Degas in New Orleans: A Musical World Premiere Presented at Bard’s Fisher Center

Rosary O'Neill with Degas the green dancer in NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Rosary O’Neill with Degas’ Dancer in Green in NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Producer and director Deborah Temple and the Red Hook Performing Arts Club are presenting a world premiere of the new musical, Degas in New Orleans.  The play is written by New Orleans native Rosary Hartel O’Neill. It has been set to music by local composer David Temple.

Degas in New Orleans, tells the story of the French painter Edgar Degas’ five-month stay with his family in the Crescent City shortly after the Civil War.  It reveals much about the post-war South, political and ethnic strife unique to Louisiana, the dynamics of a family in its social descent — as well as the passions of unrequited love, and the struggling vision of a great artist at a crossroads in his life and career.

The historic marker which indicates the house where Degas' family lived and where he visited in New Orleans. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

The historic marker which indicates the house where Degas’ family lived and where he visited in New Orleans. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

A select group of students in the Red Hook Central School District have embraced an extraordinary artistic challenge: to transform a drama based on a life-changing time in a famous painter’s life into an original musical and make it performance ready for a state-of-the-art stage at the incomparable Fisher Center. The project was initiated by long time Red Hook Central School District employee and the Performing Art’s Club adviser, Deborah Temple. Deborah Temple has worked alongside playwright Rosary Hartel O’Neill at Omega Institute during summer writing seminars for a number of seasons and their collaboration at Omega inspired their working together on two of O’Neill’s plays: Broadway or Bust and Degas in New Orleans.

Neither O’Neill nor Deborah Temple are new to the theater. Temple has almost two decades of experience in direction and production. O’Neill ran her own theater, Southern Rep, in New Orleans. She has authored over twenty-two plays, twenty of which are published by Samuel French. And her plays may be found in three anthologies. She has written textbooks on the dramatic arts, as well as novels and screenplays. Her book about New Orleans Mardi Gras has been receiving notices as a fascinating account of the secrets of  Mardi Gras Carnival Krewes. O’Neill, who now resides in Rhinecliff, proposed to have Degas in New Orleans transformed into a musical, knowing of David Temple’s extensive musical gifts. The Performing Arts Club has stepped up with its energy and talent to make the project a reality.

The Degas home on Esplanade Avenue, now converted into a noted Bed and Breakfast. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

The Degas home on Esplanade Avenue, now converted into a noted Bed and Breakfast. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Composer and classical guitarist David Temple is renown as a solo performer and instrumental composer. His works are played internationally for film and television. He composed music for O’Neill’s Broadway or Bust which premiered in November 2013, also at the Fisher Center. Having collaborated with O’Neill he was excited about this new project. Songs for Degas in New Orleans were created in “real time.” Sketches of the new pieces were originated during the actual rehearsals of scenes, designed not only for specific characters, but for the vocal capabilities of the actors. This is one of the finest ways to originate and compose musical works by collaborating with the singers/actors. Douglas Moore in his operatic composition, Ballad of Baby Doe created the music and worked with singers to test out the musical waters and vocal ranges elaborating and changing the score and enhancing it.

Likewise, with the Temples these student/actors have been refining their character portrayals, running lines and learning original songs in an ongoing developmental process that has been organic and alive.  The final result is a celebration of the creative process. Their effort and dedication to a project that has demanded ingenuity, acting craft, brilliance and flexibility is nothing short of astonishing. To say that these highly talented students have embraced a professional work ethic wholeheartedly is an understatement.

Period costumes and set pieces were generously supplied by Montgomery Place, the Center for Performing Arts Center at Rhinebeck, Bard College, and other local sources.  The Pit Orchestra is made up of Red Hook Central students and teachers.  Production staff, technical support, and set construction staff are a combination of professionals, students, parents, and Red Hook alumni.

David Temple with his guitar. Photo taken from the David Temple website.

David Temple with his guitar. Photo taken from the David Temple website.

Click links below for more information.


WHEN:  THURSDAY, December 18 and FRIDAY, December 19 at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors available in advance for Thursday and Friday night performances at the Fisher Center Box Office, 758-7900 and sold at the door.


WHEN:  SATURDAY, December 20 at 7:00 p.m. and SUNDAY, December 21 at 3:00 p.m. at Red Hook Central High School.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors. Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday performances will be available at the door at Red Hook High School.

Bard Fisher Center Website

Posted on December 10, 2014, in Around the Region, Regional Theatre and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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