The musical starts out in a congressional hearing of conservative Senators interrogating NASA scientist Dr. John Holden on climate change research as they mock the existence of global warming with an aggressively sharp and witty choral piece, Junk Bunk, music and lyrics written by my collaborator and music genius composer James Behr. In a moment of this overwhelming stir, Dr. Holden transforms into the famous astronomer Galileo Galilei. The play then shifts and unravels into parallels of haunting similarities of social, political, and religious ideologies and attitudes toward science and progressiveness.
I was fortunate enough to have a cast of outstanding actors for last week's festival. Paul Fraccalvieri, who played Picasso in a musical piece I had written this past November, played Dr. Holden and Galileo. Fraccalvieri eloquently filled the theatre with his deep, rich baritone voice while playing a believable, emotionally vulnerable Galileo. (Congratulations, Paul, for winning an honorable mention for best actor in Galileo for the festival!) Members of the Senate also doubled up their roles. The Sarah Palin-like senator, played by Jennifer Eden, hilariously began the chant of the ever-famous "drill, baby, drill," then transformed into Galileo's lovely mistress, Marina, in a beautiful duet, Through These Eyes (music by Behr and lyrics by Behr, Cheryl Krebs, and myself) that would make any soprano green with envy. Eden's voice mixed perfectly with Fraccalvieri's, adding a dimension of birds flying through the heavens as her high pitches were perfectly layered with the spiritual emotion of the song.
Other ensemble senators also doubled as Renaissance clergymen. Gospel singer Justine Hall (Madame Chair/Clergy), Samantha Moorin (Court Reporter, Artist and Scribe), and Madeleine Thompson (Strong Clergy Soprano) added animated expressions and powerful voices to the ensemble. Paul Mischeshin hilariously played a Southern John Edwards-type of senator which paralleled nicely as Pope Urban's "special" clergyman who had to kiss his feet upon demand. Pope Urban (Ben Prayz) and his clergyman (Mischeshin) have a comedic few scenes in between the music pieces of the play that lighten up the heavy message by poking fun at the corruptness of the church. Both proved themselves to be fine character actors as well as leads.
We could not have had such a tight ensemble without the brilliant direction of Stephen Wisker, who created an atmosphere of ease and humor and brought a passion for politics and the environment. Stephen and I spoke nearly everyday, analyzing the play and voicing ideas about how to better express current events such as the disastrous BP oil spill. Stephen had an image of black oil spilling all over a white stage. If only we could have pulled it off in the festival setting. With his background at the Living Theatre, this could have embossed an historic image. He is also a master of Shakespeare and handled the language of the play (particularly the prose of the Renaissance scenes) with utmost subtlety.
Thank you, everyone, again for a superb performance! We look forward to our upcoming process of revisiting the script and performing cast recordings and then hopefully getting the message out there in the world again. We must not stop until political action is taken, alternative fuel sources are underway, and humanity and wildlife can be protected.
Cast from left to right: Madeleine Thompson, Justine Hall, Jennifer Eden, Paul Fraccalvieri, Ben Prayz, Paul Mischeshin, and Samantha Moorin.