Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov,
MOINES) –The story of two Civil War-era couples who fall in love and a slave who finds freedom through the Underground Railroad will take center stage in “Hearts of Freedom” May 30 and June 1 at the State Historical Building in Des Moines.
Unexpected Company will present a concert/workshop performance of “Hearts of Freedom” at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 30 and at 3 p.m., Sunday, June 1, 2008 in the Kruidenier Auditorium at the State Historical Building in Des Moines. The performances are free and open to the public. Sponsored by the State Historical Society of Iowa, “Hearts of Freedom” is supported in part by a grant from the Iowa Arts Council. SHSI and IAC are divisions of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.
“Hearts of Freedom” is a musical about two couples – one in the North, the other in the South – who fall in love during the tumultuous years of the U.S. Civil War. It is also the story of Elijah, a slave who finds freedom on the Underground Railroad. The production contains more than 15 original musical numbers that explore duty, honor, patriotism and courage, as well as love, loss, and the true meaning of freedom.
The genesis of the “Hearts of Freedom” happened by accident in 2000 when the Unexpected Company’s Brian R. Lynner and Lisa Norris began working on a musical adaptation of the John Brown’s “Body,” an epic Civil War poem by Stephen Vincent Benet.
As the music developed, the writing team decided to abandon the Benet poem and create a new story. “Hearts of Freedom” first premiered as a staged reading/workshop production for Drama Workshop in May of 2003.
“When we did the first workshop, the country was in such a patriotic fervor, both Brian and I felt that it hurt the commercial viability of the show,” Norris said. “When you’re just embarking on a war, the last thing people want is to be reminded of how horrible war can be. We also discovered that we had been very one-sided in our point of view – very anti-war – and that made us feel like there was something missing.”
The project went back to the drawing board for a couple of years, and Lynner and Norris worked on it sporadically while they pursued other theatre projects. In 2006, feeling they had gained some perspective, they overhauled the script and score. Songs were cut, some new songs were added, and the plot has changed radically from the original draft of the script.
“It feels like a completely different play now,” Norris said.
“Hearts of Freedom” will be presented concert-style – without sets or costumes – as a presentation of the script and musical score performed by local actors and singers. Audiences will be asked to complete an online survey after attending the production and give the company feedback on the show.
The Unexpected Company will also present “Hearts of Freedom” at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 31, 2008 at the Chapel at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4114 Allison Avenue in Des Moines.
Contact Norris at 515-288-9163 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the “Hearts of Freedom” project.
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is responsible for developing the state’s interest in the areas of the arts, history and other cultural matters with the advice and assistance from its two divisions: the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council. DCA preserves, researches, interprets and promotes an awareness and understanding of local, state and regional history and stimulates and encourages the study and presentation of the performing and fine arts and public interest and participation in them. It implements tourism-related art and history projects as directed by the General Assembly and designs a comprehensive, statewide, long-range plan with the assistance of the Iowa Arts Council to develop the arts in Iowa. More information about DCA is available at www.culturalaffairs.org.
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