Composer Eve Beglarian and writer and Mabou Mines Co-Artistic Director Karen Kandel will conceive a staged song cycle of twelve interlocking musical pieces that trace women’s experiences in Vicksburg, Mississippi during four different historic eras: the Civil War 1860s, the Jim Crow/Great Migration 1910s, the Civil Rights 1960s, and the current decade. The project will be developed/workshopped in both Vicksburg and New York with the premiere planned for the 2018/2019 season at Mabou Mines new theater. Mabou Mines is an artist-driven experimental theater collective, founded in 1970, generating original works and re-imagined adaptations of classics. Work is created through multi-disciplinary, technologically inventive collaborations in an extended development process.
The inspiration for the project began when Eve, a long time Mabou Mines collaborator, visited Vicksburg while traveling the length of the Mississippi River by kayak and bicycle during summer/fall of 2009. At the Military Park in Vicksburg, she came across journals kept by Confederate women who moved their households, including their slaves, into caves outside the town of during the siege. During her research, she discovered Albert Cashier, a soldier from Illinois, who served at Vicksburg and many other campaigns during the Civil War was revealed to be a woman. She also learned that scat singing was invented in Vicksburg in the early years of the 20th century.
These powerful documentary fragments coalesced into the song cycle idea with Karen, centering on the history of Vicksburg, a small but deeply significant town pivotal to the painful history of our country. The conceptual framework will use intense snapshots of women’s lives spanning 150 years of history in 50-year increments.
Karen visited Vicksburg for the first time with Eve in March of 2016, and together they have begun to address the questions that the seemingly immutable categories of North and South, male and female, black and white raise for us. Over repeated visits, Eve and Karen have met many residents of Vicksburg, building relationships and discovering hidden stories. Because Vicksburg is such a potent symbol of the agony of slavery and Civil War, it is also a place where keys to healing and reconciliation might possibly be forged.
Together Karen and Eve will collaborate on text and lyrics for the song cycle both in NYC and in Vicksburg. The text will be built from their research as well as their personal experiences of Vicksburg as (black and white, straight and gay) women. Video designer Matt Petty will create video as part of the live performance.
The grant period will also be used to put together the small ensemble of singers and musicians for workshops at Mabou Mines theater in NYC and at the Strand Theatre in Vicksburg. While the instrumentation is still to be determined, we envision a combination of local, New Orleans, and NYC musicians, and are aiming for an all-woman band.
We are seeking support at this early phase of the project to support a long-term research and development phase in the Vicksburg community for an ambitious project.