Lee Breuer and his Gospel

Back in my undergrad days I was lucky enough to go to a school who brought in guest artists from around the country. It was a varied group of theatre artists, mostly directors and actors. Some of the names were bigger than others. A couple times the names were frankly huge. A few were demi-gods of contemporary theatre, one of which was Lee Breuer.

At the beginning of the semester when it was announced that he was to be our guest artist for a week I didn’t really know much about him. I had heard of Mabou Mines, the company he helped form, but I didn’t know enough to know who was who. The week he spent with us is all a blur. I think it was a blur back then too. Regularly scheduled acting, voice and movement classes were cancelled for the most part. All acting majors spent several hours a day in a workshop mode, doing monologues and scene study, discussions of theatre, character development, script development, etc. It was a smorgasbord of theatre geekdom.

About a year later, back home in Chicago, I got to see my first Breuer production:  Gospel At Colonus at The Goodman. I, of course, had to see it and it did not disappoint. Combining the classic Greek story with some modern touches and supporting the whole thing with gospel music then tossing into the cast the Blind Boys of Alabama, and it’s not surprising that every single person in the gorgeous theater were up on their feet during the last number as if it were some rock concert.

To this day it remains one of the top five theatrical experiences I’ve ever witnessed.

When I moved to Minneapolis many years ago I was intrigued to learn that one of the earliest productions of it had been done at the Guthrie. A friend purchased a poster from that production and gave it to me as a birthday gift. It hung on my wall for many years. (In fact, it was there until very recently when it was only taken down for remodeling.)

The other day I saw an online ad for the Ordway. Gospel at Colonus has been revived and will be in the Twin Cities again. Complete with the Blind Boys of Alabama.

I’ll be there.

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