Arts

Beautiful Blackbird Live Celebrates Diversity Through Music

Beautiful Blackbird Live is performing for free all over the city.
Beautiful Blackbird Live is performing for free all over the city.
Credit Courtesy of Alliance Theatre

For Atlantans needing a little wind under their wings after a long stretch without live entertainment, the Alliance Theatre flies to the rescue this June. In a traveling series of free outdoor performances, the Theatre is staging “Beautiful Blackbird Live,” a concert based on Ashley Bryan’s children’s book. Chris Moses, Director of Education and Artistic Director of the Alliance Theatre, joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to share his enthusiasm for the play and its vibrant music.

A story about five birds that have flown from Africa to sing about how beautiful it is to be black, “Beautiful Blackbird Live” was performed earlier in spring as part of Alliance’s “Under The Tent” series. After its success, Moses decided to revive the show as a free event in locations across Atlanta. The play was originally introduced as part of the Bernhardt Theater for the Very Young, performed in the Tiny Black Box theater.  

“A funny thing happened during the course of that play,” Moses said. “Parents would come to see the show, and started calling our office asking about if they could book this Blackbird band. And they just bought into this idea that there was this band that existed outside of the show, and they started playing corporate gigs and festivals … it was just wild, they took on a life of their own.”

He went on, “We thought it would be great to actually lean into this fiction, that there is this amazing band, the coolest band on the planet, and they just happen to be birds.”

Eugene H. Russell, actor, dancer, composer and saxophonist, wrote the original music for “Beautiful Blackbird Live.”

“This particular book is very much rooted in 1970’s aesthetic,” Moses recounted. “When Eugene and I were first talking, we really wanted music that would evoke that same spirit … and he went back to these great Donald Byrd records, and the early Meters recordings, and decided that he wanted to create that kind of style.” 

As a clever solution to ongoing COVID-19 safety objectives, performers will be outfitted with masks shaped to look like blackbird beaks, created by heralded costume designer Lex Liang. 

Tickets and schedule for the touring performances of “Beautiful Blackbird Live” can be found at:

https://alliancetheatre.org/production/2020-21/beautiful-blackbird-live-tour

 

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