Tag Archives: Peter Davis

New musical by BSU profs revisits King assassination, Kennedy speech

“Dear Bobby: A Musical,” written by BSU English professors Angela Jackson-Brown and Peter Davis, will debut on Thursday, March 22 at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre in Indianapolis. Prof. Jackson-Brown is the author of the novel Drinking from a Bitter Cup, the upcoming poetry collection House Repairs, and the plays Black Lives Matter (Too), Anna’s Wings, and It is Well, among other works. You can find more info about her work at www.angelajacksonbrown.com. Peter Davis is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Band Names and Other Poems. You can find more info about his work at artisnecessary.com.

Department Assistant Chairperson Pat Collier spoke with Jackson Brown and Davis about the new musical.

PC: Your play tells the story of Bobby Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis on the day of Martin Luther King’s assassination. Kennedy was discouraged from going on with the speech but insisted; it’s been suggested that his intervention may have prevented rioting in Indy.

Angela, how did you get selected to write this musical?

AJB: Most times when I write, the vision is 100% mine. In this instance, I was commissioned by the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative to write a play about Bobby Kennedy’s speech on April 4, 1968. That night, Kennedy had just finished giving a speech to over 10,000 Ball State University students (another wonderful connection to this story), so the historical component to this event was not lost on me. I strongly believe in serendipity and this felt like one of those moments.

James Still, the phenomenal playwright at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, produced a play about this event called April 4, 1968. I knew I wanted to do something totally different and out of the box, so I immediately thought, this story needs to be a musical. And because Pete and I had just completed writing a musical called Underneath the Chinaberry Tree, I knew we could do this project together. Our work ethic is so similar. We don’t procrastinate, and we are never so married to our work that we can’t listen. I don’t know if he and I will be the next Rodgers and Hammerstein, but I do know I would love to work on future projects with Pete. He gets me, and I believe, I get him too.

PC: Peter, you’re primarily a poet (though you’ve written a lot of songs). How is writing for a musical different from your previous work?

PD: I haven’t written music for a musical before working with Angela, but working on it wasn’t much different than working on other projects. No matter what I’m doing, I’m always working within a certain set of constraints, like the genre, or my abilities, or time, money, and access. Being an artist always feels like the same thing because the “art” part takes place regardless of (or inside of) the specific constraints.

PC: Creative writers spend a lot of time working alone, in complete control of their creations. What was it like working collaboratively?

PD: Working with Angela was great. It was super easy. She basically did everything. Angela secured funding for the both of us, wrote the play, wrote the lyrics, coordinated with the IndyFringe Theater, and even sang some of the melody for one of the songs.  Once she’d explained the project to me she gave me a file with lyrics for seven songs. All I had to do was to come up with the melodies. I’m constantly writing songs and so this felt like a vacation for me; half the songs were already done; I just had to fill in the music.

Of course, on some songs I had to tinker with the lyrics to fit a particular pattern or something, but Angela had already written the lyrics in a structure and so that job was mostly done. She gave them to me all at once and I just worked on whichever song I wanted to until I’d finally completed them. It was during the summer and so I sat at the piano in my living room and just messed around. It was pretty relaxing. It reminded me of the expression “many hands make light work.” Except in this case, it should be “Angela’s hands make light work.”

It was so easy working together that in the weeks prior to working on “Dear Bobby” we used roughly the same process to complete another musical, this one full of blues music. This play has yet to be produced, but my point is simply that working with Angela was easy and fun. I’d work with her on anything, anytime.

AJB: I love the art of collaboration and when I wear my playwriting hat, collaboration is imperative. Up until this project, my favorite collaboration was with BSU alum Ashya Thomas, who studied in our department. Ashya and I wrote Black Lives Matter (Too). This play received glowing reviews and was invited to two different festivals. Even though she was a student at the time, I respected her craft and her understanding of our subject matter.

The only way collaboration can work is if there is 100% trust between the collaborators. It is never one person’s vision. It might start out that way, but then, it becomes the vision of the director, the costumer, the sound and lighting designer, the scenic designer, and the actors (just to name a few). So, a playwright cannot afford to go into a theatrical writing project without considering the fact that there are many voices that must be heard if the project is going to go off without a hitch.

When it came to working on Dear Bobby, I was prepared to share the vision with Pete because more than anything, I trust him. This musical depended heavily on his musical vision and understanding of the historical time we were writing about. Pete asked all of the right questions, and then, we were off to the races, so to speak. Working with Pete was a dream. We never had to scrap a song because we just clicked so well artistically that we instinctively knew what was going to work. At times, it felt like he was inside my head (I hope he didn’t get scared up there.)

My goal as a teacher is to encourage other young writers to consider collaboration. Learning how to collaborate prepares young writers for that day when they hopefully sign with a literary agent. People may not realize it, but the agent and writer are collaborators. My agent, Alice Speilburg, is phenomenal when it comes to suggesting things I need to change or work on, and I know I have to be open to her suggestions. I have to trust that the people I put in my camp are there to make my work the best it can be.

Tickets for Dear Bobby: A Musical are available at http://www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/dear-bobby-musical.

 

 

 

Profs. Scalzo and Manery Publish Poetry Books (And More November Good News)

Prof. Emily Scalzo had four poems accepted to Scarlet Leaf Review, including “To My Father,” “If the Human Race is the Only Race, Why Does this Shit Still Happen,” “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and “The Reason I Blocked You on Facebook.” They are due to be published in December. Also, her poetry chapbook, The Politics of Division, was accepted by Five Oaks Press for publication in 2017.

Prof. Rebecca Manery’s book of poems, View from the Hôtel de l’Étoile, is just out from Finishing Line Press. Individual poems from this collection have been published in Rhino, Bennington Review, and The Body Politic. Becca is a new faculty member at Ball State. Learn more about her here

Continue reading

Digest: what’s happening Oct. 6-12

Welcome to the English department digest. Published on Fridays, the digest provides a comprehensive list of events for the upcoming week.

If you need to look further ahead, be sure to check out our calendar.

Week of October 6-12

Wednesday, October 8th

Mike Young, Gene Kwak, Peter Davis, and Austin Hayden will read at Village Green Records from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

The Writer’s Community weekly meeting will be held in RB 291 from 8:00 PM to 9:30 PM.

Friday, October 10th

Take 3 faculty lecture series presents Cathy Day, Lyn Jones, and Craig O’Hara, who will present their research from 4:30 to 6:00 PM in RB 361.

All faculty and students (undergrad and grad) are encouraged to attend events!

Need help using our calendars? Check out this post for more information.

Check out what happened LAST week in our Storify.

 

Have a great week!

Professor Peter Davis Publishes His Third Poetry Book: ‘TINA’

Assistant professor of English Peter Davis recently published “TINA,” his third complete poetry book, in April 2013. In 2010, he published “Poetry! Poetry! Poetry!”, and in 2006, he published “Hitler’s Mustache.” For an inside look on “TINA,” read the interview below conducted by English department intern Daniel Brount. 

Continue reading

Christopher Newgent: Hoosier Indie Literature Hero

Photo courtesy of Indy Star.com

Alumnus Christopher Newgent has been getting a lot of attention lately. If you attended the second night of the In Print Festival of First Books, you may have heard Artifice Magazine editor James Tadd Adcox drop his name when discussing things young writers can do to be involved in the literature world. Newgent was recently featured in an article for the Indy Star as well. What’s all the buzz about Christopher Newgent? He is the progenitor of Vouched—part reading series, part blog, and part indie lit vendor. Vouched exists “to spread and promote small press literature by peddling literary wares at art events and farmers/flea markets around Indianapolis,” according to Newgent. He states, “Every book on my table is a book that I’ve personally read and enjoyed and want other people to read and enjoy.”

That last line explains where Vouched gets its name. Newgent only peddles literature he’s passionate about, and when you’re at a Vouched table, you have the refreshing feeling of knowing you can ask the him anything about his titles and he will have an answer. He exudes excitement, and this makes him approachable and helps to create a whole Vouched experience that is especially positive.

Newgent’s innovative project provides a breath of fresh air in the bookselling world, especially for those interested in contemporary literature. Vouched has even gained so much support that it has begun to spread to other states. Laura Relyea, another BSU alumnus, is working on launching her own Vouched table in Atlanta, Georgia. There’s also talk of another table getting ready to spring up in Nashville, Tennessee. Of these new Vouched tables, Newgent says, “My plan for it is ultimately to allow each tabler to be autonomous, able to choose and stock their own vouched titles…” This means that each Vouched table operator will make their own choices as to which books they sell. By allowing this freedom of choice, Newgent is ensuring every seller will have that same, trademark Vouched passion, which has been instrumental in the project’s success.

You can find Newgent and his table at First Fridays at Big Car Gallery, occurring on the first Friday of every month. Vouched Presents, a reading series, is having its fourth event on May 15th, and will feature BSU professor Peter Davis and Michael Schaivo.  There will be another Vouched Presents reading on July 18th, featuring DOGZPLOT, an online literary journal. Newgent sets up his table at other events here and there as well, which he posts about at Vouched Online.

Poetry reading: Peter Davis, Michael Meyerhofer, Jared Sexton, and Todd McKinney

Tonight there will be a poetry reading starring BSU faculty Peter Davis, Michael Meyerhofer, Jared Sexton, and Todd McKinney. The reading will take place at Motini’s in Muncie’s village area, which is a 21+ venue. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. and looks to be a great time. It’s always fun to hear your BSU professors’ own work, so come on out!