafted as an imaginative story inspired by a mysterious historical event, Bright Star travels time and space in an unapologetically sentimental manner to depict sincerely human characters mired in complicated circumstances. Incorporating the traditional instruments of bluegrass music seamlessly aligns this tale set in the heart of Appalachia. No other version of this musical would marry form and content this well. A perfect antidote for cynical times, this musical captures our need for connection, the power of forgiveness, and the human capacity for hope.
I hope that Bright Star fills your heart and reminds you that your story matters, too.
Beki Baker, M.F.A.
Photo credit: Sarah Johnson