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Buffalo State Faculty, Alumni Represented in 'The Fall of Stag Lee'

Posted: September 22, 2016

When Buffalo Opera Unlimited’s The Fall of Stag Lee hits Rockwell Hall’s Performing Arts Center (PAC) stage September 23 and 25, expect to see an array of Buffalo State talent.

Carlos Jones, associate dean in the School of Arts and Humanities and former associate professor of theater, choreographed the full-length jazz opera written by Buffalo native Darryl Glenn Nettles.

The cast of 21 includes alumni Cecilia Barron,’13; James Huggins,’12; and Chelsea Prophet,’10, who cultivated their acting and dance acumen as students, as well as current voice students Nicholas Irion and Elliott Michki. Additionally, Ivan Docenko Jr., accompanist in the Music Department, serves as rehearsal accompanist and is performing with the show’s orchestra. And Lee Ann Grace, lecturer in modern and classical languages and Buffalo Opera president, landed the role of a nun.

Professional baritone Eric McKeever, of New York City, plays the role of Stag Lee. The other principal singers are Nia A. Drummond, Jordan Weatherston Pitts, and Brittany Walker.

Creating a production with individuals connected to the college has been rewarding, Jones said, especially working in a professional capacity with former theater students.

“It’s refreshing and gratifying to see how much they have grown,” Jones said.

Buffalo Opera founder and director Tim Kennedy didn’t know Jones prior to this production, and he’s been extremely impressed.

“I have never seen anyone choreograph so fast or so spontaneously,” Kennedy said. “He gets an idea, runs with it and makes magic.”

Inspired by stories collected by Harlem Renaissance writers Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, Stag Lee is based on the true story of Lee Shelton, an African American political boss and dealer in various nefarious enterprises at the end of the nineteenth century. Nettles, who now serves on the music faculty at the Tennessee State University, placed the story in the 1920s.

“This is a time that blues, ragtime, and gospel were coalescing into the African American music we cherish today,” Kennedy said. “The audience will hear all kinds of musical styles—from Caribbean to Bach.”

In 2014, the Buffalo Opera presented a one-act version of the opera that was so well received that Nettles decided to expand it into the three-act version, Kennedy said. The longer version presents a more defined picture of Stag Lee and introduces new characters.

The Fall of Stag Lee is one of numerous Buffalo Opera productions to be held at the PAC.

“We love working with Buffalo State,” Kennedy said. “We wish we could do more together. It feels like home.”

Performances will be held on Friday, September 23, at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, September 25, at 2:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $30; tickets for seniors are $25; and student tickets are $10. Tickets may be purchased at the Rockwell Hall Box Office, by phone at (716) 878-3005 or online.

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