|Ishmael In Action||
Jonathan Leavitt had first read Ishmael ten years ago and its impact had been minimal. "It was a fascinating book but I wasn't yet moved to create as a result of it." This all changed about a year ago while starting work on a new CD with his band the "Stoned Mountain Boyz". "I wanted to create music that led the listener through stories that were vital to understanding what was happening in the world today, but that would be accessible to both six year olds and sixty year olds."
Quinn Readers Produce Mother Culture: The Musical
Leavitt found himself re-reading Ishmael, My Ishmael and the Story of B at the same time. This time the books touched a nerve. "I've been doing community organizing for twenty years and had reached a point where I needed to better understand where my resistance would be effective and sustainable. I think the books helped remind me how important it was to spend my time and energy creating a vision, even while I continued my work on changing policy and structures."
Leavitt also began anticipating the birth of a newborn with his partner Amanda Parkhurst. "I hate to sound like a cliché, but it certainly brings you in contact with an energy that had not been available to me previously. I wanted this new musical project to be an antidote to whatever fairytales and cultural blinders the new baby would be faced with."
Leavitt and his partner in the Stoned Mountain Boyz, Van Lawton (who also dove into the books), began writing songs that reflected these sentiments, emerging with tunes that ranged from tales of soldiers thrown into another war (Company We Keep), to stories of our society's outcasts (Waltz in the Shadows/Transvestite Tango), meditations on the elements (Mantra) to a musical explanation of Quinn's writings (Mother Culture). The CD was given the name, "Politics for Preschoolers" and is expected out by the end of May 2008.
Leavitt then began discussions with Parkhurst, who is a dancer/choreographer, about the possibility of collaborating on a musical version of the CD. Only a year ago they had wrapped up their last joint venture, a guerilla musical called "Jesus Christ Terrorist," that had been produced in various locations in New England. This production, based on the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, but with Jesus returning post 9-11, labeled a terrorist and battling with the likes of "Pontious Ashcroft", "Herod Powell" and of course "King George," had been set to the music of Leavitt's previous band, The Reagan Babies. It had had achieved such a notoriety that their last scheduled performance had been cancelled when the management of the Somerville Theater had pulled their contract due to outside pressure and their insurance companies' unwillingness to cover the performance.
Over a period of five months the script began to take shape. Meanwhile some of the principle actors in the JCT production were approached about participation, and, as it turned out, many of them were huge fans of the Daniel Quinn books. Following the process that they had followed in JCT, the script was then presented to the cast and an open dialogue began as the collective began to take ownership over the final production. New insights and themes were fleshed out in the dialogue, new songs written, and new characters were introduced as the cast rehearsed. What began as a kernel of an idea, now began to be fleshed out as a musical/dance/theatre.
Now the cast has decided that they are ready to take the production to public audiences and have set Sunday, May 11th as their opening show, to be held in Lawrence, Massachusetts. They chose Mother's Day in the spirit of re-discovering the stories that create "Mother Culture", the name given to the production. (Note: What has become a Hallmark holiday was originally an anti-war proclamation issued in 1870.)
"We are hoping that we have done our homework and produced something that does justice to the Ishmael books, and the insights that many of us have found through them. We hope that others take what we have created in our neck of the woods, and use it as a framework to attempt similar ventures in other locations," said Leavitt.
For more information, please visit www.motherculture.org. To contact the producers, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about theater inspired by Ishmael and Daniel Quinn.