In 1855, Walt Whitman wrote “I Hear America Singing,” a poem celebrating the workers whose “songs” made the country great.
This week, Rye will be singing — or at least a group of more than 30 friends and neighbors will be — celebrating the founding of Rye 350 years ago.
The event is “Flashbacks,” an original musical penned by sisters Camille Linen and Donna Cribari. Linen wrote the book and collaborated on lyrics with Cribari, who composed the score.
It will presented at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow, and again on June 29 and 30, at the Crawford Park Mansion in Rye Brook . The actual anniversary of the founding is June 29.
“Flashbacks” was originally written in 1983, commissioned by Westchester County to mark its bicentennial. The writers have added to the story, making it more Rye-centric.
Members of the Rye Brook Senior Theater workshop worked with Linen to create a new section that brings to life the captivating murals in the Port Chester post office depicting workers Whitman might have recognized.
Mirian Martin has created by hand the authentic costumes the cast will wear, from Ann Hutchinson’s gown with lace at her neck to the fringed frock worn by the wife of Chief Shanarockwell, the man who sold the land to the settlers.
“Flashbacks” is full of history, and its theatrical device is simple: Four 21st-century students meet at the Byram River to gather information for a social-studies assignment that is due the next day.
Before too long, the river begins to sing to them, producing historical figures in a long continuum from Shenarockwell forward.
At a recent rehearsal, cast members, including seniors from the theater workshop, sat in rows of chairs, a chorus of voices singing as one river: “The river calls, ancient and clean./The river sings of the things it’s seen./Speak to me, oh river, for you know/How our past can help us learn to live and grow.”
In an era of ear-bud earphones and iPods that make music a solitary enterprise, “Flashbacks” offers a more communal approach: seniors, teens and those in between raising their voices to celebrate where they live. It’s a slice of Norman Rockwell in the age of “American Idol.”
Cribari’s score is eclectic, ranging from ballads such as “It is Not What We Once Knew” (sung by Shanarockwell and his wife, played by Jeffrey Aldana and Julie Colangelo) to a more traditional musical-theater song, “Brother ‘Gainst Brother,” which pits a Whig (Rob Mickatavage) against Tory (Brian Beadle) in Revolutionary times.
Linen and Cribari also enlisted local historian and Civil War re-enactor Doug Carey to play Captain Bartram, who led the first New Yorkers off to fight in the war between the states.
There is a ballet of slaves seeking freedom up North, choreographed by Meret Piderman and written as a gospel ballad, Cribari says.
The venue, the Crawford Park Mansion, seats just 100 per performance, so call sooner than later. If you miss this weekend’s performance, you can catch it at the same venue in June.
When: 8 p.m., May 27 and 28.
Where: Crawford Park Mansion, Ridge Street, Rye Brook.
With: Jeffrey Aldana, Julie Colangelo, Tyler Ketchabaw, Giles Rutson, Jessica Martin, Christy DeGallerie, Rob Mickatavage, Brian Beadle, Claudia Levy, Sean McKinney, Dan Tartaglia, Claudia Levy, Zach Dore-Flynn, Doug Carey, Amani Cooper, Taja Rones, Tatiana Pinheiro, Michael Hall, Camille Linen, Lou Del Bianco, Patricia Sales, Mary E. Simons, Anita Penchina, Lucille Porto, Belle Harris, Sonny Orlovitz, Vinny Bell, Doris Reavis, Peter Brancucci, Ann Provenzano, Aramita Vaccaro, Gloria Orzo, Clem Patafio, Kim Lamneck
Photo by Joe Larese/The Journal News: Camille Linen, left, and Donna Cribari collaborated on the writing of “Flashbacks,” which will be performed this week at the Crawford Park Mansion.