The Journey

In the spring of 2001, Margaret (Megs) Booker (stage director/writer) and Shem Guibbory (violinist/musical repertoire and continuity) began exploring global music of all periods and types—classics, opera, jazz, blues, gospel, folk, and new music.

They asked themselves: Why do some people like to listen to just one type of music? How does music provide us with a key to our own identity and culture? Can music provide a matrix for global understanding in a contemporary world stuffed with challenges, and can it serve as a springboard to a future filled with opportunity? Could we create a new kind of theatrical form, a musical fable with story, characters, text, and setting? Could music provide the conduit to a unique place where people could mingle, perhaps a cultural crossroads like the Alhambra, or a present-day urban American café? Would this be an environment in which we could celebrate those human qualities which unite us all?

They assembled a creative team including tenor Thomas Young and writer/performer Rinde Eckert and began their first working session in New York City in June of 2002.

Through three subsequent residencies (Rockefeller Center at Bellagio, 2003; Virginia Center for Creative Arts, 2003; and Centre d’Art I Natura, Farerra, Spain, 2004), the team completed research and initial development of text and musical repertoire for a new, artist-generated work called A Night at the Alhambra Café.

A Night at the Alhambra Café premiered as a work-in-progress at Harlem Stage (Patricia Cruz, Executive Director; Brad Learmonth, Programming Director) in January of 2007 and featured new music commissions from Gabriela Lena Frank, Jon Jang, Mayru, and Nate Shaw. Margaret Booker directed and Rinde Eckert wrote the text. The cast included Mel Johnson, Robert Dorfman, Shem Guibbory, and Lauren Hooper, while Marvin Sewall, Robert Levin, and Fernando Valencia made up the band. The design team included Robert Dahlstrom (set), Robert Wierzel (lights), Laura Crow (costumes), and Daniel Moses Schreier (sound).

In 2007, two Pulitzer Prize-winners, playwright Robert Schenkkan and composer Paul Moravec, joined the creative team, along with Emmy award-winning set designer David Potts. Also in 2007, Jan Kallish became general manager for A Night at the Alhambra Café.