The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2579  Friday, 9 November 2001

From:           Gloria Powers <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 08 Nov 2001 11:08:09 -0600
Subject:        Vo-Du Macbeth

Ashe Cultural Arts Center  1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd  New Orleans,
LA 70113
Business Office 619 Alvar Street  New Orleans, LA 70117
Lenwood Sloan                                                                                           Gloria Powers
Project/Artistic Director                                                                                   Project

Business Office Phone 504.948.0323 Fax 504.948.0324
E Mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

November15, 2001


New Orleans Winter Solstice Presentation culminates Seven Cities'

David Amram begins music composition at NOCCA Residency

John Scott to Coordinate Design Team of Outstanding Artists

The excitement is building, artists, organizations and audiences around
the country are catching the spirit!

The National Spirit Project is a coalition of 36 or more partners from
all regions of the country coming together to commission the Vo-Du
Macbeth, an original adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth written
by Lenwood Sloan.  Set in New Orleans at the end of the Civil War from
the cultural vantage point of the gens de coulour libre (free people of
color), the production was inspired by the infamous 1936 WPA production
by Orson Welles who abridged the work, set it in Haiti, and presented it
as a choreo-drama with African drums, dancers and costumes.

A New Opera Theatre work, Leni Sloan's Vo-Du Macbeth is being created in
a series of residencies intended to involve regional artists in the
development of the text, music and choreography.

Actors, musicians, scholars and the general public in the communities of
New Orleans, LA; Durham, NC;  College Park, MD; Burlington, VT,
Pittsburgh, PA, Houston, TX, and most recently New York City, have
shared in the process of creation.   A New Orleans residency and
presentation on Winter Solstice at NOCCA December 21 is next!

Creator/Artistic Director Lenwood O. Sloan is an award-winning
director/choreographer, whose theatrical work was presented in New York,
San Francisco, Paris and Australia prior to his administrative stints as
Director of Presenting & Commissioning for the National Endowment for
the Arts in Washington, DC, teaching dance at the University of
Southwestern Louisiana, heading up the Arts/Tourism partnership in New
Orleans, where he also served as Assistant Director of the Contemporary
Arts Center, and as a facilitator for groups including Metrovision , and
Arts Presenters nationally.

Sloan script contains a libretto of nine songs intended to stand alone
for presentations of the Vo-Du Macbeth Song Cycle Concert.

Internationally renowned composer David Amram is working with Sloan and
Music Coordinator Bill Turley to create the sound score and soundscape.
In addition, grammy nominated Nnenna Freelon will work on the choral
speaking and vocal interpretation of the songs.  The Vo-Du Macbeth
choreography is being created by two revered artists, Chuck Davis and
Donald McKayle.


The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA Riverside) will host the
culminating text residency from December 17-21.  Students and actors
from the New Orleans community as well as guest actors from the other
communities where Vo-Du Macbeth held residencies, will workshop and
present a staged reading on Friday December 21 at 7 pm followed by a
facilitated dialogue from 9-10 pm.

Noted composer David Amram joins the group for the week to begin his
improvisation composition workshops in creating the music for the
production.  New Orleans musician's participating include Tom McDermott,
piano, Michael Skinkus and Luther Gray, percussion, Andy Wolf, bass and
Jason Marsalis, drums. All workshop/rehearsals Monday thru Thursday 4-6
pm at NOCCA are open to the public. The musical results of their
workshops will be showcased with the staged reading on Friday.

Concurrent with the residency, there will be a Design Team Formation
meeting coordinated by New Orleans' own MacArthur genius, John Scott of
Xavier University.  The team members include Steve Prince (Hampton
Institute), Martin Payton (Southern University Baton Rouge, Reggie Ray
(Howard University textile artist) and Philip Mallory Jones of Arizona
who will be working on multi-media images for use on the stage.  The
Design Team discussions from 4-6 pm on December 20 and 21 will be open
to the public.


The National Performance Network will award the project a Creation Grant
thanks to Diane Pledger at St. Joseph's Historic Foundation in Durham,
NC and Kim Jordan at the Carver Cultural Center in San Antonio, TX.

The Network of Cultural Centers of Color assisted the Society of
Performing Arts in  Houston for their October Residency at The Ensemble
Theatre utilizing the wonderful talent of the Ebony Opera Guild.

651 Arts of New York has come on board both as a commissioning and a
presenting partner for the dance component of Vo-Du Macbeth with special
funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's initiative Black
Dance:  Tradition and Transformation.

The process and presentation are cutting edge.  The work itself is
inspired and informed by the WPA theater project, and is based on little
known historical facts.  Vo-Du Macbeth creates a fascinating context for
civic dialogue addressing issues of intra-racial identity in
African-American communities.

Watch for information regarding Vo-Du '02

It begins with residencies at the Carver Center in San Antonio, TX
(January) and the African American Cultural Center in Charlotte, NC
(March), with benchmark activities in conjunction with the National
Black Arts Festival in Atlanta (July), Washington University's Edison
Theatre in September, and Chicago's Dance Africa celebration in October.

The focus in 2002 will be music and dance. Chuck Davis & Donald McKayle,
will each set four works.  Each of the eight dances will be built using
an African American repertory dance company as the resource for studio
development.  The choreographers spend two days per choreography with
each company developing the work.  Companies then join the choreographic
team in a series of four day intensives to stage their pair of works and
develop production values.

The repertory companies will have an opportunity to present the work set
on them as part of their season following the premier of the Vo-Du
Macbeth.  This will increase and enrich the performance literature for
Black Dance.  Dance companies involved are:  Philadanco in Philadelphia,
The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company of Denver, CO; Muntu Dance
Theatre in Chicago and the African American Dance Ensemble of Durham,


The interdisciplinary arts project began in March 2000 and is being
developed through a series of multi day residencies and related
activities in participating communities across the country between 2001
and 2003.

The National Spirit Project (Spirit) is a multi-year collaboration
designed to explore the process of co-creation between artists and
diverse communities, which was achieved during the WPA period.  WPA
artists traveled throughout the country capturing the spirit of each
region visited through local collaborations resulting in a treasure
chest of creative works.  Museums, libraries, municipal buildings,
bridges, roadways, and train stations across the nation house the legacy
of the WPA's visual artists.  In addition, the music, dance, film,
literature and theater created during the WPA helped to shape our
thinking and our aesthetic during the 20th century.


In 1936 directors Orson Welles and John Houston joined forces with The
Negro Ensemble Unit of the WPA Federal Theater Project to develop an
adaptation of Macbeth set in Haiti at the time of the rise of Toussaint
L'Overture.  The research, scholarship and artistry of  Katherine
Dunham, a leader in the WPA Dance Project, led to a fascination in
Haitian culture. The impact of her work profoundly effected the young
artists of the WPA's newly formed Federal Theater Project.

Welles employed the collaborative vision of Virgil Thomson, Leonard de
Paul, Asadata Dafora, Canada Lee, and a host of outstanding designers,
actors and dancers to create a spectacle. The WPA production stared a
"who's-who list of Black artists from the Harlem Renaissance.

The National Spirit Project Vo-Du Macbeth transports Shakespeare's
timeless parable about power and the manipulation of power to New
Orleans in 1865. It is the Feast of the Winter Solstice but not a time
for celebration.

The great houses and family lines of the Gens de Color (Free People of
Color) are Balkanized.  Some cross over! Some pledge allegiance to the
Union cause.  Many flee the impending doom.  Macbeth and his clansmen
join forces with the Confederacy to fight and preserve an old way of
life.   At this crossroad at the end of the Civil War,
Macbeth turns to the old African gods that he had deserted and his use
and misuse of power has consequences for all.  He offends the Orishas
and the Ancestors. The children of the Diaspora turn their backs on him.
He spills the blood which was "so preciously cultivated" by his kin not
for sacrifice but for spoil.

The play begins on Winter Solstice and ends on New Year's Eve in Congo
Square with a Blessing of the Drums and a Junkanoo (the festival of
drums from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day).  It encompasses a
Masquerade Ball and ends when the guns of the New Year are heard in the
distance and the songs to Yemaja - Mother of the Waters begin down by
the river. Her songs bring about the fulfillment of a prophecy, which is
both "end and beginning for his kinsman."

The work is presented in the style of the Greek choreo-drama

The musical and choreographic treatment for the production is based on
the overlay of ritual rhythms and chants, calinda, bamboula, junkanoo,
juba, songs of celebration, period ballets, quadrilles, Irish jigs and
the music of composer Luis Moreau Gottschalk. All are woven together to
capture the spirit of New Orleans in 1865.


1.      Text & Music Residencies
Five days of workshops and open rehearsals culminating in a public
presentation of a staged reading with a scholar facilitated civic
dialogue.  Involve the actors and musicians of your community!

2.      Song Cycle Concerts

3.      Main Stage Bookings beginning in the fall of 2003!

For more information concerning this work, contact:

        Thelma Smith                            919-682-1395
        Horton-Smith Management         fax 919-682-0495
P.O. Box 51007                          This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
        Durham, NC  27717 -1007

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