workshop 4

Seldom does a table reading of a new play leave me humming songs for days. But this week, I’m still ruminating on the songs in Keith Glover’s new play, Revival: The Resurrection of Son House. We held a closed-door workshop of the play last week with an amazing cast, and what a week it was! We’ll invite audiences in to hear a reading of the play on August 26, the first day of Journey to the Son, our festival in celebration of Son House. For now, a few images taken on my cell phone, like this one from our rehearsal last Thursday, will have to suffice.

Keith and Billy T at workshop 2
Keith Glover consults with Billy Thompson during the June workshop

We gathered on Monday and read through the play – this was the very first time any of us had heard the text aloud. The actors began to learn the songs, and as a company, we talked through moments in the play – what led to certain decisions about the dialogue, what was the context of Son’s life, and how did it impact what we hear in the play, what was the music industry like in the 1940’s and then in the 1960’s? What was happening in Rochester in the 1960’s? How did all of this influence the songs that Son wrote and performed? By Thursday evening, we had spent four days clarifying the story and the ways that the music – some songs of Son House’s, some traditional spirituals and some original music – helped to tell that story.

Marc playing harmonica at workshop 3
Cleavant Derricks and Marc Damon Johnson (playing the harmonica) during the June workshop

The cast includes a few familiar faces Geva audiences will remember from previous productions as well as an introduction to some exciting performers who will make their Geva debut this summer. Playing Son House is Cleavant Derricks, who (in addition to his many other accolades) won a 1982 Tony for his portrayal of James Thunder Early in Dreamgirls. The cast also includes Terry Burrell (Thunder Knocking on the Door), Ron Menzel (Freud’s Last Session), Nicole Lewis (Good People), Marc Damon Johnson (the FONT reading of Chat by Tanya Barfield), Tracey Conyer Lee and David St. Louis.

During the first conversation director Skip Greer and I had with Keith, we discussed the emotional and spiritual journey of Son House’s life and music – and as we listened to the cast tell this story last week, we began to see that journey take shape off of the page. You’ll want to be in the theatre on August 26 when the play gets its first public reading. Even with actors reading from the script at music stands, this will be a powerful night in the theatre!

To see what’s on tap for the rest of the Journey to the Son Festival, click here. Or, call the box office at 585-232-4382 to reserve a free ticket for this reading.


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