THE UPSIDE OF DOWN
It is America in the late teens of the last Century. America's East Coast is rife with post-war anxiety and racial unrest. Eleven year-old, mixed-race, Pollyanna Whittier has never met her wealthy white aunt, Polly Harrington because the Harringtons disowned Pollyanna's mother, Anna, when she eloped with African-American minister Abraham Whittier. Raised in a mostly Black community in Kansas, Pollyanna comes to live with her aunt, after both her parents die. Polly Harrington anticipates her duty toward the child, but thinks of Pollyanna only as a ward -- someone to be fed and housed until she can be on her own. Pollyanna arrives with expectations of love,and the safety and comfort that come when you don't have to worry about the next meal or the next place to lay your head. Pollyanna's only comfort comes from her new friend, Jimmy Bean, a self-reliant orphan of her same age. While trying to find Jimmy Bean a home, Pollyanna runs headlong into entrenched racial distrust while this mostly White community is disarmed by Pollyanna who has been raised to raise up the downcast and find the glad in the hopeless.
With music by Amanda Jacobs, a book by Y York, and lyrics by Amanda Jacobs & Y York, this musical is loosely based on Eleanor Porter's early 20th century novel, Pollyanna.
It was developed 2015-19 through Seattle readings as well as at the Hormel; New Works Festival (Phoenix, AZ) and a residency at the New Harmony Project.
It was presented to the public in June 2019 in a pair of concert readings at the Royal Room (Seattle) with the following cast and staff:
Leah Steege as Pollyanna
Sarah Rudinoff as Aunt Pollyanna
Kpojo Kparyea as Nancy
Akal Solomon as Jimmy Bean
Brandon O'Neill as Dr, Charles Colton
Nathaniel Tenenbaum as John Pendleton
Karen Skrinde as Mrs. Snow
Chloe Rudinoff as Molly Snow
Allan Galli as Mr. Carlson
Mark Lutwak, director
Mark Rabe, music director & pianist
Miski Ali, stage manager
The concert reading was supported in part by a grant from
the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.