In these divisive and tumultuous times our country is experiencing, sometimes we have to reflect on the past in order to focus on the present and the hope to build for the future.
Beginning February 7, Red Mountain Theatre Company will open the doors of the RMTC Cabaret Theatre and invite the community to witness a production that opens eyes and ignites conversations with The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Known worldwide as a masterpiece and “An American Folk Opera,” Porgy and Bess was George Gershwin’s final work for the musical stage.
Based on DuBose and Dorothy Heyward’s play Porgy, Porgy and Bess combines elements of jazz, classical, and American folk music.
Set in an impoverished, Depression-era, African American community in South Carolina (called Catfish Row), it details the relationship of Porgy, a disabled street beggar, and Bess, a woman suffering drug and physical abuse. It’s a story that is tied with economic setbacks, tragic deaths, lost loves, injustice, faith, love, and community.
Over its decades of existence, the production of Porgy and Bess has evolved as a story as we have evolved as a society. RMTC will present the 2012 adaptation from acclaimed playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog, 365 Plays/365 Days) and Obie-winning composer Diedre Murray.
“This revised and edited libretto makes this iconic piece, in my opinion, much more accessible to a broader audience. It highlights the transformative effects of community, solidarity, and unconditional love,” noted Porgy and Bess Director Dennis Whitehead Darling. “I was able to look at this piece from a historical context and draw parallels that seem relevant today. Alcohol addiction, drug abuse, and violence towards women are notable themes in this iteration, and these themes mirror issues we still face today.” As we live in an opioid crisis and studies showing that a large percentage of women have experienced physical and sexual violence, the character Bess is the embodiment of these current issues. Darling followed up with, “Through Bess, we see the unrelenting grip drugs has on those who fall victim to it and how it is used as a vehicle to escape from her unbearable and abusive reality.”
A murder has been committed in the community of Catfish Row and from that violence spurs the wrath of law enforcement which furthers another theme. “It dramatizes yet another societal issue facing people of color, the aggressively violent relationship between law enforcement and the African American community,” Darling stated.
Through the course of tragedy and hard times in the world of the production, there is an undeniable connection between humanity and a sense of community. Darling inserted, “Each resident of Catfish Row struggles to survive a harsh and unjust world in the Depression-era. They are often turning to prayer and each other for hope, strength, and salvation when faced with tragedy.
In many ways, Porgy and Bess exemplifies how we might define life, love, and community.” Darling hopes that this the greatest takeaway and message for a very polarized country. Porgy and Bess holds steadfast to one hopeful idea, the idea of community.
We invite you witness the story, join the conversation, and engage in the action. Tickets for The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess start at $19 and are available by calling (205) 324-2424 or by visiting redmountaintheatre.org/porgy-and-bess.
Red Mountain Theatre Company is an organization that inspires audiences through powerful theatre experiences led by professionals who deliver engaging performances produced and presented with artistic integrity.
In addition to our theatre productions, we offer educational programs that build positive life skills for young people and provide growth opportunities for theatre professionals. Our Birmingham- based nonprofit organization has been inspiring audiences, changing lives and creating conversations through theatre experiences since 1979.
RMTC has begun construction of a $25 million arts campus in Parkside across from Regions Field and one block from Railroad Park.