Nashville is First Stop for National Tour of "Stirring the Waters Across America"

Electrifying Musical Production Debuts Feb. 28 at Vanderbilt University.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – “Stirring the Waters Across America” – a riveting new musical production highlighting key moments in Civil Rights history – will kick off its national tour in Nashville, Tennessee, on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. The performance, which combines music, dance, spoken word and multimedia images, will take place in Vanderbilt University’s Langford Auditorium (2209 Garland Avenue). The event is free but registration is required. A 30-minute talkback will follow the performance, facilitated by Dr. Alisha Lola Jones, assistant professor, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University (Bloomington).

Offering a fresh take on the struggle for voting rights, Little Rock Nine, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Emmett Till murder and other Civil Rights milestones, “Stirring the Waters Across America” is not only an engaging and thought-provoking look at the decadeslong struggle to end legalized racial discrimination, disenfranchisement and racial segregation but a powerful reminder of the lessons we should learn from it.

“Much of what’s going on in the nation today is because we’ve willfully or woefully forgotten the lessons from the Civil Rights Movement,” says Nolan Williams, Jr., who conceived, composed, and is musical director for “Stirring the Waters Across America.” “This project was created with a sense of urgency, to remind people what we’ve been through, what we’ve learned and how there are powerful connections between the past and the present.” By taking this production on national tour to cities across the country, Williams hopes to spark necessary conversations about social justice. “To quote Dr. King, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’”

Dr. Emilie M. Townes, Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, adds, “It is important to keep these memories alive so that we do not repeat the life-destroying acts that are a part of this nation’s legacy. It reminds us that we are the ones who can help make a better, more just way.” 

Williams created the work, in part, because he believes in the power of music and the arts “to bridge communities, expressing inconvenient truths that challenge us towards being our better selves.” According to Eric Ruffin, the show’s Helen-Hayes-awardwinning director, “’Stirring the Waters’ is a Broadway-quality immersive experience that uses a broad range of music to convey compelling stories, complemented by rare video footage and captivating movement.”

“Stirring the Waters Across America” was workshopped at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the fall of 2019, becoming one of the first new works to be developed at The REACH, the Center’s new arts-lab space. As an inaugural Kennedy Center Social Impact Arts Resident, Williams received support from the Center for the production’s development.

Actors, singers and dancers, who come from New York, Atlanta, Houston, Maryland and Washington, D.C., were selected through national auditions. The national tour is being produced by NEWorks Productions and Edgewood Ventures. In Nashville, the production is being co-presented by Vanderbilt Divinity School; Vanderbilt African American and Diaspora Studies/Callie House Research Center for the Study of Global Black Cultures and Politics; and the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy.

For Williams, “Stirring the Waters Across America” is the first of two theatrical works to be mounted this year. His musical, “Grace” will have its world premiere at The Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky, from March 25 to April 12, 2020, as part of the prestigious Humana Festival of New American Plays.

Media Links
The Washington Post: “His quest: To create music that challenges us ‘to be our better selves’” (Jan. 21, 2020)

DC Metro Theater Arts: “Stirring the Waters Across America” at The REACH is a powerful musical exploration of resistance to racism” (Oct. 29, 2019)

The Washington Post: “A D.C. composer channels his social conscience into art” (Oct. 22, 2019) 

“Stirring the Waters Across America”
Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, 7 to 9 p.m.
Langford Auditorium at Vanderbilt University
2209 Garland Avenue, Nashville, TN 37232
FREE, seating registration is required

Produced by NEWorks Productions and Edgewood Ventures.
Conceived, Written and Music Directed by Nolan Williams, Jr.
Directed by Eric Ruffin
Choreography by Kiana Eboné
Projection Design by Jon-Sesrie Goff
Additional Projections by Kadesh DuBose
Lighting by Helen Garcia-Alton
Sound Design by Michael Willis
Casting by Charles Coward  
Featuring: Teriauna Duran, Kiana Eboné, Austin Farrow, Nikolai Granados, Monique Steele Griffiths, Christian Harward, Taylor Milton, Aileen Mitchener, Tyesha Nance, Roy Patten, Jr., Candace Potts, Daniel Smith, Darrick Speller, Kimberly Thevenin

Musicians: Paul Byssainthe, Jr., Kevin ‘Stixx’ Marshall, and Jason Wilson, along with two Nashville-based musicians (TBA)

About NEWorks Productions
Established in 2003, NEWorks Productions is one of the nation's premier producers of inspirational-arts programming. Through our strategic collaborations with leading artists and institutions, we conceive and present curatorial festivals, theatrical productions, educational initiatives, concert events, art exhibitions, and other signature projects that leverage the power of music and the arts to educate, commemorate, uplift and inspire. Visit

About Edgewood Ventures
Edgewood Ventures, founded in 2018 by development industry veteran Dale A. Mott, supports clients and partners working at the intersection of innovation, accessibility, and social justice. Edgewood’s current roster of clients/partners include Theatre Development Fund (TDF), PostClassical Ensemble, NEWorks Productions, the National Association of Veterans Research and Education Foundations (NAVREF), ARMR Systems, and The Agora Culture. Edgewood also recently supported development efforts for The Metropolitan Opera’s 2019-2020 season-opening presentation of Porgy and Bess. Edgewood has co-produced for Broadway the critically-acclaimed play, The Lifespan of A Fact, which starred Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones, and Bobby Canavale. Current productions include Thoughts of A Colored Man, by Keenan Scott II, which premiered at Syracuse Stage in September, 2019, and Gun and Powder, a new musical by Angelica Cheri and Ross Baum.

About Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University is a private research university with approximately 6,900 undergraduates and more than 6,000 graduate and professional students. Comprised of 10 distinct schools and colleges on one centralized campus in downtown Nashville, Vanderbilt spurs—and is optimized for—cross-disciplinary research, fostering discoveries that impact society for the better. The Vanderbilt Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion, an interdenominational divinity school at Vanderbilt University, is one of only five university-based schools of religion in the United States without a denominational affiliation that service primarily mainline Protestantism. The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy is a national policy center committed to research and learning that challenge leaders to rethink the role of creative and cultural expression in contemporary society. Visit  
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