Shadowboxer: an Opera inspired by the life of Joe Louis

I’ve been in Baltimore this week for a staged reading of “Shadowboxer,” an opera I co-wrote with composer Frank Proto. It was performed last night at the Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State University. Today (5/14) we move to the Peabody Institute in downtown Baltimore for a 7:30 performance, and a matinee performance on Sunday at 3:00 pm.

“Shadowboxer” was commissioned in 2007 by the Music School and Opera Studio of the University of Maryland, College Park. It premiered there in 2010 at the Clarice Smith Fine Arts Center. The three performances held this week mark the first time it has been done since its premiere. Carolyn Black-Sotir, who served as the assistant director for the original production, worked tirelessly to secure the funding needed to workshop the opera with a new ending, and arranged for it to become part of this year’s Play Lab Series at Center Stage in Baltimore.

Leon Major, who directed the original production, and Timothy Long who conducted it, returned to make the opera live again. I’ve included a few rehearsal shots below. To view excerpts from the original production at U. Maryland, click on this link to the “Shadowboxer” home page.

 

The Shadowboxer full cast

The Shadowboxer Ensemble

 

Old Joe -Performed by

Old Joe -Performed by Daren Jackson

 

Marva Trotter Barrow (Joe's first wife) performed by Lindsey, and Young Joe, performed by

Marva Trotter Barrow (Joe’s first wife) performed by Lindsay Roberts, and Young Joe, performed by Terrence Chin-Loy

 

Shadowboxer Cast

Shadowboxer Cast

 

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Bloodline Rumba Photos

Bloodline Rumba, my new play, had a great premiere on its opening night (2/3/16) at the University of Louisville’s (UofL) Thrust Theatre. It is presented by the African American Theatre Program of the UofL Theatre Arts Department, and directed by the phenomenal Nefertiti Burton.

Sidney Edwards—who plays Sara Santos, a young Afro-Cuban woman seeking to attend medical school in NYC—is seen in the photo below. Her fellow cast members are: Shaleen Cholera (Ernesto), Paula G. Lockhart (Abuela), Casey Moulton (Dr. Ramos), Ross Shenkar (Senor Prado), and Danielle Smart (Lola).

The play runs until Monday (2/8/16). For performance times and ticket information, please click here.

To see more photos from the show, please click here. And here for photos by Aukram Burton.

To learn more about the production, check out this story in the Louisville Cardinal student newspaper.

Bloodline Sara

Bloodline Rumba, a new play by John Chenault

My new play, Bloodline Rumba, is premiering 8 pm Wednesday, February 3, at the University of Louisville (UofL). It is being produced by the African American Theatre Program of the UofL Theatre Arts Department, and directed by the brilliant Nefertiti Burton.

For more information, check out this story in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

bloodline-rumba_final copy

El espíritu del Che/Che’s Ghost

ernesto-che-guevara-1928-1967-exhaling-everett

El espíritu del Che se sienta en el salón
con una deshilachada boina en su regazo.
Un rifle automático se arrima contra su silla
lo acompaña una enfundada pistola de cacha de marfil
y una descolorida mochila verde repleta de municiones.
Un grueso cigarro apretado
entre sus brillantes dientes blancos
sobresale de su abundante barba de héroe;
El humo lentamente cae como espirales sobre su cara.
Pero sus ojos permanecen enfocados, sin pestañear y claros.

El espíritu del Che se siente a gusto.
Se asemeja a un hombre
que ha bajado de las montañas
para descubrir que la vida en el valle no es del todo mala
cuando se quita las enlodadas botas
y descansa sus agotados pies en la mesa de centro.
Las comisuras de su generosa boca se arquean hacia arriba.
Y la punta de su cigarro brilla rosada ante los rayos crepusculares
que se filtran por las cortinas de las ventanas.
Contiene sus bocanadas produciendo espeso humo fragante
que oscurece su rostro tostado por el sol.
Pero no se forman cenizas, ni caen al cuelo,
y el vaso de ron añejo que sostiene en sus manos
aunque constantemente toca sus labios
nunca se extingue.

El espíritu del Che ya casi no nos visita.
El viaje es largo y duro.
Y no es tan joven como solía ser.
Aún un espíritu debe de lidiar con el paso del tiempo
y el reconocimiento que las cosas
están constantemente cambiando,
y con la realidad cruel que la vida tiene una manera
de seguir sin los muertos
o a pesar de ellos.

El espíritu del Che se sienta en el salón,
con un silencio más elocuente
que el parloteo de oradores de salón
que llegan con o sin invitación.
Me podría sentar y eternamente escuchar su silencio.
Pero nunca se queda mucho tiempo.
Lo necesitan en las montañas.
La Revolución aún se tiene que ganar.
Y aún un espíritu tiene obligaciones que cumplir.

*************************************************************

Che’s Ghost is sitting in the parlor,
His tattered black beret in his lap.
An automatic rifle rests against his chair
Accompanied by a holstered pistol with an ivory grip
And a faded green knapsack stuffed with ammunition.
A thick brown cheroot clenched
Between sparkling white teeth
Protrudes from the verdant growth of his hero’s beard;
The smoke spirals slowly into his face
But his eyes remain focused and unblinking and clear.

Che’s ghost is comfortable.
He resembles a man
Who has come down from the mountains
To discover that life in the valleys isn’t so bad after all.
When he removes his mud caked boots
And rests his tired feet on the coffee table
The corners of his generous mouth turn upwards
And the tip of his cigar glows pink in the crepuscular rays
That drift though the window curtains.
He puffs contentedly, producing thick fragrant clouds
That obscure his sunburned face.
But no ashes form or fall to the floor,
And the glass of dark rum in his hand,
Though often raised to his lips,
Never needs refilling.

Che’s ghost seldom comes anycome.
The journey is long and hard
And he isn’t as young as he used to be.
Even a ghost must contend with the passage of time
And the bitter realization that things
Are constantly changing.
And the cruel fact that life has a way
Of going on without the dead,
Or in spite of them.

Che’s ghost is sitting in the parlor,
His silence more eloquent
Than the chatter of armchair orators
Who drop in uninvited and unwelcomed.
I could sit and listen to his silence forever,
But he never visits long.
He is needed in the mountains,
The revolution has yet to be won,
And even a ghost has his duty.

Copyright 1992, John Chenault

Spanish Translation: Manuel Medina, 2013