ISAAC Goes to Washington!
ISAAC: A MUSICAL JOURNEY was commissioned by the KCA for the Chesapeake Heartland Project. It is composed and written by Marlon Saunders, a native of Kent County, Maryland. Marlon has worked with various artists, including Cynthia Erivo, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Javier Colon, Billy Joel, Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Joe Henderson, Ron Carter, Shawn Colvin, Nine Inch Nails, Jane Siberry, Shania Twain, Martha Wash, and Dance Theatre of Harlem. Marlon appears as the Calypso Singer in the popular Disney film, Enchanted. Marlon sings the Academy Award-nominated song, “That’s How You Know” with Amy Adams, who appears in the role of Giselle.
ISAAC is based on the published autobiography of Isaac Mason. Isaac Mason was born into slavery in Kent County, Maryland in 1822. He was enslaved by Mr. & Mrs. James Mansfield at what is now 101 Spring Avenue, Chestertown, MD (the future home of the Kent Cultural Alliance). Mr. Mason ran toward freedom on December 26, 1846. He ended up in Worcester, MA where he was a prominent businessman and church elder. In 1893, he put his life story down on paper and published “Life of Isaac Mason as a Slave.”
This production will feature Paris Nesbit (Broadway: Book of Mormon) as ISAAC, Sue Matthews, as Enslaver Hannah Woodward, and Kelly Sloan as the Ancestral Goddess. The reading will be supported by musicians Marlon Saunders (Composer), David Inniss and Eric Brown. The premiere is being directed by Dramaturg, Vashti DuBois – founder, The Colored Girls Museum, Philadelphia, Biti Strauchn and produced by John Schratwieser.
This new work is part of a larger project and partnership between the Kent Cultural Alliance and Chesapeake Heartland: An African American Humanities Project at Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. This is the third collaboration between the KCA, Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, and Mr. Saunders. “Workin’ on a Building” (funded by the National Endowment for the Arts) premiered in Chestertown in 2006 and was Mr. Saunders’ musical exploration of seven generations of his family from slavery to modern times in Kent County MD. Also, in association with the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program at Sumner Hall, and the Starr Center, Mr. Saunders created “Choppin’ on the Shop” about life in a Kent County Barber Shop for the “The Way We Work” exhibit in 2017.
The Kent Cultural Alliance: The Kent Cultural Alliance serves the residents of Kent County supporting and creating inclusive artistic and cultural experiences designed to connect communities through shared conversations. It is the vision of the Kent Cultural Alliance that all residents of Kent County engage in important civic and social conversation using artistic and cultural experiences as a conduit for connection.
Chesapeake Heartland: An African American Humanities Project is an innovative new collaboration between Washington College, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), and a broad array of community partners in Kent County, MD. The project’s name derives from the Chesapeake region’s identity as the heartland of African American history and culture since the arrival of the first Africans at Jamestown in 1619. Kent County, where Washington College is located, is in many ways a microcosm of that history, with its own rich and diverse African American heritage dating back nearly four centuries. Through the Chesapeake Heartland Project, Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and its local partners—including public schools, religious communities, and other nonprofits— preserve, share, curate, and interpret a broad array of material that documents the many facets of Kent County’s African American history and culture.