This New Work created for 508 integrated a diverse group of artists while at the same time providing a space for a generationally, socially and racially integrated audience. A casual conversation with John Stropes (director of Guitar Studies at the University of WisconsinMilwaukee, guitar teacher and historian, has been the guiding force in establishing UWM's international reputation as the "center of the finger-style guitar universe") about the Finger Style Guitar program was followed by a year of intensive research. This research led to the creation The Road North, an original musical theater work about the blues and the journey north. In a straightforward presentation style the work was created with an integrated ensemble writing, performing and singing in the room together. With music as the glue, debate still could touch on the difficult subjects of definition, race and what is American.
This was an original theater work created by the performance ensemble from primary source research on the blues. Set in a series of hangings created by UWM art students from the same primary source research under the guidance and collaboration of Raoul Deal, the work concerned itself with how the blues moved from the delta to Grafton Wisconsin, and with the people who support the preservation of the music. Ultimately the work framed the songs themselves, renewing them for a contemporary audience. This production was supported by a grant from Cultures and Communities, provided research opportunities for undergraduates and was a collaboration with the UWM Finger Style Guitar Program. This production provided a diverse and multi-faceted cast a unifying opportunity for research, learning and performance. The production was taken on a mini-sold out tour to Grafton at the Black Swan to benefit the Grafton Blues Society.