POSTED Thu. Nov 12, 2015

Creative Culture

The Story of a 'Song of a Man Coming Through'

Sometimes, the story that inspires a play is as intense as the production itself.

In the early ’80s, Episcopal priest Joe Morris Doss helped found Religious Leaders Against the Death Penalty, and was tasked with finding attorneys to represent death row inmates on appeal. Doss became so embroiled in his advocacy that he went on to serve as consultant on the movie Dead Man Walking before retiring from law.

But before that retirement, in 1984, Doss was drafted by defense attorney Julian Murray as the co-lawyer on an appeals case to defend Earnest Knighten Jr., who was then facing the death penalty for the shooting of Bossier City gas station owner, Ralph Shell.

“Earnest had tremendous growth in the months that my father knew him,” says Bishop Doss’s son, Andrew Doss. Still, Knighten was executed by the state in 1984.

“His last request of my father before he died was to tell his story,” says the younger Doss. “And once I became an adult, my father and I started writing that story, together, as a play.”

Father and son will see that production, ‘Song of A Man Coming Through’, come to life as part of the Faux/Real arts festival this month. “My father is now a retired bishop who has had a massive career,” says Andrew Doss, “but he feels like this is the biggest contribution he’s made in his lifetime – this means more to him than anything he’s ever worked on.”

Andrew Doss is currently attending seminary himself, at Yale Divinity School, after having worked as a New Orleans criminal prosecutor for five years prior. “I also have a background in theater and have dabbled in theater, but this is our first full production play,” he says via phone from New Haven Connecticut, where he has been teaching drama to inmates at a local prison.

The Dosses attempted to put forth their heavy subject matter in a uniquely inviting setting. “The whole thing is set in a church [First Grace United Methodist Church, 3401 Canal St], in the round. The whole space is being used,” explains Doss. “The audience is invited to come an hour before the play starts to have gumbo, some drinks and sing together. [The audience] is invited into this space where you can relax, and get comfortable but engaged as soon as you arrive. The actors even sit amongst the audience all throughout the play; when their parts happen, they stand up and perform in various places throughout the church. They perform and then they sit back down when they’re done with their scene.”

Doss says music is a big part of the play’s special environment: “Music is used throughout the play, so the audience will be singing too. The music was written by Brendon Connelly,” says Doss, “an opera and classical composer, but he also does a lot of theater composition. ‘Song of a Man Coming Through’ features his original music, as well as classic New Orleans gospel music.”

Despite this focus on inclusiveness, Doss also says the play aims to challenge audiences in at least three major ways: “Well, first, it involves very heavy issues of life and death, and to be part of that story is going to bring up a lot of emotions for audience members — I mean, in the end, [Knighten] was executed,” says Doss.

“Then also, the play is showing the journey of an individual while also recognizing that he can’t just be an individual, that the only way to grow and transform, is to see his whole community transform. It is not about an individual journey, and it’s challenging for people to see that. Lastly, it involves the audience: they sing and eat together, and do some other things where they really get involved, and in that way they are also sort of implicated; in watching the play they have to recognize that they are part of a system. It’s not an anti death penalty play, but you cannot see it without realizing you are part of a system that thinks violence works — a system that kills. When the state of Louisiana executes someone, that is us executing them.”

On top of all that, Doss is going through the emotional experience of seeing the first real play he has ever written acted out on a real stage. “It has been exhilarating,” he says, “terrifying, yes, and totally splendid.”

The play Song of a Man Coming Through runs from Nov 12-21, Thu-Sat, as well as a Sunday show on Nov 15. All showtimes are at 8pm, and performances are at First Grace United Methodist Church, 3401 Canal St. The play is put on by the Southern Rep Theatre, and tickets are $20-40.

Above: from left to right, John Neisler, Cecile Monteyne, Mike Harkins, Lance E. Nichols and Robert Diago DoQui perform in Song of a Man Coming Through. Photo by John B. Barrois.

POSTED Dec 14, 2018

Atmosphere

Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Hey, the weather outside is kind of frightful! About as frightful as it gets down here anyways (also, note that next week temperatures will be back in the…....
CONTINUE

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED May 10, 2017

Creative Culture

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

On May 12 the New Orleans Museum of Art will fling open its doors for Masquerade: Late Night at NOMA, a costume party replete with float builders, mask-makers,…....
CONTINUE

Written by DAVID JOHNSON
POSTED Dec 23, 2016

Atmosphere

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Happy holidays, y’all. We hope you find plenty to occupy you during this busy Christmas weekend, but if you find yourself having a small, quiet moment, or just…....
CONTINUE

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED Dec 21, 2016

Creative Culture

A Native New Orleanian's Retrospective at NOMA

A Native New Orleanian's Retrospective at NOMA

Imagine doing something you love for seventy years. Many people aren’t lucky enough to live that long, much less put their heart and soul into their passion projects…....
CONTINUE

Written by FRITZ ESKER
PAGE

    Our Local Publisher Partners

    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
    • WWNO
    • WWOZ
    • PRC
    • NOMA
    • The Historic New Orleans Collection
    • Southern Food
    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

    WWNO

    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

    WWOZ

    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

    PRC

    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

    NOMA

    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

    X

    Thanks.

    was added to your favorites.

    VIEW YOUR PROFILE

     


    Share On Twitter Share On Facebook