DTF Production Looks at the Life and Times of Billie Holiday
Dorset Theatre Festival presents award-winning playwright Lanie Robertson’s vivid look into the life and times of jazz great Billie Holiday, ‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,’ opening Friday, August 19 and running through Saturday, September 3, fresh from a Tony Award-winning revival on Broadway. The time is 1959. The place is a seedy bar in South Philadelphia. The audience is about to witness one of Billie’s last performances, four months before her death. More than a dozen musical numbers are interlaced with salty, often humorous, reminiscences, revealing a riveting portrait of the lady and her music.
The production is helmed by artistic director Dina Janis, who states, “Billie Holiday is one of my heroes. Her life was in many ways a truly tragic American story. She paid a heavy price for the kind of racism which was endemic then, but she never stopped fighting. Her struggles did not define her, though her music did. She was a stunning singer whose phrasing and style transformed the jazz world; musicians adored her and she was also one of jazz’s most important composers. This play allows us a penetrating look into her life as we listen to the profound legacy of her artistry – her music itself.”
Marinda Anderson plays Billie Holiday, returning to DTF after her power-house performance in last season’s play, ‘Intimate Apparel.’ Musical director and actor Kenney Green makes his debut at the theatre in the role of Jimmy, Lady Day’s piano player. Set designer Alexander Woodward, sound designer Jane Shaw and lighting designer Michael Giannitti transform the Dorset Playhouse into a nightclub, and costume designer Tracy Christensen creates the look of the period.
Vermont Public Radio’s jazz program host, Tom Reney, will take a closer look at the realities of Billie Holiday ‘s career and what brought her to the Philadelphia bar where the play takes place during a talk at 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 20, and discuss the historic context of the segregation laws that restricted a generation of America’s greatest homegrown musicians. His talk is free and open to the public, made possible with support from the Vermont Humanities Foundation.
The Dorset Theatre Festival creates bold and innovative theatre that engages a diverse, multi-generational community, enlightening, entertaining, and inspiring its audience through the celebration of great plays produced with the highest degree of artistry. For more information, go to dorsettheatrefestival.org or call 802-867-2223.