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This is the story of a mad scientist who forces a thief to travel back in time to arm Harriet Tubman.  It's an irreverent, fast-paced, anachronistic comedy that asks questions about race, history, and the way forward. 

The script has numerous references to 80's mainstream pop hits, and we quickly learn that Harry's secret code is the lyrics from "Freedom '90" by George Michael. So I went with it, and created a musical palette from '80s-inspired hip-hop beats and '80s hits. 


The timelessness of the violin was important to the sound of this play.  I was inspired by the remix of "I've Got Five on It" in Jordan Peele's Us, Phillip anachronistically playing Ginuwine's "Pony" in Slave Play, and "Ashokan Farewell" (the theme to Ken Burns' The Civil War).  The latter is as anachronistic as it gets--a song written in 1982, but likely assumed by anyone familiar with the documentary to be a song from that period.  (For that story, check out my interview with Ken Burns.) 

My approach included tongue-in-cheek string covers of "Like a Prayer" for the lovers and "Hungry Like the Wolf" for the murderous cook.  I also recorded violin elements to blend the seams between my found and created materials, as well as to add ambience.

This palette formed a cohesive vision that carried through the play, including the time travel sound sequences.  I made them from strings, turntable scratching/cassette tape rewinding effects, and sound from my Moog Theremini. 

The play begins and ends with movie trailers and features an omniscient narrator throughout. You'll see bits of that below, plus what I believe is the perfect song selection for a montage about a white slaveowner being accidentally kidnapped from his time by a black mad scientist and finding love.  

Harry: Samantha Beaulieu

Mimi: Te’Era Coleman

Knox: Wayland Cooper

Shilo: Maryam Fatima Foye

Orry: Lucas Harms

Anita: Monica R. Harris

Jeremy: Michael Pepp

Jones: Gavin Robinson

Maddox: Matthew Thompson

Vivian: Brittany N. Williams

Director: Khiry Armstead

Production Manager: Jenny L. Billot

Stage Managers: Megan Whittle and Daniel Myers

Sound Design: Clare Marie Nemanich

Costume Design: Aya Designs Global

Lighting Design: Jo Nazro

Set Design: Betsy Primes

Prop Design: Christopher Rodriguez Jr.

Harry and the Thief

Written by Sigrid Gilmer

Produced by The NOLA Project at the Contemporary Arts Center

New Orleans, LA, January 2020

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