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Mark Morris Dance Group Brings Beatles-Inspired ‘Pepperland’ To ADF

Acclaimed choreographer Mark Morris says that whether or not you love or hate The Beatles, his show “Pepperland” is for you. While that may be a bold way to encourage audience members to attend the performance, it is not too far from what critics themselves have to say.

The hour-long show evokes Beatles songs and lyrics, but it is far from a nostalgic sing-along. The show was commissioned by the city of Liverpool in celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” It is on stage in Durham this week as part of the American Dance Festival, which co-commissioned the work. It features a chamber music ensemble performing an original score by composer Ethan Iverson.

'Mark is a master of complex emotion, and 'Pepperland' is a complex emotion. Mark and I felt Sgt. Pepper was so familiar ... we could scrub some varnish off and make our own piece out of it.- Composer Ethan Iverson

Iverson is a jazz pianist who is best known for his work in the group The Bad Plus. He joins host Frank Stasio to talk about his collaboration with Mark Morris and how he crafted original pieces and special arrangements to create an idiosyncratic take on the beloved Beatles album. “Pepperland” will be staged at the Durham Performing Arts Center Wednesday, June 19 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, June 20 at 8 p.m.

Watch the trailer:

Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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