I’m dead. I’m a ghost. Steve Martin tweeted a congratulations to us after we received an excellent review from Jeffrey Ellis on BroadwayWorld. I may never recover!
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
I recently had the enormous pleasure to direct Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson, which is about the extraordinary work of real female astronomers from the early 20th century. This was one of my favorite directing experiences so far! I had a lovely, hard-working cast, incredible designers, and a smart crew. Check out my director’s note from the program below. I’m energized by this work!
“Women aren’t asking for special treatment, we are showing how special we already are and always have been. We’re not asking anyone to let us participate, we are exclaiming that we have participated in discoveries, breakthroughs, and wild achievements all along (despite being excluded, barred, and presumed incapable).” – Lauren Gunderson
In these few words, playwright Lauren Gunderson has put a very fine point on her own play. Silent Sky, which is based on the extraordinary legacies of real female astronomers from the early twentieth century, gives a voice to those lost to history. This story focuses on three women specifically: Henrietta Leavitt, Annie Cannon, and Williamina Fleming, each of whom overcame incredible odds to achieve great discoveries in their field. As the play unfolds, the playwright shows insightful ability to capture the highs and lows of their lives, the extraordinary sacrifices demanded by their careers, and the power of their passion to unlock the limits of the universe. Living in a world that cheapened their value to “human computers”, these female characters carry brave hope, and for that, the world is changed.
These women are like the stars they studied – resplendent points of light, shining to dispel the darkness for us all. They are just a few of the many, many women who have come before them, breaking conventions, rising above, and holding their own in the world. I’ve been changed by working on this play, and I hope it touches you, too. It’s time to let in the luminous joy of these women’s long-overlooked achievements shine. And let us ask ourselves, who in our own time is currently overshadowed?
Photo credit Kenn Stilger.