Exploding the form of an opera, a mesmerizing theatrical work of rare power and beauty that reveals deep insights on gender, race and the future of human civilization.

Based on the post-apocalyptic novel by the late Afro-futurist and science fiction author Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower is a genre-defying work of political theater that harnesses three hundred years of Black music. Written by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon, Parable chronicles the spiritual awakening of young Lauren Olamina amidst a dystopian America wracked by the violence brought on by climate change that has driven society to the brink. Parable fuses science fiction, African-American spiritualism, deep insights into gender and race, and climate activism to construct a mesmerizing meditation on the future of human civilization. Co-commissioned by The Arts Center.

“Difficult to imagine a performance that could be more filmic, visceral or dramatic” – The National, UAE

Watch the interview with Toshi Reagon

Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower is made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Co-commissioned by The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi. It was developed in part during a residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, NY and fiscally sponsored by Cal Shakes. A Reagon Arts Production. Produced by Meiyin Wang.

Biographies

Toshi Reagon (Librettist, Composer, Music Director) is a talented and versatile singer, composer, musician, curator and producer with a profound ear for sonic Americana—from folk to funk, from blues to rock. While her expansive career has landed her at Carnegie Hall, the Paris Opera House and Madison Square Garden, you can just as easily find Toshi turning out at a music festival, intimate venue or local club. She has collaborated with many artists including Carl Hancock Rux, Ani DiFranco, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello and Nona Hendryx. As a composer, she has worked with Katori Hall, Urban Bush Women and The Jane Comfort Dance Co., among others. She is currently touring Bessie Award-winning The Blues Project with tap dancer Michelle Dorrance and Dorrance Dance. She founded WORD*ROCK*&SWORD, a community festival that takes place throughout New York City every September. Together with her mother Bernice Johnson Reagon, she has created two operas with director Robert Wilson, The Temptation of St. Anthony and Zinnias, The Life of Clementine Hunter. Toshi co-composed music for two Peabody Award-winning films and received a NYFA Award for Music Composition, the 2010 OutMusic Heritage Award and The Black Lily Music and Film Festival Award for Outstanding Performance. She is a National Women’s History Month honoree and was named a 2015 Art of Change Fellow by the Ford Foundation.

Bernice Johnson Reagon (Librettist, Composer) is a scholar, singer/songleader, activist. For over half a century she has been a profound contributor to African American and American culture. Born in Southwest Georgia, her singing style and traditional repertoire is grounded in her experiences in church, school and political activism. As a composer, she has created a narrative of her social and political activism through her songs and larger compositions. She performed as a member of the SNCC Freedom Singers during the sixties; she founded an all-women a cappella ensemble, The Harambee Singers, during the Black Cultural Movement; she founded and led the internationally acclaimed Sweet Honey in the Rock for thirty years until retirement. Paralleling her work in music, Reagon is one of the leading authorities in African American Cultural History. She is a recipient of the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities, a MacArthur Fellowship and the Presidential Medal and Charles E. Frankel Prize for Contributions to the Public Understanding of Humanities.

Eric Ting (Director) is an Obie Award-winning director and Artistic Director of California Shakespeare Theater. Recent directing credits include Othello (Cal Shakes), the world premiere of Sam Hunter’s Lewiston (Long Wharf Theatre) and To Kill a Mockingbird (Cincinnati Playhouse), Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s The World of Extreme Happiness (Manhattan Theatre Club/Goodman), Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate (Center Theatre Group), Kimber Lee’s Brownsville Song (Long Wharf/ Philadelphia Theatre Co.), Sam Hunter’s A Great Wilderness (Williamstown), Nora Chipaumire’s Miriam (BAM Next Wave), Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud to Present a Presentation… (world premiere, Soho Rep/Victory Gardens). Ting is a founding member of the artists’ collective Intelligent Beasts.

Octavia E. Butler (Author, June 22, 1947–February 24, 2006). Often referred to as the “grand dame of science fiction,” Octavia Butler was born in Pasadena, California. She received an Associate of Arts degree in 1968 from Pasadena Community College, and also attended California State University in Los Angeles and the University of California, Los Angeles. During 1969 and 1970, she studied at the Screenwriter’s Guild Open Door Program and the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop, where she took a class with science fiction master Harlan Ellison (who later became her mentor), which led to Butler selling her first science fiction stories. Butler’s first story, Crossover, was published in the 1971 Clarion anthology. Patternmaster, her first novel and the first title of her five-volume Patternist series, was published in 1976, followed by Mind of My Mind in 1977. Others in the series include Survivor (1978), Wild Seed (1980), which won the James Tiptree Award, and Clay’s Ark (1984). With the publication of Kindred in 1979, Butler was able to support herself writing full time. She won the Hugo Award in 1984 for her short story, Speech Sounds, and in 1985, Butler’s novelette Bloodchild won a Hugo Award, a Nebula Award, the Locus Award and an award for best novelette from Science Fiction Chronicle. Other books by Octavia E. Butler include the Xenogenesis trilogy: Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988) and Imago (1989), and a short story collection, Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995). Parable of the Sower (1993), the first of her Earthseed series, was a finalist for the Nebula Award as well as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. The book’s sequel, Parable of the Talents (1998), won a Nebula Award. In 1995, Butler was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship.