On Monday, Nov. 24, a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo. decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown. Since the announcement, violence has erupted in the grieving community and protests have been staged across the nation, as we wrestle with the ugly legacy of systemic racism and its impact on justice.
Similar themes were on the mind of Bertolt Brecht and Hanns Eisler in 1932, as the Nazi party was coming into ascendancy in Germany. Forseeing the heartbreak and injustice that was to come, the two avant-garde artists wrote Die Mutter, a play and later cantata that follows a mother and son through death and sorrow.
The story was brought to life again on Nov. 19 at by the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. “The Mother: A Cantata For Ferguson” was an adaptation of Brecht and Eisler’s work to speak to the modern crisis happening in Ferguson and all over America. It was performed at the BU Marsh Chapel and sponsored in part by the Center for the Study of Europe.
The event began with a performance that interwove “The Mother” with documentary material about the life and death of Michael Brown and subsequent events in Ferguson. Following the performance, a roundtable panel discussed the political power of performance and how we might look back to Brecht and Eisler’s works today.
Project Director: Minou Arjomand Assistant Professor of English, Boston University
Choral Conductor: Ekaterina Anoshkin PhD Candidate, College of Fine Arts, Boston University
Musical Director: Raphael Fusco Composer, collaborative keyboardist, and conductor
Featuring: Veronica Williams as the Mother and Thaddeus Bell as the Son
- William Banfield Professor of Africana Studies/ Music and Society, director of the Center for Africana Studies and programs, Berklee College of Music and BU STH alum.
- Raphael Fusco Musical director of “The Mother in Ferguson,” Fusco is a composer, collaborative keyboardist and conductor.
- Pamela Lightsey Associate Dean for Community Life and Lifelong Learning at BU’s School of Theology. Her live streamed videos from the Ferguson protests can be watched here.
- Martin Puchner Byron and Anita Wien Professor of Drama and of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University.
The performers featured were Grace Allendorf, Thaddeus Bell, Mary Brown Bonacci, Valeska Cambron, Julia Cavallaro, John Cunningham, Pardis Dabashi, Emilia DiCola, Brian Gonzalez, Laura Hansen, Justin Hicks, Ari Nieh, Daniel Rosensweig, and Veronica Williams.
Additional material for the performance was written by Patricia Broe, Alexander Cohen-Leddy, Marc Finn, Sarah Franzblau, Jackson Upperco, Nathan Wilgeroth, and Minou Arjomand.
Its sponsors were the BU Center for the Humanities, Arts Grant from the BU Arts Initiative – Office of the Provost, African American Studies, the Center for the Study of Europe, Jewish Cultural Endowment, the School of Theology, the Department of English, and the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literatures.
Photos by Melissa Ostrow.