Photos courtesy of Mark Garvin Photography
People’s Light & Theatre presents The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith running October 16-November 24, 2013 on the Steinbright Stage. People’s Light & Theatre is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355. For tickets call 610.644.3500 or visit PeoplesLight.org. People’s Light & Theatre thanks the Lomax Family Foundation for their support of this production.
People’s Light welcomes the soulful and sultry sound of legendary blues singer Bessie Smith as portrayed by Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Award nominated performer, Miche Braden. The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith was created by a collaboration between Braden, director Joe Brancato, and playwright Angelo Parra. It had its world premiere in 2000 at Penguin Repertory Theatre in Stony Point, NY. Since then, Braden has performed the show in regional theatres across the country, including Off-Broadway in 2011.
The vibrant play is set in a Memphis buffet flat – a private after-hours establishment full of music, spirits, and revelry. Parra imagines the evening before Bessie Smith’s final moments in 1937 and we encounter the Empress of the Blues performing with a live band, bantering with band leader, Pickle, and telling the audience about her life, love, and career. Braden describes her as “feisty” and “free…She was whoever she wanted to be.” Director Joe Brancato adds that “She doesn’t accept anything that’s mediocre.”
Parra explains that the play is a “living entity,” as Braden constantly refines the work. Each production has been “unique, effervescent, and more inspiring.” As the play has traveled, reviewers have given Braden’s performance high praise. The Associated Press says, “[Miche] delivers a powerhouse performance.”
This isn’t the first time that Braden has graced the People’s Light stage. In 1988, she portrayed another great American singer and songwriter, Billie Holiday, in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. In response to the success of Lady Day, Braden and jazz musician Harold McKinney created “Jazz is…” specifically for People’s Light audiences in 1989. The musical revue featured the music of more than a dozen jazz artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Ma Rainey, Charlie Parker, and Dinah Washington. Because of her history at People’s Light, Braden has noted that it feels as if she’s coming “home” for this play that celebrates the unbridled vitality, profound gravity, and passionate voice of one of our great American musical artists.
The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith previews on Wednesday, October 16th
and Thursday, October 17th at 7:30 pm and Friday, October 18th at 8 pm. The play opens on Saturday, October 19th and runs through Sunday, November 24th. Audiences are encouraged to join the artists for a conversation about the production after the Thursday performances on October 24th and November 7th, 14th & 21st, 2013.
People’s Light continues its program called Scoop on Sundays: History, Context, and Gossip, a lively discussion before every Sunday 7 pm performance (October 20 & 27, November 3 & 24). Resident Dramaturg Gina Pisasale will host an artist from the production and get the inside scoop about such things as the rehearsal and production process, design choices, and the world of the play. The program begins at 5:30 in The Farmhouse Bistro. Cost of $15 includes light fare. Call the Box Office at 610.644.3500.
Single tickets: $26 – $46. For tickets, call the Box Office at 610.644.3500. Special discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. For more information or to purchase group tickets, call 610.647.1900 x111 or email email@example.com.
About People’s Light
People’s Light, a professional, not-for-profit theatre in Chester County, Pennsylvania, makes plays drawn from many sources to entertain, inspire, and engage our community. We extend our mission of making and experiencing theatre through arts education programs that excite curiosity about, and deepen understanding of, the world around us. These plays and programs bring people together and provide opportunities for reflection, discovery, and celebration. Founded in 1974, we produce seven to nine plays each season, in two black box theatres with 340 and 160 seats respectively, mixing world premieres, contemporary plays, and fresh approaches to classic texts for our 7-Play and Discovery Series.
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