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The Devil’s Music The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith
February 23 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
A Visual and Performing Arts Department and Campus Players Program
for African-American / Women’s History Months
Presenting scenes and songs from the critically acclaimed play with music followed by discussion and Q&A
- featuring Miche Braden as Bessie Smith
- conceived of, and originally directed for the stage by, Joe Brancato
- written by playwright and RCC adjunct professor Angelo Parra
Join via Zoom: https://sunyrockland-edu.zoom.us/j/95547059613
Bessie Smith (1894-1937), nicknamed the “Empress of the Blues,” was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s, and has been a major influence on many blues and pop singers to the present day. Born in Chattanooga, Tenn., her parents died when she was young. She and her siblings survived by performing on street corners. She began touring with a group that included another blues great, Ma Rainey, after which Smith went out on her own. Her successful, sometimes provocative career included many recordings with Columbia Records. Her blues singing dominance, threatened with the rise of jazz, was cut short by a car crash that took her life at 43. Among her many posthumous honors are induction to the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Miche Braden originated the role of Bessie Smith in The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith and has played the blues legend for 20 years in theaters around the U.S. and Canada. She’s also played Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill as well as portraying Ma Rainey, Valaida Snow, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, while doubling as musical director/arranger. She has done more than 50 plays in her career, and has lectured on jazz, blues, and gospel music in Japan, England, France, and Belgium. Miche is a featured vocalist with Postmodern Jukebox with over 20 million views.
Joe Brancato is the founder and Artistic Director of Penguin Rep Theatre, Rockland’s professional Equity theatre. He has directed extensively in New York City, Off Broadway, and in some of the U.S’s most prestigious regional theaters as well as internationally. In the late 1990s, Mr. Brancato conceived and then directed The Devil’s Music, which has earned critical acclaim and several prestigious award nominations.
Angelo Parra is a professional playwright with productions in scores of theaters around the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. His awards include two NY Foundation for the Arts Fellowships and the Chicano-Latino Literary Award (Univ. of Calif.). In 2000, he was named a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the prestigious Sewanee Writers Conference. Prof. Parra is also the author of Playwriting for Dummies. He’s taught at RCC since 2007.