The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess

By George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin

Book Adapted by Suzan-Lori Parks, Musical Score Adapted by Deidre L. Murray

Friday/Saturday nights, June 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 8:00pm

Sundays, June 11, 18 and 25 at 3:00pm

Saturday, June 24 at 2:00pm

Saturday, June 17th VIP NIGHT Fundraiser: $50 per person non season members includes VIP seating for the show, Food, Drink, JTP Singers, Silent Auction. $25 for Season Members.  Email us for your spot today! thejusticetheaterproject@gmail.com

Saturday, June 10th is $20 night!

Sunday, June 25th at 3pm has FREE childcare. Children must be potty trained. Email for your spot. thejusticetheaterproject@gmail.com

June Show location: Umstead Park United Church of Christ. 8208 Brownleiegh Drive, Raleigh. 27617.

Tickets on sale on-line and by phone only.  On site Box Office opens one hour before each show in June.  Please call us for disability seating, season member and advertiser/sponsor ticketing, and any other special requests. 919-264-7089

Click here to BUY TICKETS

Adults $27.00, Senior/Student/Military $23.00, Groups of 10+ $20

Email thejusticetheaterproject@gmail.com for special requests, or call 919-264-7089

Adapted by playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, who through radically fresh eyes inspires us to think anew about economic justice, race, and American history.

Social Justice Advocates and Nonprofits:

During the ten performances of Porgy and Bess, JTP will feature one group per show in the lobby.  If you would like to be an "Intermission Advocate", talk to the public about your groups great work in the community, and have your information at a table during one of the shows, please email us. thejusticetheaterproject@gmail.com

 

Porgy and Bess: Opera Then...Musical Now

A note from Carly Prentis Jones, Dramaturge

  As a young woman of color in undergraduate school studying opera, the arias from Porgy and Bess became a favorite of mine to sing and I fell in love with the rich, beautiful score that Gershwin wrote. Since opera is traditionally a European tradition, most repertoire is in German, Italian, or French - there are English operas but this is the only opera that was written to represent the traditions of African Americans (besides Scott Joplin's Tremonisha that rarely gets performed). It has been controversial over the years - especially since it was written by a white man and represents many African American stereotypes in the story.

THE OPERA THEN: In the opera Porgy and Bess, you don't really have an opportunity to get to know the characters on a deep, humanized level - many of them lack dimension. There are times in opera, that the focus is primarily on the beauty of the voice and less on the development of believable characters with motivations, back stories and story arcs - I believe this was the case in Porgy and Bess. It is important to note that both Gershwin and Heyward passed away within five years of the opera's premiere, and that operas typically go through revisions after inception as it travels. In fact, many have told the story of the creators cutting the original four-hour work the very night of the premiere. Many believe that Gershwin and Heyward planned on further development of the opera. This might explain the lack of character development.

THE MUSICAL TODAY: When playwright Suzan-Lori Parks fleshed out the script for the musical revival, she was able to add interesting back story and dialogue to explain the characters and make them appear as real people to audiences. Whenever a character is portrayed as "one-dimensional" or without much substance - it is easier to fall in the lines of popular racial stereotypes that lack a human connection - this is because they are not seen as real people. 

For example, Porgy's popular song "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'", has been seen by many as a very clear representation of minstrelsy - the unfortunately familiar portrayal of the cheerful "darkie with empty pockets". He happily sings, "I got plenty o' nuttin' and nuttin's plenty for me. I got no car, I got no mule, got no misery". This song lacks development and motivation - as pure entertainment for the audience which is also reflective of minstrelsy. To solve this issue and to make the song more dramatically cohesive, the musical revival's creative team added text that was not there before - this dialogue sets the song up so that it made more sense in the context of the play and added meaning for Porgy to sing the song.

The creative team of the revised musical made a controversial decision to eliminate the famous "goat cart" plot device that has been historically used by Porgy in the opera. In the revival, he walks with a cane. The opera never explains why Porgy is disabled. The book Porgy by Dubose Heyward, which Porgy and Bess originated from, explains that Porgy was crippled from birth. The original line "God made me to be lonely" was used in the new script to create a beautiful moment showing a man having a conversation with God, "From the day I was born, you made me to be lonely..."

During the development of the script for the musical revival, Audra McDonald who played the lead of Bess, described in an interview why deeper character development is important. There are a lot of questions about the motivations of characters. Bess is an extremely under-developed character in the opera.

"Okay, at this moment, they're going through withdrawal, cocaine withdrawal," McDonald says. "At this moment, someone has just been murdered. At this moment, someone is promising to murder someone so that you will not relapse and run away. I mean, all of these things, when you put them in a realistic context, the songs come even more alive."  Audra McDonald

  Porgy and Bess Cast List

Porgy – Phillip Bernard Smith

*Bess – Danielle Long

Crown – Chase Rivers

Sportin Life – Christopher N. Bailey, Sr

Sportin Life - JaJuan Cofield

Jake – Moses Alexander Green

Clara – Connie McCoy

Robbins- Juan Isler

Serena – Terra Hodge

Mariah – MeMe Cowans Taylor

Crab Man – Noah Anderson (Robbins Understudy)

Honey Man – Vincent Bland

Mingo – T.J. Swann (Crown and Jake Understudy)

Detective – Sean Gargan

Policeman – Joe Dombkowski

Strawberry Woman – Chanda Branch

Ensemble with Understudies Indicated:

Aya Wallace – Woman of Catfish Row (Bess Understudy)

India Williams – Lilly (Clara Understudy)

Tieshya Coleman – Woman of Catfish Row, Serena Understudy

Lynnette Barber – Woman of Catfish Row (Mariah Understudy)

Maria Barber – Woman of Catfish Row (Strawberry Woman Understudy)

India Williams – Woman of Catfish Row

Alana Bleimann – Woman of Catfish Row

Children of Catfish Row:

Kaori Doughty

Jada Lewis

Noah Guilford

Kyla Guilford

Leah Guilford

*Member of Actors Equity Association