OZ ARTS NASVHILLE PRESENTS JULIA WOLFE’S STEEL HAMMER, DIRECTED BY ANNE BOGART, NOVEMBER 20 & 21
Featuring Performances by SITI Company, Bang on a Can All-Stars and Singers Emily Eagen, Katie Geissinger, and Molly Quinn
With Original Text By Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux & Regina Taylor
NASHVILLE, TENN. – Julia Wolfe, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music, did not conceive her profound art ballad Steel Hammer as a stage show, but director Anne Bogart was so inspired by the composer’s musical retelling of the John Henry legend that she wanted to give it a dramatic reincarnation with six members of the renowned SITI Company. The SITI Company members, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and the singers Emily Eagen, Katie Geissinger, and Molly Quinn will perform the work at OZ Arts Nashville, where the audience will surround a circular stage, on November 20 & 21.
Performances will take place at 7:30pm (doors open at 6:30pm). Running time is approximately 115 minutes, with no intermission. Tickets begin at $60 and can be purchased at www.ozartsnashville.org. OZ Arts is located at 6172 Cockrill Bend Circle in Nashville, Tenn.
Appalachian folklore has immortalized the legend of John Henry, the steel-driving man, through song, illustration and tall tale since the 1870s. Wolfe’s libretto in Steel Hammer is culled from the many iterations of the century-old John Henry ballad, and her music incorporates elements of minimalism, Appalachian folk music and rock. Deconstructing and resetting more than 200 versions of the famous ballad, Steel Hammer examines not only the subject of human vs. machine, but delves into the richly populated mythos of American folklore and roots music.
Intersecting the music in this production is text commissioned from four remarkable American poets and playwrights—Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux and Regina Taylor—based on hearsay, recollection and stories handed down from generation to generation. The performers take on wooden bones, mountain dulcimer, step dancing, and more as they explore the human impulse to tell stories and this quintessential tale of an American folk hero who worked on the railroad.
The production features scenic & costume design by James Schuette, lighting by Brian Scott, sound design by Andrew Cotton and Christian Frederickson and choreography by Barney O’Hanlon.
“Steel Hammer was really inspired by my love for the legends and music of Appalachia,” Wolfe explains. “It’s a return to my musical roots in folk music, and when I wrote the piece, I looked to the breadth of musicianship in the Bang on a Can All-Stars. I was also moved by the myriad of songsters, some known, some not-so-known, who filled my ears with their own personal versions of the John Henry ballad.”
“Steel Hammer is nothing less than a meeting of hearts, minds and bodies: Julia Wolfe’s extraordinary music composition, the brilliance of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the fluency of four remarkable playwrights and the shared sensibilities of SITI Company’s actors and designers,” says Bogart.
Steel Hammer, a Carnegie Hall and Maria and Robert A. Skirnick commission, was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music, and the studio recording, featuring the Bang on a Can All-Stars and Trio Mediaeval, was released on Cantaloupe Music in 2014. Listen to the album here. (This link is not for publication. Press-only password: Steel2001).
Steel Hammer the score was commissioned by Bang on a Can with generous support from Maria and Robert A. Skirnick and Carnegie Hall. The play Steel Hammer was created with support from Actors Theatre of Louisville and the National Endowment for the Arts. The dramatized stage production of Steel Hammer was commissioned by the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois and by BAM for the 2015 Next Wave Festival.
The OZ Arts Nashville presentation of Steel Hammer is made possible with support from UBS. The OZ Arts 2015-16 season is made possible with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, UBS, Griffin, Advance Financial Foundation and Tennessee Arts Commission. The Frist Foundation, The Danner Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Waller, Bonnaroo Works Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the Cano & Esen Ozgener Family Foundation provided additional support for the season.
About the Artists
Julia Wolfe, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music, draws inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, bringing a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them. Wolfe’s music is distinguished by an intense physicality and a relentless power that pushes performers to extremes and demands attention from the audience. Her music has been heard in venues worldwide including BAM, the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival, Théâtre de la Ville, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall, and has been recorded on Cantaloupe, Teldec, Point/Universal, Sony Classical, and Argo/Decca.
Formed in 1992, New York’s electric chamber ensemble, Bang on a Can All-Stars, is recognized worldwide for its ultra-dynamic live performances and recordings of today’s most innovative music. Freely crossing the boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world, and experimental music, this six-member amplified ensemble has consistently forged a distinct category-defying identity, taking music into uncharted territories.
SITI Company is an ensemble theater company based in New York that tours extensively throughout the United States and internationally. SITI is dedicated to the creation of new work, the training of theater artists, and to international collaboration. Founded in 1992 by Anne Bogart, Tadashi Suzuki and a group of like-minded artists, SITI seeks to redefine and revitalize contemporary theater in the United States through an emphasis on international cultural exchange and collaboration. Among the countless accolades SITI as a whole, as well as its members individually, have garnered are: seven OBIE awards; two Guggenheim Fellowships, Doris Duke Artist Award, USA Artists Rockefeller Fellowship; American Theatre Wing’s Henry Hewes design award, Best Foreign Production at the Dublin Festival, and several Drama Desk Award nominations.
Anne Bogart is the artistic director of SITI Company, which she founded with Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki in 1992. She is a professor at Columbia University where she runs the Graduate Directing Program. She and SITI have created about two dozens works including A Rite (Next Wave 2013), Trojan Women (After Euripides)(Next Wave 2012), Hotel Cassiopeia (Next Wave 2007), bobrauschenbergamerica (Next Wave 2003), War of the Worlds–the Radio Play (Next Wave 2000). She is the author of five books: A Director Prepares; The Viewpoints Book; And Then, You Act; Conversations with Anne; and What’s the Story.
Steel Hammer the score was commissioned by Bang on a Can with generous support from Maria and Robert A. Skirnick and Carnegie Hall. The play Steel Hammer premiered at Actors Theatre of Louisville in the 2014 Humana Festival of New American Plays with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The dramatized stage production of Steel Hammer featuring SITI Company and Bang on a Can All-Stars was developed and premiered at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was commissioned by the Krannert Center and by BAM for the 2015 Next Wave Festival.
About OZ Arts Nashville
As the newest 501(c)3 contemporary arts institution in the Midsouth Region, OZ Arts' particular style of programming has begun to transform the cultural landscape of Nashville. Utilizing the venue's flexibility, OZ Arts presents the work of leading artists from around the world, offering an intimate context for performing and visual art programs that challenge and inspire a diverse range of curious audiences.
OZ Arts also serves as a catalyst for local creativity through a program called TNT (Thursday Night Things). TNT is a quarterly series of unexpected collaborations with Nashville-based artists from varying creative disciplines. OZ Arts' "blank slate" provides a platform onto which these artists can create, develop and present a one-time-only event that would traditionally not be seen in a visual art gallery or theatre.
OZ Arts is located in the former C.A.O. cigar warehouse owned by Nashville’s Ozgener family. Their generosity provided the seed money that breathed new life into the column-free, 10,000 square-foot space nestled amidst artfully landscaped grounds.
Since it opened in February 2014, OZ Arts Nashville “has fundamentally changed the creative landscape of Music City” (ArtsNash). Under the artistic leadership of Lauren Snelling, its first two-seasons have brought to the city luminaries such as Philip Glass and Tim Fain, Tim Robbins’ The Actors’ Gang, Peter Brook’s Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, the Trisha Brown Dance Company, Vijay Iyer, Laurie Anderson, Wayne McGregor’s company Random Dance, ETHEL and BANDALOOP. These programs have consistently played to sold-out audiences and local and national acclaim.