Sandra Seaton is a playwright and librettist. Her plays have been performed in cities throughout the country, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and her libretto for the song cycle From the Diary of Sally Hemings, a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom has been sung at such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco and the Rialto Performing Arts Center in Atlanta. In a review of the song cycle’s premiere at the Library of Congress, Seaton’s text was praised by the Washington Post for its “subtle, penetrating power.” A CD of From The Diary of Sally Hemings, with Met soprano Alyson Cambridge and pianist Lydia Brown, is available from White Pine Music. The score has been published by Hal Leonard.
Seaton’s one-woman drama Sally, in which an aged Sally Hemings recalls her life with Jefferson, premiered in 2003 with Zabryna Guevara as Sally Hemings. Sally was performed at Bucknell University in April 2012 as a part of a media event titled Sally:A Montage. Seaton’s play A Bed Made in Heaven further explores the relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemings.
The Bridge Party, Seaton’s first play, as a finalist for the 1990 Theodore Ward Prize, was given two performances directed by Paul Carter Harrison at Columbia College in Chicago. The play was selected for the anthology Strange Fruit: Plays on Lynching by American Women (1998) edited by Judy Stephens and Kathy Perkins. The Bridge Party portrays a group of Southern black women whose weekly bridge game is interrupted by news of a lynching. Ruby Dee starred in a 1998 performance at the University of Michigan. William Bolcom’s rags provided musical background for The Bridge Party in a 2000 production.
In 2005 Seaton’s spoken word piece, King: A Reflection on the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., premiered at the Wharton Center in East Lansing, Michigan and has been presented i at the Virgil Carr Center in Detroit and the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids with accompaniment by world-famous tenor George Shirley.
In 2008 her play The Will, a drama about a black Tennessee family during Reconstruction, premiered in Idlewild, Michigan at an event Seaton organized that included a symposium, recitals and music clinics. In 2010 her Civil Rights era play Music History, about African-American college students at the University of Illinois in 1963, premiered at MSU in conjunction with a day-long symposium on the cultural and legal issues raised by the play.
Seaton’s most recent work is Chicago Trilogy. The three one-act plays, A Chance Meeting, The Lookout, and Black for Dinner, are based on short stories by the African American Chicago writer Cyrus Colter. A Chance Meeting, premiered at the University of Michigan’s Arthur Miller Theater with actors Tony Lucas and George Shirley in 2009. Chicago Trilogy will be performed at the 2015 Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, directed by Mardra Thomas, with George Shirley, Mardra Thomas, and Keith Williams.
Sandra Seaton is a former Professor of English at Central Michigan University and the 2010 writer-in- residence for the Michigan State University College of Law. Seaton is a recipient of the Mark Twain Award “for distinguished contributions to Midwestern Literature” from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature. She has been awarded residencies at Hedgebrook, Ragdale, and Yaddo artists’ colonies and is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Black Theatre Network and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). In 2015 Sandra Seaton received the Chris Clark Fellowship from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing.
The Bridge Party
A Bid For Respect (pdf)
Review by Christopher Potter
The Ann Arbor News, May 1, 1998
Sandra Seaton Reads from the Bridge Party (pdf)
Commentary by Raymond McDaniel
The Shaman Drum Bookshop, July 7, 1998
From The Diary of Sally Hemings
Review by Joshua Rosenblum of White Pine Music CD
Opera News, August 1, 2010
“Sandra Seaton: Her First Libretto”
By David Lewman
LASNews: Alumni Magazine for the College of Arts and Sciences, Spring, 2003, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
Sung with Feeling Ronald Broun Washington Post (pdf)
Review by Ronald Broun
The Washington Post, February 21, 2002
Song cycle explores presidential tryst (pdf)
Review by Paul Horsley
The Kansas City Star, February 7, 2002
“Hemings”: Shards of History
William Bolcom’s New Song Cycle Gives A Wide Berth To Melodrama
Review by Philip Kennicott
The Washington Post
Diaries Give Voice to Hemings Story (pdf)
Review by Georgia Rowe
TimeOut, April 9, 2001
Work Premiered at Library of Congress (pdf)
Review by Wendi L. Baker
The Morning Sun, April 2, 2001
Library of Congress Press Release (pdf)
January 22, 2001
Conferences on Work
Music History: Dramatizing the African American Experience, March 2013, MSU Library.
Dramatization and Context, a symposium on the issues raised by Music History, organized by Gabriel Dotto, Director of the MSU Press, Friday November 12, 2010, MSU Museum Auditorium.
A Symposium on Gender, Race and the American Theatre. January 27, 2000, held in conjunction with the MSU Theatre Department’s performances of Sandra Seaton’s The Bridge Party, with guest speaker/playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie. Included panel on “The Musical Milieu of The Bridge Party: the Cultural Dynamics of African American Music in the Forties” with guest speaker Dr. Robin Hough.