Tales from The O'Neill: Goddess Casts a Spell of Music

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16 Jul 2013

Photo by A.Vincent Scarano

Playbill.com offers a sneak peek at Goddess, a new musical being developed at the National Music Theater Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center.

Marimba is an African goddess of music. She is graceful and wise and traditionally considered to be the most beautiful woman to have walked the earth. Her songs are unlike anything humans have heard. Some are tales of loss and misfortune, but others pulsate with the ache of love. Cursed by darkness, Marimba created beauty from pain. Forging harps and drums from weapons used to kill, she created harmony from chaos. The more Marimba suffered, the more ethereal her songs became.

Her ancient tale, which has been passed down from generation to generation in West Africa, is now being told in a barn in Waterford, CT.

Goddess is the last of the three musicals to be developed at the National Music Theater Conference (NMTC) at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. An African folk tale set in a contemporary jazz club, Goddess is a tale of revenge, lust, tradition and honor. According to Paulette Haupt, artistic director of the NMTC, Goddess is "one of the most beautiful love stories" she has ever read.

This romantic, yet bittersweet, story is the creation of a trio that consists of Mkhululi Z. Mabija, Michael Thurber and Saheem Ali. Mabija is from South Africa, Ali is from Kenya and Thurber is Michigan born and raised. According to Thurber, the differences in their backgrounds add to the richness of the story. 

"We have a difference in perspective that gives us the glue to deal with all of these different plots and some of them are really weighty," he said. "But we continue to mix them in, because they come from slightly different perspectives."

When Goddess is being performed, the band plays a delicious concoction of American and West African jazz and audiences tap their feet and softly click their fingers while goddesses sing songs filled with woe and wonder.


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