Previews for HERE's Cannabis! A Viper Vaudeville start July 14 at La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre Off-Broadway, with opening night set for July 20. The run will continue through July 31.
Featured in the cast are Grace Galu as Sativa Diva, Baba Israel as Magical Mystical MC, Jonathan “Duv” Zaragoza as Hipster Trickster, and dancer Twice Light. Choreographer-Performers include Tatiana Barber, Courtney Cook, Chanon Judson and Samantha Spies.
The piece, commissioned and developed by HERE and co-presented with La MaMa, features music and music direction by Galu; concept, libretto, and co-direction by Israel; dramaturgy and co-direction by Talvin Wilks; and environment design by Nic Benacerraf. Also in the creative team are sound designer Asa Wember, costume designer Kate Fry, projection designer David Bengali, and transcriber Robert Knowles. Alex B. West is production stage manager, and light artistry is by Tuce Yasak.
Inspired by Martin A. Lee's book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana, The theatrical concert explores the history of cannabis with music, dance, and spoken word.
“Premiering this show on the heels of legalization in New York State is serendipitous,” says Israel. “Our nation has a long history of using the criminalization of this drug against communities of color, playing into America’s worst tendencies around race and civil disobedience. Cannabis! A Viper Vaudeville examines this history, by which a formerly sacred and medicinal herb was transformed into a corruptive agent of the jazz age, of beatniks and hippies, and of activists and rebels.”
The ensemble is backed by a band comprising Knowles on keys, Sean Nowell on saxophone and flute, Juan Carlos Polo on drums, and Osei Kweku on bass guitar. Nowell has provided arrangements.
Get a look at the production below.