News Brief: 'Booth!' in the Big Apple
St. Louis Current 11/3/2008
"Booth!", a historical musical written by faculty and staff at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, made its debut in
April 2007 at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. The production, about John Wilkes Booth's family dealing with
the fallout from President Abraham Lincoln's assassination, will next be staged within the artistic enclave of New York's
Greenwich Village, according to a press release from the University.
Through a competitive process, the faculty of
the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University selected "Booth!" to be produced June 2 through 9 at NYU's Skirball Center
for the Performing Arts.
According to the release, Barbara Harbach, professor of music and composer for "Booth!' said,
"This will truly be a great way to showcase this UMSL original production for an East Coast audience, and it could prove to
be a tremendous opportunity to recruit new students to the university's art programs."
In addition to the premiere
of "Booth!" first being staged at UM-St. Louis, the musical has several ties to the university. Jonathan Yordy, former public
relations coordinator, wrote lyrics for the songs in "Booth!" while he was with the university. Niyi Coker, the E. Desmond
Lee Endowed Professor for African/African-American Studies, directed "Booth!" and wrote the musical's book, or dialogue.
UMSL students and staff will transform the touhill into broadway with its debut
of 'Booth!' The Musical
Cate Marquis St. Louis Current 4/9/2007
Has the campus been transformed into Broadway? You might as well ask, because the Touhill PAC is set to present the world
premiere of a new musical, "Booth!" on April 13 and 14.
On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, actor John Wilkes Booth assassinated
President Abraham Lincoln. The musical play "Booth!" is not about that Booth but his brother, the brilliant, successful actor
Edwin Booth, still widely regarded as the greatest American actor of the nineteenth century.
After his brother assassinated
President Abraham Lincoln, Edwin Booth was tortured by that legacy, and the Booth family was the object of anger and suspicion
by the American public in the wake of the incident. "Booth!" tells Edwin Booth's story through the memory of his daughter
Musicals on serious and historical subjects are not really so rare. This seems a particularly fascinating subject:
how this talented actor was haunted and tormented by his brother's actions in the years following the wrenching Civil War.
the play's second performance takes place on the 142nd anniversary of the assassination.
The play was created by UM-St.
Louis professors and staff. Book and direction are by Niyi Coker, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor for African/African-American
Studies at UMSL, with music by Barbara Harbach, professor of music at UMSL, and lyrics by Jonathan Yordy, coordinator of public
relations at UMSL.
The idea for the musical production originated with Yordy but it was a collaborative effort. "It
was more or less my idea but I don't want to take all the credit," said Yordy in a recent interview. "Barbara (Harbach, who
created the score) and I talked to a number of actors and found a great deal if interest in the idea," he said. "Edwin Booth
is thought to be the greatest American actor of the nineteenth century."
"We wanted to put a spotlight on how the assassination
affected Edwin Booth and his family," said Yordy. Edwin faced the results of his brother's actions with courage and strength
but it was only one of many challenges and tragedies Edwin and the theatrical family faced over the years.
Despite family and personal challenges, Edwin Booth's career flourished. According to Yordy, Edwin Booth was enormously
successful in his career, even after the assassination, earning the equivalent of five million a year from his acting roles.
play sounds good but it gets better. This new musical is the creation of campus faculty, from concept to lyrics, to music,
to staging and direction. Even many in the cast have campus connections as alumni or students.
The role of Edwin Booth
is played by UM-St. Louis alum Keith Boyer, who has extensive experience in local productions, with companies such as Opera
Theater of St. Louis and Union Avenue Opera Theater. Edwina, his daughter, is played by UM-St. Louis student Amanda Boyer,
who is Keith Boyer's wife. UM-St. Louis students also participate behind the scenes, helping with sets, costumes, and technical
aspects of production.
Barbara Harbach, professor of music, who has also written scores for several silent films shown
on campus and elsewhere, wrote the score for "Booth!"
This is one of several projects that Yordy and Harbach have
collaborated on. Besides composing symphonies, musicals and film scores, Harbach is an accomplished concert organist and harpsichordist,
and has toured in Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Germany, among others. She was also an organizer of last year's Women in the
Arts-St. Louis events.
The play took final form under Niyi Coker, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor for African/African-American
Studies. Coker wrote the dialog between scenes, called the book, and arranged the songs into a play. He also directs the production.
Coker has extensive credits as playwright, author, producer and director. Directing credits include the play "Topdog/Underdog,"
presented on campus last semester. He is also the founding artistic director of the African Arts Ensemble in New York, NY.
His credits are international, including turns as artistic director at Malmo Hogskola in Sweden, "The" theater in
Bermuda and National Theatre of Nigeria. His plays include "Ouray," based on struggles of the Native American Utes in nineteenth
century Colorado, and "Endangered Species," which was performed at the John Houseman Theatre in New York.
premiere of the musical "Booth!" represents a coming of age for the campus' budding performing arts program. It also offers
students a unique chance to learn more about an engrossing slice of American and theater history.
Voice from the Whirlwind
Originally published at http://www.stlmag.com/media/St-Louis-Magazine/February-2008/Voice-from-the-Whirlwind/
In 2007, composer, musician, professor and publisher Barbara Harbach debuted a movie score, a stage musical and two new choral
works. And that’s what she calls a slow year
By Chris King
Photograph by David Torrence
who know the St. Louis music scene—or, really, scenes—in any depth know this town harbors any number
of artists who rank among the national (or international) leaders in their craft, yet are little known locally outside their
musical niche. The composer, musician and publisher Barbara Harbach is one.
A woman is much more than her resume, but
a partial list of Harbach’s recent projects is needed to suggest the range and reach of her accomplishments.
original score to Matrimony’s Speed Limit, a 1913 silent film made by Alice Guy-Blaché (who’s considered
the first woman director), was premiered at the 2007 St. Louis International Film Festival in November. An October program
at the Sheldon, “A Tribute to Pioneer Women,” featured four of Harbach’s chamber pieces, honoring folks
like Maya Angelou, Abigail Adams and Nancy Kranzberg. In September she presided over the release of two CDs of her compositions—one
set for orchestra, the other for chamber ensemble—both recorded in Bratislava, Slovakia, and put out by MSR Classics
(Newton, Conn.). And her stage musical Booth! (with a book by Niyi Coker) premiered at the Touhill on the campus
of the University of Missouri–St. Louis in April. (The title refers to main character Edwin Booth, whose acting career
was overshadowed by his notorious brother, John Wilkes.)
Even that rundown passes over a North County church performance
of her organ compositions and the premiere of two new choral works at Unity Evangelical Lutheran in Bel-Nor and at Nativity
Lutheran Church in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Not to mention the fact that Harbach publishes all of her own compositions, with her
business Vivace Press, which specializes in underrepresented composers—particularly other women, but also African-American,
Ukrainian and Mexican composers. All of that, plus a day job (professor of music at UMSL) and a consuming volunteer gig (director
of music at Little Flower Catholic Church in Richmond Heights).
Mind you, most of the above was accomplished in only
one season (fall) of only one year (2007), which might be considered almost a slow year by Harbach’s standards. In 2005,
for example, in addition to her work as a composer and musician, Harbach organized Women in the Arts, conceived of as “a
year-long, multivenue celebration of women creators present and past,” which involved nearly every local arts institution
and organization in the production of more than 850 events. Her credits as a composer and performer go back to the mid-1980s
and take her all around the country and the world, springing from a sturdy academic foundation that includes degrees from
Yale University (M.M.A.) and the Eastman School of Music (D.M.A.).
Harbach, who grew up “in the hills of Pennsylvania,”
came to UMSL in 2003 in a package deal with her husband, Thomas George, who is the chancellor (and a chemistry prof and jazz
pianist). Now she does her composing on piano (and computer) at home—that is, in the chancellor’s residence. Of
course, a champion of women like Harbach would not merely trail her husband. The move to UMSL worked to her advantage, since
the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, the couple’s prior academic home, had employed her as a professor of
math and computing (other specialties of hers). “The music department there didn’t want me,” she said.
music scene—or scenes—in St. Louis want her. Harbach said she likes St. Louis, not least because it has been generous
to her as a composer. “I’ve had the good fortune to get musicians here to perform things by me and like them,”
she said. The Equinox Chamber Players and the St. Louis Women’s Chorale have performed her compositions, as have UMSL
music faculty members and Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra players in various settings. “St. Louis is very open,”
she said, “and the performers are not blasé, not burned out.” Nor—by any stretch—is this whirlwind
of a musician, composer, publisher and woman.
Learn more about Harbach’s
latest academic projects, as well as Women in the Arts, by visiting www.umsl.edu/~harbachb; to see her personal projects, go to barbaraharbach.com.
|JUNIUS BRUTUS BOOTH
|EDWIN THOMAS BOOTH
|JOHN WILKES BOOTH
New York University Skirball Performing Arts Center
New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts is the premier venue for the presentation of cultural and
performing arts events for NYU and lower Manhattan. Since opening in 2003, the 860-seat Skirball Center has been an educational
and community building resource, providing NYU's first large-scale, professional performance space on campus. Through university
events, presentations, and partnerships, the Skirball Center offers a unique multi-arts performance program in its intimate
proscenium theater located on the south of Washington Square in the heart of Greenwich Village.
Music, theater, and dance have a rich history in Greenwich Village. NYU Skirball Center continues this tradition of creativity
and artistic discovery with a broad range of compelling performance events at affordable ticket prices for the NYU community
and our neighbors in an evolving lower Mahattan. The Center is committed to the University's role "in and of the world," and
works closely with cultural partners to reflect its global urban home by presenting a variety of voices in many different
languages. Above all, the Skirball Center is a reflection of NYU's commitment to education in, and through, the performing
The Center's Shagan Box Office is located just off the sidewalk in our upper lobby. The main theater lobby, located
one level below the main entrance, provides a spacious and friendly atmosphere where audience members socialize and enjoy
refreshments available from the café. Backstage, our support facilities including dressing rooms, wardrobe, a rehearsal area,
and the Skirball technical staff's production office.
The generosity of the Skirball Foundation made the theater possible and, in recognition, it is named after Jack H. Skirball.
The theater is situated at the base of the building while the Center's administrative offices are located on the 5th floor
of the Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for University Life. The entire building was designed by distinguished architecht Kevin Roche.
The Skirball is one of New York City's Off-Broadway venues numerous productions having been reviewed by
noted critics e.g., http://thewickedstage.blogspot.com/2005/08/reviews.html