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Sleepy Kitty joins Upstream Theater for a seafaring adventure

Evan Sult and Paige Brubeck of Sleepy Kitty will perform in Upstream Theater's 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner.'
Sleepy Kitty

For its latest production, Upstream Theater has enlisted the help of local indie rock band Sleepy Kitty.

"Rime of the Ancient Mariner" has been adapted for the stage, and will include live music composed and performed by Sleepy Kitty. The play is based on a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge about a fantastical sea voyage and a sailor's search for redemption.

It’s unlike anything the band has done before.

“This has kind of been kind of return to the things that I loved as a kid,” said Brubeck. “So to me it feels kind of inevitable and it feels like a new step to a thing that I’ve wanted to get to for a long time.”

The project began with Pat Siler, who loved the poem when his mother introduced it to him as a 10-year-old.

“It’s been with me ever since,” said Siler.

The play adapts the story to include three actors and Sleepy Kitty and traverses a wedding, a sailing voyage, the Antarctic and death. Water snakes, angels and crewman will all be represented on stage.

For "Mariner" actor Jerry Vogel, the production is somewhat out of his “comfort zone.” The production moves between song and speech, sometimes blending the two vocal elements.

“It just moves back and forth from those styles with no effort,” he said.

Initially Siler approached Sleepy Kitty about an adaptation he began four years ago and asked if they’d contribute four or five songs.  From there, the play evolved, driven by the group’s collaborative enthusiasm.

“It went from a play with music to being a musical,” said Evan Sult, half of Sleepy Kitty. “It has more areas with music than non-music. The final project is a lot more ingrained musically than I think even the director intended.”

Sleepy Kitty practice songs for 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' in their self-described 'art castle.'
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold l St. Louis Public Radio
Sleepy Kitty practice songs for 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' in their self-described 'art castle.'

Sult said the project allows Sleepy Kitty's Paige Brubeck to flex certain melodic muscles that don’t get full attention in Sleepy Kitty. Brubeck draws on her long-standing musical theater appreciation.  Brubeck said loves "Le Miserables" as much as she loves influential rock bands The Velvet Underground or Pavement. For Brubeck “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was a chance to crash those interests together. One of Brubeck’s favorite songs the group has worked on for the project is called “Two Voices in the Air.”

“I kind of originally thought of it as a Velvet Underground-type song. It has a driving beat, a really heavy tom [drum] rhythm.  There’s that sense of urgency and a wildness to it,” said Brubeck

As the project develops, they’ve settled on 13 songs for inclusion in the play. The band hopes to record and release as an album in the future. The project has only one real obstacle according to Brubeck and Sult: time.

“Running out of time is the biggest conflict. That’s been the great enemy of this project,” said Brubeck.

For Siler, the musical is more than an exercise in cross-genre performance or theater experiments.  It’s a new way to produce a story ripe for personal reflection.

“With all the imagery and all that’s happening in the poem it has a really good message for how you redeem yourself and how you can be responsible for the environment around you,” he said.

Related event

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

  • When: April 10-12 and 16-19, 2015
  • Where: Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis
  • More information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

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