Opera Philadelphia

The cast and crew of We Shall Not Be Moved gets to work at Fringe Arts

We Shall Not Be Moved

When Frank Luzi, VP of Communications at Opera Philadelphia, contacted me about work for a new project, I had a feeling it was going to be something special. I didn’t know yet, just how special. 

The sum up was straightforward. We Shall Not Be Moved was a new, modern opera. The story was built on the bones of the real life tragedy that unfolded right here in the City of Brotherly Love, involving the MOVE organization, and the Philadelphia Police. It was a tragedy which left an entire neighborhood destroyed, 16 dead, including children, and a city left facing many difficult questions.  We Shall Not Be Moved happens years later in the same neighborhood and in the abandoned home which now sits at the exact location of what was the MOVE headquarters. We are drawn into the lives of five teens who find refuge in this abandoned house on Osage Avenue, find inspiration in the ghosts who inhabit the house (the OG's), and who are forced to face off with a West Philly Cop as a result of a tragic and chaotic accident. 

This thought provoking and emotional piece combines spoken word, contemporary movement, video projection, classical, R&B, and jazz singing.  As I researched the names of those involved in the production, my hunch about what a singular experience this would be was confirmed. 

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John Holiday - John Blue

Bill T. Jones - Director, Choreographer & Dramaturg

There is no question that we start with Director, Bill T Jones. You may not immediately recognize his name, and if you don’t, it really is proof that we focus the bulk of our attention in the wrong places. John Rockwell, from his piece for PBS, said of Jones, "one of the most notable, recognized, modern-dance choreographers and directors of our time.” I won’t list every award he’s won because it would be longer than this entire post. So allow me to give you just a couple of the highlights… Numerous Bessie & Tony awards, The MacArthur Fellowship, The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, Kennedy Center Honors, and the Nation Medal of Arts presented to him by President Barack Obama. To say he is accomplished would be the equivalent of saying, the sun is warm.

Next, Daniel Bernard Roumain, whose work as a composer and performer have been commissioned by venerable artists and institutions worldwide. It has been said that he is perhaps the only composer whose collaborations traverse the worlds of Philip Glass, Bill T. Jones, Savion Glover and Lady Gaga.

Rounding out the powerhouse group is Marc Bamuthi Joseph, who is referred to as a curator of words, ideas and protagonists. He was the inaugural recipient of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship and has graced the cover of Smithsonian Magazine as one of America’s Top Young lnnovators in the Arts and Sciences.

For more on these incredible artists, please click on their names at the bottom of the post.

Bill T. Jones - Director, Choreographer & Dramaturg

The rehearsals spanned the gamut of emotion and energy. At one point in the morning I overheard Mr Jones remark about himself to one of his colleagues that he may often be, ‘too intense’. It was met with an immediate, and genuinely hearty laughter. 

The cast was unique and fabulous. The material was riveting. I was pulled in often, where capturing what I was seeing happened intuitively and less as   a physical component. It’s what you hope for whenever you head out to a job... that you will be immersed in the creativity and it ceases to be work.

I'm pleased to say that I will continue to be involved in this marvelous production, We Shall Not Be Moved, while it's here in Philadelphia and there will be more posts coming soon... For now please scroll down and see more of my images from the rehearsal at Fringe Arts and to find the links to more about the cast, crew, and story of We Shall Not Be Moved

Caci Cole Pritchett - OG

Raphael Xavier - Assistant Choreographer, Michael Bishop - OG

Lauren Whitehead - Un / Sung

Raphael Xavier - Assistant Choreographer

Bill T Jones - Director, Choreographer & Dramaturg

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Music

Marc Bamuthi Joseph - Libretto 

Viswa Subbaraman  - Conductor


For more information on the opera's story, designers, and more, please visit the Opera Philadelphia website here: We Shall Not Be Moved

Lauren Whitehead - Un / Sung

Caci Cole Pritchett - OG

Adam Richardson - John Mack

Marc Bamuthi Joseph - Librettist

Left to right: Marc, Daniel, Bill

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