I’ve always believed nonviolent actions to be more effective than violence. To prove this, I set out to write a musical that would challenge the boundaries of this belief, by testing it against the backdrop of a warzone. After trying to write a story where nonviolent peace-tactics actually worked in a warzone, I found that of course they wouldn’t work, the whole thing would be a gigantic mess! After this, the story became: what could have led someone to try nonviolent tactics in a warzone in the first place, and could there possibly be any bit of hope salvaged from the ashes of naive idealism? The answers came with a little religious satire, a little science fiction puzzle-plotting, and plenty of power chords. Apart from these elements, my hope for the musical is to excite a sense that: even when things are at their darkest, there's a light that won’t be kept from bubbling to the surface for long. And when it does come - when redemption for impossible intentions seems impossible -- you never know what form that hope might take ...
So far, the musical's had its first staged reading at The Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, and a few scenes and songs presented as part of a scene cycle at Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis, and also as a part of Theatre Resources Unlimited's development series "How to Write a Musical that Works" in NYC . Below you'll see a synopsis, script and score samples, and song demos! Thanks for visiting!
Contact: Dean Olivet
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“I found the story to be engaging and well thought out, with an impassioned political and spiritual subtext ... the aesthetic of the songs was consistent with the text -- impassioned, populist, and very accessible; clearly within the world of contemporary musical theater, created by a skilled and committed artist.”
-Ben Krywosz of
Cast: 2 M, 1 F, 28 flexible plus Chorus (Doubling: 2 M, 1 F, 11 flex) Performance Time: Approximately 137 minutes, 129 pgs.
Several generations into the future, two nomadic factions are at war. “01 HEAVEN’S SOLDIERS” After an opening raid “01a ADVANCING (INSTRUMENTAL)", Captain Rennon conducts a funeral, honoring the fallen “02 LAST RITES”. Soldier Jamison is then given a fallen comrade’s youth-training duties, and her reading clearance is upgraded. While studying, she chances upon forbidden writings from the past (planted by The Civilian), conflating historical examples of non-violence with passages about the “Unified States” “03 THE PLEDGE.” She then attempts to explain these historical writings to her bed-partner, Soldier Adams, but all he can fixate on is the ancient weapon that could destroy all one’s enemies all at once. “04 JUST ONE SHOT.”
On Jamison’s first day as youth-trainer, she tests out her newly-learned peace-tactics during war games, and finds some success with them. She later attempts to tell Doctor Sullivan about this, but the doctor is too excited about a drug she’s just developed that promises to make torturing prisoners obsolete, “05 GOODBYE TO MAYBES”. It is tested on a prisoner captured in the opening raid, and they gain valuable intelligence, leading to plans for a new offensive.
The night before the battle Soldier Tyler convinces her brother, Soldier Jerin, to let go of his recent troubles and death-wish, and to celebrate their upcoming victory, “06 DON’T FLY HIGH.” The evening’s revelry is interrupted by The Civilian “07 THE WARNING.”
Meanwhile, Jamison learns she is pregnant “08 A CHILD FOR THE HIVE”, furthering her resolve to work towards a peaceful future. When she overhears a Herald from the main base tell Captain Rennon that their unit is to head a suicidal diversionary effort for the great offensive, her mind is made up.
Before the battle, Jamison gives a speech to unify all peoples through her conflated ancient ways, and leads them into battle, with not weapons, but flowers and a peace-flag. “09 IMAGINE HOW THEY’LL SEE US / ADVANCING (REPRISE).” Some are killed before the enemy realizes what’s going on, and the rest are captured.
After this bizarre charge, the Enemy Captain tries to make sense of what they’ve just seen, “10 WHAT IS THIS NEW WARFARE?”. Other enemy soldiers also ruminate over the charge. Enemy 4 thinks it is a sign of the end times, but Enemy 5 thinks it is a sign of a new peace to come, “11 THE SUN’S GONNA SHINE.” He then frees Jamison, and together they discover the loophole in their scriptures that promises to stop the war once and for all. They try to rally everyone to this new ideal “12 WE WANT YOU ON OUR TEAM.” But it is not to be, as Adams kills Enemy 5 in order to facilitate an escape “13 THE ESCAPE” (INSTRUMENTAL). Rennon and a few others are left behind because of their injuries.
On the run from the enemy, some soldiers are hidden by the Civilian, who reveals to Jamison that he planted the writings she found, and then explains that she went too far in trying to employ the non-violent ideas in a military fashion, and that she should continue her peace-making, but in a more shepherd-like way “14 THE SEEDS OF PEACE.” Jamison, still angered by Adam’s killing of Enemy 5, is now enraged at discovering the Civilian’s manipulation.
Safely back at camp it is discovered that some of Sullivan’s mind-control drug went missing before the mission. Adams wants to know if Jamison used the drug to implement her peace-charge, and if he was one of the soldiers drugged. On top of that, a Kahpa and their Orator are on their way to hold a trial deciding the fate of the company. So Sullivan and Adams try to convince Jamison to go along with a plan to salvage as much as they can from the situation “15 DON’T THROW IT ALL AWAY.”
At the trial, Adams pledges to lead their unit on a rescue mission to restore the damage done “16 ON A ROCK”. As Jamison’s fate is decide, Captain Rennon’s fate also plays out in an enemy detention ward, “17 LAST RITES (REPRISE.) After the trial’s conclusion, the cast sings a musical epilogue, “18 WE WANT YOU ON OUR TEAM (REPRISE).”
Heavens Soldiers Demo Tracks
Author Favorites: 03, 05, 09, 15, 18
"This is a well thought out, planned world that operates on many dimensions, I found that to be the most exciting part about it."
-Elise Dewsberry, New Musicals Inc.