Ghost Brothers of Darkland County
by Stephen King & John Mellencamp
directed by Susan V Booth
originally produced at Alliance Theatre ,
April 4, 2012
through May 13, 2012
In keeping with the Alliance’s tradition of producing world premiere American musicals, the company will produce the world premiere of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, a chilling new musical with music and lyrics by John Mellencamp, and book by Stephen King. This is a riveting Southern gothic musical fraught with mystery, tragedy, and ghosts of the past, along with a roots and blues-tinged score that is sure to leave audiences asking for more. Alliance Artistic Director Susan V. Booth directs, with musical direction provided by legendary producer T Bone Burnett.
In the tiny town of Lake Belle Reve, Mississippi in 1957, a terrible tragedy took the lives of two brothers and a beautiful young girl. During the next forty years, the events of that night became the stuff of local legend. But legend is often just another word for lie. Joe McCandless knows what really happened; he saw it all. The question is whether or not he can bring himself to tell the truth in time to save his own troubled sons, and whether the ghosts left behind by an act of violence will help him – or tear the McCandless family apart forever.
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County unites the Southern Gothic story telling tradition, a Mississippi bayou, the music of American troubadour John Mellencamp, and the prolific Stephen King’s writing talent. While the story is a large one – spanning generations – the production’s goal is purely theatrical, enlisting a “handmade” aesthetic and the audience’s imagination to fuel a story of floating cars, active ghosts, lovers leaping from cliffs, and a whole lot of gunplay. The project is in keeping with the Alliance’s demonstrated commitment to expose its audience to the field’s most innovative artists and to establish Atlanta and the Alliance as key venues for launching original and compelling new works for the American theatre.
The Alliance is known for its role in fostering major new American musicals -from the Georgia roots of Alice Walker’s Color Purple to the profound Twyla Tharp/Frank Sinatra alchemy of Come Fly Away– and the eye of the Alliance’s development focus is always fixed on its mission. That mission of shared theatre for diverse people means that regardless of a project’s eventual aspirations, it must first and foremost have an inevitable resonance for our Atlanta audience.
Atlanta is a wild polyglot of cultures, politics, ideologies, and faiths. Although the city has a rich civil rights history, this community, like so many others, still hungers for an opportunity for diverse constituents to be in the same place at the same time with a common pursuit. Ghost Brothers… has a fighting shot at making that happen. At the Alliance, the audience’s capacity to discuss thorny issues increases exponentially when music is involved. Complicated sociopolitical topics that used to make audience members push back from the table – or worse yet, opt out of the feast entirely – suddenly seem safe to confront, digest, and even roundly applaud when set to music. This piece, with its muscular music, fierce prose, and collision with family tragedy will enable a far larger community to sit and engage together in an emotional process. That is no small thing.
The generous support of the Edgerton Foundation will help fund the extraordinary demands of this project, including the development and implementation of digital and film elements into the design of the production, and the integration of the full ensemble into the process from the date of our very first rehearsal.
Director: Susan V Booth
Musical Direction by T Bone Burnett
And the Atlanta Marriott Suites Midtown City of Atlanta, Office of Cultural Affairs Fulton County Arts Council Georgia Council for the Arts National Endowment for the Arts