Parable of the Sower by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon Returns to Strathmore, June 28-July 1
New community marketplace and pre-show talks explore themes in Octavia E. Butler’s Afrofuturistic masterpiece
(North Bethesda, MD) – June 6, 2023 – Strathmore is proud to announce the return of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, a fully staged contemporary American opera based on the acclaimed science fiction novel. Created by Toshi Reagon and Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, the production, which sold out twice last year, takes place June 28-July 1 in Strathmore’s Music Center.
Parable of the Sower tells the story of Lauren Olamina, a young woman struggling to survive in a (not-so-distant) dystopian future where violence, greed, and disregard for the planet’s resources have driven society to the brink of extinction. Featuring a powerhouse ensemble of 20 singers and instrumentalists, the show’s dynamic mix of rock, blues, and gospel draws from 200 years of Black music.
“Bringing Parable of the Sower back to Strathmore a year after its premiere speaks to the significance and relevance of this extraordinary piece,” says Monica Jeffries Hazangeles, Strathmore’s president and CEO. “We’re presenting twice as many performances this year—and dramatically increasing the number of free community tickets—so more members of our community have the opportunity to experience this powerful work of art.”
Also new this year is the Parable Village, a community marketplace in the Music Center’s Lockheed Martin Lobby, Fri, June 30, 6-7:45pm and Sat, July 1, 2-3:45pm and 6:30-8pm. Part of the Parable Path—Reagon’s framework for community organizing and artistic engagement—the village will bring together local community organizers, activists, retailers, musicians, and artists to create a space for conversations and action around key themes in the novel. Confirmed participants include Montgomery Public Libraries, Sankofa Video Books & Cafe, Smile Herb, Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op, Food Justice DMV, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Anacostia Watershed Society, Darryl The Artist, theater artist Sisi K. Reid, puppetry by Pointless Theater, and Coalition for Smarter Growth.
“Toshi is the catalyst for creating a path that we can walk together to develop agency, build community, and make change,” says Hazangeles. “This year’s Parable Village beautifully unites Toshi’s vision and Strathmore’s mission to provide a platform for the arts to inspire, educate, and connect people.”
Additionally, Strathmore will offer pre-show lectures June 28-29, 6:30-7:30pm, from Alexis Pauline Gumbs, a Black feminist writer, activist, and educator. She is a 2023 Windham-Campbell Prize winner in poetry, and her most recent book, Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals , won the 2022 Whiting Award in nonfiction. Gumbs will discuss her own experiences with Butler's Afrofuturistic work and her thoughts on Butler's legacy. Her talk, When Goddesses Change: Listening for an Ancestral Octavia, will also include an activation of an Earthseed oracle, a spiritual practice inspired by Parable of the Sower.
Another element of this year's Parable Path is Songs of the Living Community Sing with Toshi Reagon on Sat, June 10, 6-8pm at All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, DC. Audiences are invited to learn and sing songs from Parable of the Sower at this free event, co-sponsored by Roadwork Center. RSVP required.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Toshi Reagon (Librettist, Composer, Music Director) is a singer, songwriter, composer, and producer. A versatile artist with a profound ear for sonic Americana—from folk to funk and blues to rock—she has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Ani DiFranco, Elvis Costello, and Lenny Kravitz. As a composer, she has worked with Katori Hall, Urban Bush Women, and The Jane Comfort Dance Co., among others. Reagon is also a MacArthur Fellowship recipient and founder of WORD*ROCK*& SWORD, a community festival that takes place throughout New York City every September. Together with her mother, Bernice Johnson Reagon, she has created two operas with director Robert Wilson: The Temptation of St. Anthony and Zinnias, The Life of Clementine Hunter.
Bernice Johnson Reagon (Librettist, Composer) is a singer, composer, historian, and activist who has been a leading figure in African American and American culture for more than 50 years. She has performed as a member of the SNCC Freedom Singers, the Harambee Singers, and the internationally acclaimed Sweet Honey in the Rock. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Presidential Medal and Charles E. Frankel Prize for Contributions to the Public Understanding of Humanities.
Signe V. Harriday (Co-director) is a director, choreographer, and movement director. She is the co-founder of the dance company Urban Bush Women and has worked with a wide range of artists, including Bill T. Jones, Mark Morris, and Twyla Tharp. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the Bessie Award and the Princess Grace Award.
Eric Ting (Co-director) is a director and playwright. He is the artistic director of Cornerstone Theater Company and has directed productions at theaters across the country. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Helen Hayes Award and the Obie Award.
Strathmore is a multidimensional creative anchor in the community, where everyone can connect with the arts, and artists can explore their full potential.
A 501(c)3 nonprofit, Strathmore presents hundreds of performances, visual arts, and education programs, annually, for diverse audiences on its Montgomery County, Maryland, campus and in the community.
All of Strathmore’s facilities are Global Biorisk Advisory Council® (GBAC) STAR™ accredited.
Tickets for Parable of the Sower are now on sale. The July 1 performance will feature an ASL interpreter. For more information, please visit Strathmore.org/parable.
PJ Feinstein, Director of Communications, PFeinstein@strathmore.org