/Hell in High Water’ Bluesman taps Mississippi roots in New Stage play about Great Flood of 1927

Hell in High Water’ Bluesman taps Mississippi roots in New Stage play about Great Flood of 1927

The Mississippi native and international blues artist is not only a character (Old Lucas), in Marcus Gardley’s play, which takes place in Greenville during 1927’s Great Flood. It is based on a true story. Jackson serves as the musical director, composer, and arranger of the production. His character is a representation of the great Mississippi. “Hell in High Water,” which opens Tuesday at Jackson’s New Stage Theatre, will be shown. The play will run for two weeks and close on February 10. This timeframe includes events that promote dialogue and deepen understanding about the impact of the disaster on the nation, state, and community. This play reflects many aspects of Jackson’s varied and long-standing career. He has been performing on stage since his teens, as well as at concerts, festivals, and clubs. He is a world-renowned, highly-awarded vocalist and guitarist (Grammy nominee, Arts ambassador, Albert King Lifetime Guitar Award, and many more). Jackson plays Ike Turner in the international musical tour, “Simply the Best” and also appears as Robert Johnson in the “Robert Johnson, The Man, The Myth, and the Music.” Jackson plays Old Lucas in “Hell in High Water,” the older griot bluesman who enjoys the beard, crotchety demeanora a a crotona a crotonadooma crotet the crotanacous. The music director/composer/arranger aspect “draws from my entire life’s experience,” he says, as well as a family musical lineage he traces back to his great-great grandfather’s fiddle playing and subsequent generations. He says that he has heard the blues his entire life. Reynolds also said that he was a musician and composer. Reynolds wanted to work with Reynolds on the music and asked about Jackson’s interest. “The Mississippi blues artist” is how she thinks of Vasti and the play is about Mississippi. Although “Hell in High Water” does not have a musical component, the rhythms that are so common to the region, people, and culture — Jackson calls them “second nature of breathing” — weave throughout the play’s scenes. Jackson is creating music and songs that are unique to this production. They cover the entire spectrum of Mississippi music, and are anchored in the three-fold trinity blues, country, and gospel. We touch base on all that. Some of the ideas we have come up with are great for accentuating what the play is trying to communicate — about survival, struggle, triumph, conflict, coming together, working together, and all the things that make Mississippi what it is today. Some good. Some good. From the Great Migration of displaced people to federal control over the river’s levee systems, the worst river flood in American history had a lasting impact on the nation. Jackson states that the truth of the play is what resonates best. Jackson says, “This isn’t a fiction piece. This piece is not fictional. He says, “It enriches my history because I was born and raised in Mississippi.” Tiffany Jefferson choreographs the scenes. Through partnerships with the Mississippi Humanities Council and the Margaret Walker Center of Jackson State University, as well as the William Winter Institute on Racial Reconciliation and Mississippi Department Archives and History (MDAH), the play will feature related events. Additional events include the New Stage Theatre Dialogue at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday (prior the performance), which focuses on the flood’s effects on the community, with scholars and Jackson (conversation continues following the play with cast members); Youth Night at the Theatre on February 5, with $10 tickets and a postperformance conversation with the cast; as well as a photo exhibit from MDAH’s 1927 Flood Collection that will be on display in the Hewes Room throughout the show’s run. The performances of “Hell in High Water,” Tuesday through Saturday, are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through February 10. For tickets, $30 with discounts for students, seniors and groups, visit www.newstagetheatre.com or the box office, or call 601-948-3531.