The legend of John Henry, deeply rooted in Appalachian folklore surrounding the construction of the American railroad, has existed in many variations and forms – from illustration to tall tale, political polemic to popular song. Steel Hammer, the latest collaboration from composer Julia Wolfe, SITI Company, and Bang on a Can All-Stars, creatively explores the subject of human vs. machine and the cost of hard labor on the human body and soul.
Culling from the vibrant oral traditions of Appalachia, Steel Hammer incorporates lyrics by Julia Wolfe and text from four remarkable American playwrights—Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux, and Regina Taylor—based on hearsay, recollection and tall tales. Directed by Anne Bogart, performers take on wooden bones, mountain dulcimer, step dancing and more, as they explore the human impulse to tell stories through this quintessential American tale.
“SITI exhibits a genuine knack for melding the ancient with the avant-garde, ceremonial solemnity with abstract movement”
-- Hollywood Reporter
Music & Lyrics by Julia Wolfe
Original text by Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux, and Regina Taylor
Music performed by Bang on a Can All-Stars, featuring vocalists Emily Eagen, Katie Geissinger and Molly Quinn
Play performed and created by SITI Company
Lighting Design by Brian H Scott
Scenic & Costume Design by James Schuette
Choreography by Barney O’Hanlon
Sound Design by Andrew Cotton and Christian Frederickson
CAP UCLA presentation supported in part by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Endowment Fund.
Steel Hammer the score was commissioned by Bang on a Can with generous support from Maria and Robert A. Skirnick and Carnegie Hall. The play Steel Hammer premiered at Actors Theatre of Louisville in the 2014 Humana Festival of New American Plays with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The dramatized stage production of Steel Hammer featuring SITI Company and Bang on a Can All Stars was developed and premiered at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was commissioned by the Krannert Center and by BAM for the 2015 Next Wave Festival.