ROCKFORD IL - A Rockford Community Arts Access Grant has been awarded to “The Life & Times of the Great Lead Belly.” The show is a collaboration between folksinger and writer Mark Dvorak from Riverside IL, actor and singer David Causey from Rockford IL, and Dorothy Paige Turner, project administrator and co-producer, also from Rockford.
The show was adapted from a script developed by Dvorak in the early 1990s after he sought out and found the grave of Huddie Ledbetter, better known as “Lead Belly,” outside the small town of Mooringsport, Louisiana, in the in northwest part of the state.
Dvorak distilled his notes into a script which was produced into an audio documentrary by WDCB 90.9 fm, Glen Ellyn IL. The show, “Lead Belly’s Legacy” aired in one hundred sixty cities and in 1993 earned Dvorak a Peter Lisagor for Journalism.
“I have always wished to develop the script into a live presentation,” said Dvorak who has listened to and studied Lead Belly’s music since he took up the guitar in 1980. “A performance of the show was recorded in Chicago in 2008, and was quite exciting and well received. I am so thrilled to be working with David, a remarkable singer and charismatic performer, and of course Dorothy, who has pulled everything together. We’re hoping that Rockford will provide us the starting place to further develop the script. Hopefully we can bring Lead Belly’s amazing story to audiences across the country.
Along with Woody Guthrie, Huddie Ledbetter is regarded as one of the great American folk song composers and performers. Born in the late 1800s, Lead Belly was a song collector, an animated entertainer and a crack musician. Although he never achieved great success as a performer and recording artist in his lifetime, his songs and legend are inherently woven into the fabric of American folklore and folk music.
“The Life & Times of the Great Lead Belly” will debut Friday, March 20 at Just Goods, 201 7th Street, Rockford IL at 7:00 pm. A donation of $10 is suggested. Six arts-in-education performances are scheduled for Rockford area middle schools March 23-25.