Michael Lange, director
Act 1, scene 1: Raymond Nat Turner as John Brown
Act 1, scene 2: Maria Medina Serafin as John Brown, Zigi Lowenberg or Andrew Ross as Preacher
Act 1, scene 3: Eliza O’Malley as John Brown
Act 2, scene 1: Sarita Cannon as John Brown
Act 2, scene 2: Raymond Nat Turner, Maria Medina Serafin, Eliza O’Malley, Sarita Cannon as John Brown, Zigi Lowenberg or Andrew Ross as Judge
Act 2, scene 3: Raymond Nat Turner as John Brown, Zigi Lowenberg or Andrew Ross as Preacher
Chorus: All principal singers who are not singing their roles comprise the Chorus
Dancers: Ava Square-LeVias
Children Rhymers: to be announced
India Cooke, violin; Lewis Jordan, baritone saxophone; Cheryl Schwartz, tenor saxophone; Henry Mobley, string bass; Akinyele Sadiq, percussion; William Crossman, piano; Sandy Poindexter, violin; Tarika Lewis, violin.
SARITA CANNON [John Brown principal singer] Born and raised in San Francisco, Sarita Cannon began her musical journey at age ten when she started singing with the San Francisco Girls Chorus. During her eight years with the Girls Chorus, she sang in two productions with the San Francisco Opera and toured to Shanghai. Sarita continued performing while earning her A.B. in Literature at Harvard, where favorite roles included Susanna (Marriage of Figaro), Antonia (Tales of Hoffmann) and Belinda (Dido and Aeneas). Since returning to the Bay Area, she has sung with several groups, including Lamplighters Music Theater, Ray of Light Theatre, Oakland Opera Theater, Golden Gate Opera, and San Francisco Cabaret Opera. An avid fan of new music, Sarita has performed works by Mark Alburger, Mary Watkins, Alden Jenks, Robert Denham, and David Ahlstrom. This past summer, she participated in the Emerald City Opera Artist Institute in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where she sang in performances of Carmen and Suor Angelica. Upcoming engagements include the role of Kate in Lamplighters Music Theater’s production of The Yeomen of the Guard in January 2011. By day, Sarita is Assistant Professor of English at San Francisco State University.
INDIA COOKE [Violin] violinist, composer and educator performs nationally and internationally in a variety of settings, playing a wide range of music – from improv to jazz, to classical. Her continuing jazz and improvisation experiences include performances with Pharoah Sanders, Peter Kowald, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Pauline Oliveros, George Lewis, Joelle Leandre, and many others. India has performed in San Francisco Bay Area symphony and opera orchestras, chamber ensembles, and Broadway shows. As one of California’s most respected contract artists, she has performed as featured soloist with Joe Williams and the Louie Bellson Orchestra, and has played with Sarah Vaughn, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and many others. India has recorded sessions for Atlantic, Fantasy, and Stax Records. As a featured artist she is heard on Leo Records with Sun Ra and His Arkestra Pleiades and Live at the Hackney Empire, Black Saint What We Live Fo(u)r, Hat Musics Nomadic Winds, Plainisphares’ African Roots of Jazz, and Sparkling Beatnik Records’ the circle trio~live at the meridian. In 1997 she recorded and released, to critical acclaim, her Grammy nominated debut CD as a leader, Music and Arts IndiaCooke~Redhanded. 2005 brought the Red Toucan release of Firedance Joelle Leandre, bass, India Cooke, violin Live at the Guelph Jazz Festival, September 11th 2004. Most recent recordings are in duo with pianist, Bill Crossman. India also plays in trio with ESP including bassist/keyboardist Kimara Dixon and drummer Kele Nitoto. ESP has performed at the Monterey International Jazz Festival, the Jazz in Flight series at Yoshi’s Nitespot, Jahva House Performance Series, as well as a Meet the Composer residency at San Francisco’s Meridian Gallery. ESP has also been featured in Mills College’s “Patterns: Music and Related Arts in the African-American Tradition”. As a host ensemble for The Black New World, ESP has also performed with Amiri Baraka, Bobby Bradford, Marcel Diallo, and many others. As an educator, Ms. Cooke was an Artist-in-Residence at the San Francisco School of the Arts, and currently teaches at Mills College, the San Francisco Community Music Center and at her private studio. She has conducted lecture/performances in Bay Area public schools, colleges, and other educational programs.
WILLIAM CROSSMAN [Composer, librettist, director, piano] created the musical conception and wrote the libretto for John Brown’s Truth, a groundbreaking musical that may be the first full-length musically improvised musical. He grew up in a musical family and started classical piano lessons at age 8, switching to the great African-rooted improvisational music called “jazz” in his teens. Over the years, he has performed and recorded with some of the world’s greatest avant-garde/new music improvisers, appearing in performance venues and festivals in the U.S. and internationally. Recently he has been performing and recording in a duo with renown violinist India Cooke. He has also been teaching “jazz” and blues piano at the inner-city Oakland Public Conservatory of Music in Oakland, CA, where he also founded and hosts an innovative monthly series of free-“jazz”/free-improv jam sessions. Along with music, Bill is a longtime human rights organizer, and a college teacher who has taught philosophy, critical thinking, basic skills, and English as a second language at institutions from Tufts, Harvard, and Morris Brown College on the east coast to Antioch (West), San Francisco City College, and (currently) Berkeley City College. For the past 15 years, as speaker, author, and consultant, Bill has also been presenting his ideas on the impact of emerging technologies on society/culture to a worldwide audience. He is founder/director of the CompSpeak 2050 Institute for the Study of Talking Computers and Oral Cultures www.compspeak2050.org, and his writings include his recent book VIVO [Voice-In/Voice-Out]: The Coming Age of Talking Computers.
LEWIS JORDAN [Baritone saxophone] is a saxophonist (alto and bari) and poet, a member of the San Francisco music scene for decades, playing with a wealth of the Bay Area talent, mostly in the improvised music/jazz idiom. As a solo artist, in groups and as a leader he brings music and poetry to the service of keeping culture in the forefront of shaping a more just and inclusive world. He was a founding member of United Front, the seminal San Francisco Bay Area ensemble known for its originality, imagination and cultural synthesis, which toured and recorded internationally. He produces the series Music at Large in which he has collaborated with dancers, poets, visual and theater artists. He has worked with creative such as Anthony Braxton, Karlton Hester, Jon Jang, James Newton, Genny Lim, Cecil Taylor, Ntozake Shange, Lisle Ellis, and Istvan Grencsó.
MICHAEL LANGE , Director, has directed two award winning plays, Ceremonies In Dark Old Men, and The Old Settler for which each won an ARTY’s Award for Best Play and Best Director, respectively. He has also directed two of Ismael Reed’s plays, The C Above C Above High C and Mother Hubbard. More recently he directed the stage play Shakespeare’s Lost Masterpiece, and Shooting Blanks at Moving Targets. Lange just finished directing the film Africa Rise, and has a host of other stage and film directing to his credit.
ZIGI LOWENBERG [Preacher, Judge, Chorus] has over twenty years experience as an artist in multiple disciplines specifically in multicultural contexts. She is best known for her work as a jazzpoet, performer and co-leader in the seminal jazzpoetry ensemble, UpSurge! She’s also been the executive producer on the groups’ two highly acclaimed CDs, Chromatology (2003) and All Hands on Deck (1999). UpSurge has appeared at music festivals from Monterey Jazz, Oakland’s Art & Soul to New York’s Medgar Evers College. Club performances include the Jazzschool, Freight & Salvage, Yoshi’s, Bowery Poetry Club, and Greenwich Village’s Cornelia Street Cafe. UpSurge has performed in universities and colleges from Rhode Island to New Orleans, from Denver to San Francisco. Zigi has also performed as a soloist at Plymouth Jazz and Justice Church in Oakland, and with the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music’s Count Basie Tribute Band. Zigi’s acting credits include The Lysistrata Project at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, presented by the Actor’s Training Project, directed by Lissa Tyler Renaud (protesting the outbreak of the latest Iraq war, March 2003). Zigi has played Alice B. Toklas for Hans Gallas’ Stein-Toklas Project at the SF Koret Library (2004), and most recently performed in a staged reading of Brenda Usher Carpino’s Blood Types (2008). As a member of the chorus, Zigi is honored to be “giving voice to” John Brown’s Truth, written and directed by William Crossman. A native New Yorker, Zigi grew up around art and politics including the emerging art scene in the East Village, where she resided in the 1980s. Having migrated to California some time ago, she now lives with her husband and creative partner, Raymond Nat Turner, in Oakland.
HENRY MOBLEY [String bass] My earliest musical memory is of my father, playing a Dinah Washington side called “Unforgettable” on the “ Hi-Fi” in our apartment on Riverside Drive in New York City. I could not have been much older than 5. He passed away within a year after that introduction to Jazz but he left me an incredible collection of Jazz LP’s that would lay the foundation of my musical education. In the 6th grade, while exploring the collection my father left me, I was “ turned on” by this B flat walking bass line on a Dave Brubeck side and fell in love with sound of the bass and Jazz music. It would be many years before I would actually start playing the bass here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Under the patient watchful ears of music teacher Mandy Flowers, I grew from playing the fretless jazz to the acoustic upright. Henry plays rock, blues, jazz and recently has been exploring creative improvisational music.
ELIZA O’MALLEY [John Brown principal singer] soprano, recently sang the roles of Francesca in Peter Josheff’s world-premiere opera Inferno, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and Antigone in Mark Alburger’s Antigone with the San Francisco Cabaret Opera. Bay Area audiences also recently saw her as Nedda in Pagliacci with conductor Robert Ashens. A lover of new music, she has performed works by Mark Alburger, Lisa Scola Prosek, Stephen Clark, Sheli Nan, Allan Crossman and more while working with San Francisco Cabaret Opera over the past couple of years. Through her association with Harvest of Song at the Berkeley Art Center she has also premiered new works by composers Peter Josheff, Mary Watkins and Alexis Alrich. In addition to her work with SFCO, she has sung roles with The Santa Cruz Chamber Orchestra, Oakland Opera Theater, Berkeley Opera, Solo Opera, BASOTI, Capitol Opera Sacramento, Labor Fest as well as appearing as Emma in a workshop production of Khovanshchina conducted by Kent Nagano. Eliza also produces and sings in the “Dazzling Divas” nights of opera arias at the Bateau Ivre. In January 2010 she looks forward to joining Verismo Opera as Violetta in their production of La Traviata. Eliza’s proudest achievement this year was seeing several of her long time young private voice students awarded leading roles in musicals. www.elizaomalley.com
SANDY POINDEXTER [Violin] from Oakland, California, has played violin from a very young age. She is a versatile musician and composer who plays jazz and classical music as well as other genres such as early Mariachi and Cuban. Sandy has toured the U.S. and abroad with noted saxophonist John Handy playing concerts and festivals. Sandy is a founding member of La Moderna Tradicion ensemble, she teaches at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music and at Los Cenzontles Mexican Cultural Center in San Pablo, and she continues her quest to collaborate with other artists.
ANDREW ROSS [Preacher, Judge, Chorus] Tenor. Since 1995, Andrew has performed in over 30 productions in various capacities. Most recently he has performed in “Norma” and “Otello” for Verismo Opera Company along with his vocal instructor Eliza O’Malley. He is also a songwriter, recordist, audio editor, and aspiring sound designer–a lover of music and all things noisy, Andrew enjoys pushing the envelope and keeps his interests eclectic.
AKINYELE SADIQ [Percussion] has been teaching and performing African, Caribbean and Brazilian percussion in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1978. He earned his BA in Humanities at New College of California in 1993, focusing on the relationship between music and social change in the Caribbean. He has worked with several bands, poets and dancers, including B Free, Lewis Jordan, and Genny Lim. Akinyele is the founder of the Troublemakers Union, which plays “international music for human rights.” In all of his work, he strives to demonstrate the collective nature of artistic creation and the historical connections between world cultures.
CHERYL SCHWARTZ [Tenor saxophone] has been playing sax and free music for almost 30 years. Played with JG’s Ritual Band, music for human rights with Akinyele Sadiq’s Troublemakers Union, free improvisational group Be Free with Bill Crossman, lead horn with salsa fusion group Coimbre, played for the sea lions on the Mendocino Coast.
MARIA MEDINA SERAFIN [John Brown principal singer, percussion] is a poeta/percussionist/salsa sonera with an extensive performance history on both east and west coasts. Former bandleader of “Grupo Sinigual” and producer of “The Latin Jazz Quarter” for WDNA FM in Miami, Maria was recently honored for cultural activism by Bay Area Boricuas and was the featured poet at S.F. Library’s “Hispanic Heritage Month” celebration. She’s a member of The troubleMakers Union performing international music for human rights and an integral part of the Mission cultural and artistic community.
AVA SQUARE-LEVIAS [Choreographer & principal dancer] is an actor, choreographer/dancer, poet, presenter and filmmaker. She has performed with many dance companies, bands, theater productions, and independent films. Ava currently performs with Ojala, and teaches West African dance at Born to Drum Women’s Drum Camp & with drummer extraordinaire Afia Walking Tree.
RAYMOND NAT TURNER [John Brown principal singer, percussion] JazzPoet, has performed live internationally and throughout California as well as on television and radio. Since 1990, he has also been Artistic Director of the swinging, stalwart JazzPoetry Ensemble UpSurge! The group fuses cutting-edge poetry with jazz. UpSurge opened the historic 2001 anti-war rally in support of the then embattled Congresswoman Barbara Lee after her lone vote against going to war. As a solo artist, Raymond once had the honor of opening for the great James Baldwin. He has also opened for radical sports writer Dave Zirin, author of “What’s My Name, Fool?” and People’s President, Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. Raymond has also appeared with UpSurge! at the Monterey Jazz Festival, KCSM’s Jazz on the Hill Festival, Panafest in Ghana, West Africa and many, many other venues. He has performed, as well, at Harvard, Tulane, and Brown Universities. In 2003, UpSurge! was voted Best of the East Bay, Reader’s Poll East Bay Express. Raymond is the Executive Producer on UpSurge!’s two critically acclaimed CDs, “Chromatology,” and “All Hands on Deck;” the latter, having won Honorable Mention in 2000 for an independent music award from AFIM.
Special thanks: to the extraordinary Opera Cast of singers, orchestra, and rhymers for their talent, input, and dedication to this project; to Allan Crossman and Mehgan Dibble for direction input; to Lea Weinstein for words review; to Bob Wells and Terry Bisson for historical input; to Oakland Public Conservatory of Music and Chamber Arts House for rehearsal and performance space, to the International Society of Improvised Music (ISIM) for inviting us to perform John Brown’s Truth at their 2009 Annual Conference at University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), and to the UCSC Music Department for its onsite support in staging the musical.
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