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An opera inspired by ‘Parable of the Sower’ comes to the Pittsburgh Playhouse

Marie Tatti Aqeel as Lauren Oya Olamina in "Parable of the Sower," an opera being performed in Pittsburgh.
Ehud Lazin
Marie Tatti Aqeel as Lauren Oya Olamina in "Parable of the Sower," an opera being performed in Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Playhouse will be hosting the touring opera adaptation of “Parable of the Sower'' at the end of the month. Set in “futuristic” 2024 America, the opera follows an African-American teenage girl who has the uncontrolled power to feel others’ emotions. The work will discuss themes of climate change, forced displacement and found community in the face of change.

Creator Toshi Reagon first adapted Octavia E. Butler’s 1993 sci-fi novel in 2015, and it debuted at New York University in Abu Dhabi. Reagon said that the work’s conversations about climate change are just as relevant now, if not more so, than they were in 1993 and 2015.

“[The goal is] to get people to think of themselves as being a part of the ecosystem of Earth, as opposed to ‘Earth is something that we stand on and we're separate from, and we can just use the resources,’” Reagan said. “We really want people to realize they are earthlings. You're made of water, you're mostly made of water. And so to damage the water is suicide.”

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In preparation for the show, Reagon and her “Parable” team have been running The Parable Path — an event series aimed at building community involvement. The program invites local artists to host events where they can interact with the community. Earlier this month, a Black Intersectional Person of Color, aka BIPOC, women’s music event called Sunstar Festival was held at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, during which Reagon performed.

Reagan said The Parable Path serves as yet another way to bring the messages of “Parable of the Sower” to the Pittsburgh community.

“We have the opportunity to be transformative together. And so we really like the audience to be with us and to consider themselves a part of the story,” said Reagon.

Parable Path events will run through the end of March, and performances of the opera will run from March 30 to April 2.