Artistic Statement

Artistic Statement

I have been collaborating on a musical and offer the following as representative of that work and my individual efforts. As a team, composers Joel LaRue Smith, Joseph Smith and I draw on vastly different life experiences but share a passion for creating work of the highest caliber that resonates at the deepest level. Perhaps our vision, voice, and collaborative approach can best be summarized as “out of many, one.” We are black and white; female and male; straight and not; a military veteran; a motorman’s son; an identity shaper; a film and TV composer; a U.S. cultural envoy; a restless pacifist. We come together as one unconventional trio.

Who we are informs our vision and voice as well as our capacity to move our work forward.

As musicians, composers, arrangers, performers and educators, Joel LaRue Smith and Joseph Smith share deep roots in jazz and bring extensive experience and broad musical vocabularies to this creative team. Our music interweaves African American, pop, Latin American, Western European folk and classical genres as well as various world strains into a textured and cohesive whole. Tapping into my experience as a writer in many forms and fields, we have aligned music, lyrics, and libretto to express and reveal character and to propel the story forward.

Our work explores the unexamined in a way that’s probing, provocative — and entertaining — creating in a multidisciplinary way with the goal of indelible impact. We envision experimenting with suggested sets, projections, live performances presented as if online, and multimedia segments representing the real. Maximizing, inverting and subverting.

Each of us can claim achievements in various arenas: live performance, film, TV, poetry, fiction, journalism, digital storytelling, and so on, but we feel this primary collaboration was meant for musical theater. We're excited to adapt and channel our expertise into this form, as its unique artistic opportunities call on our combined strengths and lend the work immediacy and power.

Each of us has had to heal and reinvent ourselves after personal trials and traumas. We know what it is to be among the marginalized and to speak up and fight for others. Likewise, our characters confront personal scars, social ills, and their intersection. We recognize that America, too, is in desperate need of healing and reinvention.

We want to tell overlooked stories, prompt reflection, reshape consciousness, and instill hope while delighting diverse audiences. We value the admixture of intensity, sensitivity, awareness, and humor — the last being critical. As Chekov said, "Tragedy is about the difficult. Comedy is about the unbearable.” America’s pain is often unbearable, but we believe in the country’s potential to heal and, ultimately, to embody its ideals. That conviction is the spark.