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James Mumford
Choral Ensemble

George Vlahakis

Last modified: Wednesday, April 2, 2003

African American Choral Ensemble to present "The Gospel at Colonus"

NOTE: In addition to the persons listed elsewhere in this release, you may wish to seek assistance from Charles Sykes, director of the African American Arts Institute (AAAI), 812-855-0350 or; or Martha Dutra, AAAI assistant for communications and marketing, 812-856-1797 or

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's African American Choral Ensemble is celebrating springtime in Bloomington with a gospel adaptation of a classical play from ancient Greece, The Gospel at Colonus, by playwright Lee Breuer and composer Bob Telson. This is the first known fully-staged university production of The Gospel at Colonus in Indiana.

Set in a black Pentecostal church, The Gospel at Colonus is a parable-like sermon about the fate and death of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. After years of wandering in exile from Thebes, while attended by his daughters, he comes to the city of Colonus in search of final peace. He is a tortured soul who finally finds release through religious epiphany. Gospel music is used as a means of bringing contemporary relevance to this Greek tragedy.

Performances are scheduled for April 11-12 at 8 p.m., with a matinee at 3 p.m. on April 12, at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave. in downtown Bloomington.

The performance uses music to relate the well-known tale of how Oedipus was fated to kill his father and marry his mother, how he blinded himself when he discovered that his daughters were also his sisters, how his two sons warred over his throne and destroyed themselves, and how he wandered the world as a beggar until he found shelter at Colonus.

"Oedipus' journey from sorrow to redemption has implications for all of us who fall prey to the tricks and misuse of fate," said James Mumford, director of the African American Choral Ensemble and the director for the performance. "One can expect to have a legitimate theater experience with this show and to leave humming and smiling from a wonderful and exciting evening."

Described as a musical that blends the agony of Greek tragedy and the ecstasy of American gospel music, The Gospel at Colonus ran for several months on Broadway with an all-star cast that included actors Morgan Freeman, Sam Butler Jr. and Kevin Davis. It won an Obie Award for best musical and an L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award, and it was nominated for several other honors including a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award for best script and a Grammy for best recorded theater score.

The Gospel at Colonus has elements which appeal to a large and diverse audience. This includes fans of literature and Greek mythology, theater lovers, religion students and scholars, church members and anyone interested in learning about African American culture. All will be both entertained and educated by this dramatic story.

Advance tickets are $8 for students and seniors and $13 for adults. Ticket prices on the day of the show are $12 for students and seniors and $17 for adults. Tickets are available in advance at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater's Sunrise Ticket Office, 812-339-6741.

The African American Choral Ensemble is one of three performance ensembles of IU's African American Arts Institute, located in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center at 275 N. Jordan Ave. on the Bloomington campus.

Mumford has been the director of the African American Choral Ensemble since 1983. He has taught the Groups Theatre Project, which he created, since 1985, and he directed student productions of Cats, A Raisin in the Sun, West Side Story, The Wiz and A Lesson Before Dying.

He also has directed many of his own original musicals including Lift Every Voice, 1 More River 2 Cross, The Kirk Franklin Story and others. The Choral Ensemble has premiered many of his vocal and choral compositions. His Cantata: Sojourner Truth-Choral Portraits has been performed by the University of Southern California and the Kokomo Symphony and Chorus to critical acclaim. He is currently working on an opera, Cinque, based on the story of the Amistad Incident.