First rehearsal for Bourbon at the Border

The rehearsal process for Bourbon at the Border began last weekend with the designers presenting their ideas and the cast reading through the script together for the first time. We looked at pictures and notes from costume designer Elsa Hiltner, sketches and a model from set designer Kevin Scott (both of which I’ll post later), and a research packet prepared by dramaturg Sarah Moeller (which is already posted here).

Director Ron OJ Parson took a few minutes before the read-through to talk about the passage that Pearl Cleage includes as part of the introduction to the play – a passage from Dutchman by Leroi Jones (who later changed his name to Amiri Baraka). The play was one of many in the 1960s that focused on the rage and frustration that African-Americans felt before and during the Civil Rights movement, and it serves as an interesting and powerful preamble to the events in Bourbon at the Border:

A whole people of neurotics, struggling to keep from being sane. And the only thing that would cure the neurosis would be your murder. Simple as that. I mean, if I murdered you, then other white people would begin to understand me. You understand? No. I guess not. If Bessie Smith had killed some white people she wouldn’t have needed that music. She could have talked very straight and plain about the world. No metaphors. No grunts. No wiggles in the dark of her soul. Just straight two and two are four.

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