top of page
  • Writer's picture New Music-Theatre

gun & powder

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

Leave a comment below

New works of theater take a great deal of focus, and, when there is music integrated, we need to work together, it seems to me, to unpack the creators’ and interpreters’ intentions. gun & powder is just such a work. Luckily, I got to see it twice with our Live & About friends, and still I have questions. Won’t you help me by responding and help keep the conversation going -- just one or two, you don’t need to answer them all, but weigh in on something that intrigued or stumped you. Remember, there are no wrong answers as most of these questions ask for your interpretation. The last question is evaluative and is meant to take us out of the play to evaluate our own times.

Interpretive Questions about Intentions:

· - The first thing we see across the wide and shallow upstage (back of stage) at Signature is a pink curtain made up of 3-dimensional cheesecloth. How does this set function to tell you the story?

· - When the creators of the musical (writer of book and lyrics Angelica Chéri and composer Ross Baum) settled on the story of Chéri’s ancestors, what do you think they had in mind for us to understand about their creation of a chorus of eight? And how did they the chorus add to the musical?

· - According to their story, why do Martha and Mary have such different responses and goals for their lives?

· - In the scene at the train station, what do you make of Martha deciding not to go to New York with Elijah, but leaving him money without speaking to him?

· - What do you make of the final song, “In the blood,” and what is its message?

Evaluative Question:

· - Baum’s score and therefore the singing styles stretch across many music genres and time periods. What did you make of the choices and how did it affect your critical appreciation of the musical?

· - Bi-racial children are much more integrated in our own community, so should Whites or Blacks still accept the premise of “one drop of blood” means you belong to one group?

100 views10 comments


Feb 06, 2020

hi Susan -- i apologize if my parting question came across as a challenge. i just loved the show immensely and sensed that most others except you had a similar reaction. i really wanted to understand why. i find the post-show conversations really insightful. i take away so much from them. you have so much to contribute to the conversation. i get it that you don't want to influence our initial reaction, but i do wish you'd share yours with us as well, perhaps after first hearing ours.


Feb 05, 2020

Someone asked me if I'm humming any of the tunes. Now, a week later, a few definitely keep creeping into my brain. How can we not be tickled down to our toes, remembring "Dirty Shame" and "Dangerous?" I still feel the rhythm and gorgeous clean choreography of "Cotton." I keep holding onto the syncopated drive of the ensemble number "The Shot Thats Shook the Soul." For me "The Way I Am" was the most heartbreakingly beautiful ballad, and didn't Marva Hicks get to sing a reprise of it in Act II? (Not in program.) The song that goes the greatest distance in the journey of a character was Elijah's "Invisible" and didn't he deliver the transformation of a man incred…


Feb 04, 2020

This play has compelled me to struggle with the question: Would I choose a life in which it is easy to be accepted in society, versus a life with my kinfolk and my identity as a daughter, sister, and community member who suffers prejudice on a daily basis. How much would I want to give into society’s perverse perception of me as someone who has a drop of black blood? Do I want to cherish that blood, or do I want to deny it completely? Total self denial, it seems to me, is not freedom. However, it could be freedom for my children and future generations. Would I want to make that sacrifice for them, if not for myself. I…


Feb 04, 2020

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. Signature Theatre has posted several articles on their website that relate closely to our blog questions, including - On passing (Read the Note at the bottom of the article on the "One-Drop" rule sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 1925), African American Women of the Wild West, Discovering Great-Great-Aunts Mary & Martha

Please check out the articles at:


Feb 04, 2020

Great comments, everyone. Keep ‘em coming.

Re Martin. Thanks for your research on the issue of Greek Chorus. In my experience with Greek Theatre, there were multiple roles the Chorus could serve, and therefore fluid. One Choric Interlude could be a statement of the polis, another might be supporting the emotions of the protagonist or even speaking as the inner thoughts of often the protagonist as outlier/rebel. I thought it was so interesting that the creators used a Saloon Girl in two numbers to “riff” on race. “Mulat-tata” was both a risqué (theatrically entertaining) burlesque number and a statement condemning how White men found bi-racial women as exotic and took advantage of them. What might have been just an entertaining…

bottom of page