A Star Has Burnt My Eye: The Strange Case of Connie Converse

by Howard Fishman, directed by Sarah Hughes ’07

 
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Describing Connie Converse is difficult, not least because we’re not sure whether to use “is” or “was” to refer to her. An obscure singer-songwriter in 1950s Greenwich Village, Connie wrote pages of music that transcends time, then abruptly disappeared in 1974. She left goodbye notes that aren’t quite suicide notes, and nobody ever found any trace of her. Hers is one of those stories you can’t quite believe hasn’t been told yet, and, for that matter, can’t quite believe, period. Using found materials – Connie’s personal letters and journals, previously unheard recordings of her songs, and firsthand recollections from those that knew her – uncovered through painstaking research into her life, this project attempts to capture the mysterious magic one feels upon hearing Connie Converse for the first time, while at the same time examining personal (and universal) issues of alienation, the leading of multiple lives, and what it means to be an artist.

 

 

Fishman20060527-073Howard Fishman (Writer/Musical Director/Performer)  is a critically-acclaimed singer, guitarist, composer and bandleader, who got his start playing on the streets of New Orleans and helped pioneer the Brooklyn music scene when he moved there in the late 90’s. The New York Times has written that his music “transcends time and idiom.” Some of the stages that Howard has headlined on have included: Lincoln Center, the Steppenwolf Theatre, Merkin Concert Hall, The Blue Note, the Pasadena Playhouse, Joe’s Pub, NJPAC, The Great American Music Hall, Le Petit Journal (Paris), Storyville (Finland) and Augustibluus (Estonia). He has appeared on bills with a wide range of musicians including Odetta, Yo Yo Ma, Maceo Parker, Califone, Robyn Hitchcock, Madeleine Peyroux, Allen Holdsworth and Nellie McKay. Howard is a frequent NPR guest and has made feature-length appearances on “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross, “World Cafe” with David Dye, “The Leonard Lopate Show” and “Soundcheck” with John Schaefer, among many others.

Howard holds a BA in Dramatic Literature from Vassar College, and studied directing with Jose Quintero, and acting with Estelle Parsons. He has worked with The Williamstown Theatre Festival, Hartford Stage, and Long Wharf Theater, and was a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. He works frequently on theatrical collaborations; recent projects have included a commissioned score for “Manna-Hata,” a site-specific theater project performed in the Penn Station Post Office, produced by Peculiar Works, and songs for Christopher Wall’s new play “The Calamity.” “We are destroyed”, his oratorio about the Donner Party, was developed as part of the New Works Now! Festival at The Public Theater and subsequently workshopped at as part of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab West, and at Abrons Arts Center directed by Ed Schmidt.

Howard is also the creator of “The Basement Tapes Project”, which uses Greil Marcus’ book THE OLD, WEIRD AMERICA as a touchstone to explore the mysterious underground recordings made by Bob Dylan and The Band in 1967.  The project has been programmed to wide acclaim at a major national venues, including Lincoln Center’s “American Songbook” series, the CUNY Graduate Center, Mercyhurst Institute and Duke University.

 

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Sarah Hughes (Director) is a director, writer, producer, designer, production/stage manager and teaching artist. She has worked with Elevator Repair Service as their Assistant Director (among other things) since 2007, developing six original shows and touring them throughout the US and internationally, and now works with The Office for Creative Research, a company co-founded by video artist Ben Rubin. With ERS: Thousands of Exhausted Things; Arguendo; Fondly, Collette Richland; The Select (The Sun Also Rises); Shuffle; The Sound and the Fury (April Seventh, 1928); Gatz. Other: A Star Has Burnt My Eye: The Strange Case of Connie Converse (with Howard Fishman at Joe’s Pub); The Target Margin Lab (Abrons Arts Center); The Pickle (with Sam Goodman); Barter (Vox Theater); Big Green Theater (The Bushwick Starr/Superhero Clubhouse); Project E.D.E.N. (Dartmouth College); Neptune and Saturn (Superhero Clubhouse); Godot in New Orleans (Classical Theatre of Harlem).

 

katedowneyKate Downey (Producer/Dramaturg/Performer) is a director and producer working to create theater that is outrageous, intelligent, extraordinary, and life-affirming. To that end, she has recently worked with the Public, Cherry Lane, Boston Playwrights Theatre, Prague Shakespeare Festival, Sleep No More, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, and New York City Opera (RIP). She is the Associate Artistic Director of Ingenue Theatre, where she is currently co-directing Orphan Jane: A Cautionary Tale in collaboration with ragtag Brooklyn band of misfits, Orphan Jane. She is a tour guide with Museum Hack (http://www.museumhack.com/).

 

jeanroheJean Rohe (Performer) is a multi-lingual singer, storyteller, and composer, mixing aesthetic approaches from jazz, folk, and Brazilian traditions. Her one-of-a-kind narrative songs, which range from fantastical riffs on old folktales to “phonojournalism”, a genre of her own invention, have won recognition from ASCAP and the New York Songwriters Circle, and her refreshingly candid performance won her the audience prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival. She is the recipient of residency fellowships at the Blue Mountain Center (2009), The MacDowell Colony (2012), and The Johnny Mercer Foundation (2013). Her October 2013 release with her genre-bending 8-piece ensemble, Jean Rohe & The End of the World Show, has been called “masterful” (Daily News). She spends her time writing and performing throughout the US.

“A sure-footed young singer-songwriter,” –The New York Times

 

CharlotteMundy_webCharlotte Mundy (Performer) is a vocalist with exceptional stylistic range, known to produce “strikingly clear tones” (Oberon’s Grove) and “tart and gangly lines, well sung” (New York Times). Most recently she appeared in the Salt Bay Chamberfest performing a work for two sopranos and percussion by Swedish composer Karin Rehnqvist, and with New Chamber Ballet singing Morton Feldman’s Voice, Violin and Piano while simultaneously dancing a duet with ballerina Amber Neff. Other recent projects included singing in Cynthia Hopkins’ This Clement World at St. Ann’s Warehouse, in Howard Fishman’s The Mysterious Case of Connie Converse at Joe’s Pub, in the Qubit Nonference, and with ensembles such as The Yehudim, Roomful of Teeth, Ensemble sans maître, Contemporaneous, and TAK. She is one half of an electro-pop band called The Euphemisms with Rich Woodson. Mundy holds a Masters degree in Contemporary Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Lucy Shelton. To learn more, please visit http://www.charlottemundy.com

© 2014 Vox Theater Company