"Dreambook" : a play w/music re: pre-Civil War New Orleans, as re-imagined by Thorkelson & Osterman

"Dreambook" : book by Dan Osterman, songs by Nick Thorkelson, directed by Jaime Carrillo. Presented by Fort Point Theatre Channel. Premiering at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre.
By: Fort Point Theatre Channel
"Dreambook" w/Nick Thorkelson & Robin JaVonne Smith
"Dreambook" w/Nick Thorkelson & Robin JaVonne Smith
BOSTON - May 20, 2016 - PRLog -- Dreambook, conceived by multi-disciplinary artists Dan Osterman and Nick Thorkelson and directed by Jaime Carrillo, is a collaborative theatrical reimagining of pre-Civil War New Orleans, a place that is often considered the most unique of U.S. cities. Osterman's and Thorkelson's fictional drama, with musical elements performed live, serves as an invitation to envision this particular past, with fresh eyes and ears, while also coming to grips with what changes have developed in American culture since then. Or not.

Dreambook, the premiere commissioned by Fort Point Theatre Channel and presented at Boston Playwrights' Theatre, interlaces Osterman's 19th century literary style, full of magic and pageantry, with Thorkelson's more contemporary New Orleans musical streetscape. The year is 1848, a particularly volatile time in American history in terms of human rights and a looming war.

Osterman had originally set out to create an historical novel, with Walt Whitman as the main character. However a bulk of that project disappeared due to a computer malfunction. Only a small portion was preserved in hard copy, which soon-to-be collaborator Thorkelson discovered to be "highly theatrical, full of compelling characters and beautiful dialogue, playful and serious" and worth developing for the stage.

Thorkelson was impressed by Osterman's storyline with its convincing "connections amongst issues of slavery, empire, sexual identity, opportunism, resistance, and the nexus of bohemia and politics." That eerie foreshadowing of the present day prompted Thorkelson to compose tunes that establish a contemporary soul/funk groove throughout, a musical vibe inspired by the likes of Lee Dorsey, The Meters, The Neville Brothers, and Professor Longhair.

Soon-to-be recognized poet Walt Whitman (portrayed by Lauren Foster), along with the adventurer William Walker (portrayed by Alexandra Smith) do factor heavily in Osterman's play, since both had indeed served (successively) as editors of The New Orleans Daily Crescent.

But Dreambook's story does not revolve around those larger than life historical figures. Rather, Osterman's play provides a closer view of two other historical individuals: visual artist Jules Lion (portrayed by Thomas Grenon), a free person of color, who has become the first daguerreotypist in New Orleans; and Anna Lion (portrayed by Robin JaVonne Smith), a shape-shifting irrepressible black teenager, who to this day continues to be a mystery to historians.

Anna challenges all those around her, no matter white or black. Together with Jules, who appears to be Anna's guardian, she confronts Walt Whitman and his poetic aesthetic, demanding that he extend his ecstatic embrace to all humanity. It is a challenge he may not be prepared to meet. In other words, "This is not the Whitman you think you know," states playwright Osterman.

Although Dreambook, with its non-stereotypical casting for 8 women and 1 man, is fiction, it is extremely real in its investigation of race, gender, empathy and resistance, while paying homage to human joy and sorrow. The story acknowledges the humanistic impact made by such free thinkers as Whitman, but the real drama lies in the struggles lived daily by free people of color, during a volatile time in a nation on the brink of collapse.

Further background on Dreambook's collaborators, including cast and crew, can be found specifically at www.fortpointtheatrechannel.org/dreambook.

Listings information:

Dreambook, a play with music; premiere presented by Fort Point Theatre Channel. Performances: Friday, June 17 & Saturday, June 18, 8 pm; Sunday, June 19, 4 pm; Thursday, June 23 thru Saturday, June 25, 8 pm. Boston Playwrights' Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215. Tickets: $20, $14 students/seniors. For more information: www.fortpointtheatrechannel.org/dreambook; for advance tix: 866-811-4111, https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/956983.

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