Mirandy and Brother Wind is here! So, let’s hear a deeper dive from adaptation playwright, Michael J. Bobbitt and composer John Cornelius, interviewed by dramaturg, Dalyla McGee.
If the interview sparks a desire for more, join us LIVE with Synchronicity Theatre for the Mirandy and Brother Wind Virtual Viewing Party Saturday, March 20 at 7:00 PM! Join us for a virtual viewing of the show followed by a post-show discussion with the cast, production team, and the show’s playwright and composer, Michael J. Bobbitt and John L. Cornelius.
Get tickets HERE!
Explore virtual Dramaturgy Board HERE
Dalyla McGee (DM): Why Mirandy, why now?
Michael J. Bobbitt, Playwright (MB): “You know things are really tough right now with this pandemic and the racial reckoning of this country. And I think that our kids and all kids, need to see shows that celebrate the contributions of people of color to this country. We gave Music. We gave Dance. We gave Family. And I think Mirandy expresses that so well.”
DM: Black traditions carry so much history in song and dance, John, can you share about your process of bringing the appropriate sound to Mirandy?
John Cornelius, Composer (JC): With ‘Mirandy’ I chose the sound of wind instruments and hand-held instruments. Lots of Flute and Clarinet, Trumpets and Trombones, Acoustic Guitars, Upright Bass, Spinet Piano and lots of little percussion instruments like spoons, washboard, rattles, wind chimes. But, the orchestrations are enhanced by a rich string section, various keyboard effects and sounds. The effect is enhanced nature, since it does take place in a rural setting in the early 1900s.
DM: Why did you choose Mirandy to adapt for the stage? Was there a key jumping off point that inspired you to do so or through the process?
MB: I was at a book store with my kid. While he was playing with Thomas, The Train, I was thumbing through children’s books on the shelves. Since my kid is Asian and I am black, I tend to pick books that celebrate our culture. When I saw the book cover and Jerry’s illustration, I was awestruck. The precocious little girl, the rich texture and the fictional god-like character blowing wind all peaked my interest. Since I was running a children’s theatre, I was always on the hunt to find stories to adapt. I flipped the book over and read the synopsis, which was about a cakewalk and I knew that John and I HAD to write this. The story of a kid, with ambition, the historical reference and music and dance as a plot point had to be a musical.
JC: The minute Michael said it’s about a little girl who wants to catch the wind to make him her dance partner, I was hooked. I knew I could write dance music, music for the wind, folk-inspired music and music for a quest.
DM: So many complex themes, that you glide through as if, well a cakewalk! Can you share a bit on the process of navigating these challenging topics such as slavery or cakewalks for TYA?
MB: In general, even when there are deeply important or painful issues, I try to dramatize them in a way that maintains the medium – which is entertainment. What’s so great about theatre is that audiences can see real people navigating through whatever issue they are facing. Mirandy is so likeable and to see her struggling allows kids to empathize and see themselves. Even though she is a little out of touch with the former enslavement of her relatives she learns through this journey that making anyone do your bidding is not OK.
DM: Hambone Hambone! You all do a lovely job of subtle suggestions to rich history that might be found in a single lyric! One of my favorites is « Hambone! », what’s one lyric you suggest audiences listen for?
JC: SIFT THE MEAL AND GIVE ME THE HUSK,
YOU BAKE THE BREAD AND GIVE ME THE CRUST,
YOU EAT THE MEAT AND YOU GIVE ME THE SKIN,
THAT’S WHERE ALL YOUR TROUBLES BEGIN!
Kinda sums up African-Americans status in the US for a long time. And, in spite of all the obstacles, we still find joy, inspiration, aspiration and reasons to celebrate! Also, listen for Mirandy to sum up her quest at the end of ‘I Wanna Dance With the Wind’, especially her shout-out to the birds!
DM: Any character that reminds you of yourself or a loved one?
MB: E’ery single one! I write what I know. The elders are highly based on my mother and grandmother who were interviewed when I wrote the play. The characters that feel like me the most are Mirandy – ‘cuz I am driven, Ezel – ‘cuz I was sweet and clumsy (I broke many bones as a kid) and Brother Wind, ‘cuz I loved to dance.
JC: Gran’Ma Beasley reminds me of my paternal grandmother, Celestine Bennett Cornelius – fiesty, but with generous nature AND my maternal grandmother, Mary Spencer Odell – keeping order around the house with a warm spirit.
DM: What do you hope families will walk away having learned from this show?
JC: I hope everyone learns (or, is reminded of) the importance of family, friendship and kindness and how they have to be nurtured to endure.
MB: Many things – to enjoy family and traditions and some of the lessons of not being mean or forcing people to do things against their will is what I hope they walk away learning. But mostly, I want them to walk away knowing that black stories can be filled with joy and black stories can celebrate our contributions to society and not just the travesties of our traumatic history.