Book, Music and Lyrics by Lee Summers
Music Supervisor: Julianne Wick Davis
Songs premiered in concert at Lincoln Center’s Bruno Walter Auditorium 2018.
Bayard: An original book musical on the life and contributions of a gay, African American Civil Rights Leader.
Bayard the Musical opens circa 1960 at a tense meeting of four African American male Southern Christian Leadership members, led by Dr. Martin Luther King. We learn that the organization is being threatened by Congressman Adam Clayton Powell to either cancel a planned protest at the Democratic National Convention, or he will leak a rumor to the press that Dr. King and the openly gay Bayard Rustin are lovers.
Circa 1912, we meet Julia, “Ma” Rustin, a Quaker by religion and our omniscient narrator. We also meet her husband Janifer and the community of West Chester, Pennsylvania. In their home, the Rustin’s hosted colored dignitaries of the era, including the co-founders of the NAACP – who meet infant Bayard and become his ancestral guides throughout.
Thirteen-year-old Bayard learns that Ma’ Rustin is his grandmother, and his older sister, Florence, is his birth mother. This reveal doesn’t change the bond he has cemented with Ma’ Rustin, who has accepted him fully, even when he tells her he is gay. Bayard is articulate, polished, and well-liked as a high school athlete in the small town. The pride and dignity infused in him and his being adored as a star athlete at his predominantly White high school would collide with the Jim Crow laws in West Chester in the early 1920s – a collision that would lead to Bayard’s first arrest in the name of “social justice.” The experience ignites a call to action that would burn throughout his life. We track Bayard’s dropping out of colleges due to his sexual orientation; his rejection by closeted lovers, to his move to New York City, discovering the gay subculture of Harlem in its renaissance. In protest of the treatment of the falsely accused Scottsboro Boys, Bayard joins the Young Communist League, which leads to the attention of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.
In New York, Bayard meets his activism and pacifism mentors, A. Philip Randolph and A.J. Muste – who train and send him on the road representing the F.O.R. (Fellowship of Reconciliation). On tour, Bayard meets Davis Platt, who will become his love interest throughout. Soon thereafter, due to his religious convictions, by refusing to comply with World War II draft notice, Bayard serves time in a Federal Prison. While incarcerated, the temptation of same-sex encounters overtakes him, resulting in a tribunal and punishment. Upon regaining his freedom, Bayard volunteers as a “Freedom Rider,” testing new federal laws to integrate interstate travel down South. This activity leads to an arrest and a sentence to work on the Chain Gang of North Carolina, a systemic method of re-enslaving black bodies for violating Jim Crow laws. The FBI continues to track Bayard.
Circa 1953, in Pasadena, a public sexual encounter leads to a highly publicized arrest and morals charge for Bayard. Scenes with Davis, his lover, serve as a lens into the psychology of gay behavior during the era when homosexuality is illegal, and the complications of trying to emulate the model of heterosexual monogamy are conflicting. Although Bayard has learned Gandhian, non-violent, principles first-hand, and his organizational skills have flourished, he is fired from the F.O.R. and unemployed for a time. Due to his invaluable skill set, he is eventually sent to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott, meeting Dr. Martin Luther King. By now, Bayard is fully on the radar of the FBI (fueling our J. Edgar Hoover subplot), and his Pasadena morals charge is leveraged as blackmail to upend the boycott and possibly smear the centerpiece of the movement, Rosa Parks. After having taught King the Gandhian principles used in the boycott and co-creating the movement, Bayard is forced to resign and to leave Montgomery, hidden in the trunk of a car.
The 1960 subplot of Southern Christian Leadership leaders returns with more conflict between the six major civil rights organizations of the era leveraged by leaks and moles supplied by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. By 1963, when the March for Jobs and Freedom is being planned (where King would make his iconic “I HAVE A DREAM” speech), despite much resistance from other civil rights leaders, his mentor, A. Philip Randolph, called for Bayard to organize the march. Bayard, who at the time is in Algeria, Africa protesting nuclear testing sites, is at first reluctant to return to the ostracism, racism, and homophobia of America. Ma’ Rustin, our narrator, who has long since joined the ancestors, returns, accompanied by fellow ancestors, in spirit to remind Bayard who he is. The March on Washington is a success; he and A. Philip land upon the cover of a major magazine. However, Bayard cannot rest upon his laurels. We learn of his many future actions of activism and service as he reflects upon his life, before heading to Birmingham, where four little girls of color have just been bombed in their church
MAN ONE: BAYARD RUSTIN/YOUNG BAYARD
WOMAN ONE: JULIA MA’ RUSTIN
MAN TWO: JANIFER RUSTIN, FREDDIE SHUTTLESWORTH, DR. HILL, A. PHILIP RANDOLPH, INMATE DAD
MAN THREE: DAVIS PLATT, AGENT HARDING, JOHNNY, PHOTOGRAPHER
MAN FOUR: A.J. MUSTE, MOOREFIELD STOREY, MR. WARNER, DEAN KOCEJA, STROM THURMOND, CAPTAIN JONES
WOMAN TWO: ELEANOR MASON, IDA B. WELLS, INMATE BOOTH, STUDENT #2, COLLEGE GAYS, LADY ELDERS
WOMAN THREE: RACHELLE WALKER, MARY WHITE OVERTON, STUDENT #1, LADY ELDERS
MAN FIVE: ADAM CLAYTON POWELL, INMATE WHITLOCK, JOSHUA WHITE, RICHARD, COLLEGE GAYS, DR. JANNEY, ROY WILKINS
MAN SIX: J. EDGAR HOOVER, TOMMY, ASHLAND GUARD, INMATE SMITH, REPORTER
MAN SEVEN: MARTIN LUTHER KING, W.E.B. DUBOIS, COLLEGE GAYS, EASY LIFE, OSSIE DAVIS
WOMAN FOUR: CORETTA, SCTT KING, MARY MCCLEOD BETHUNE, FLORENCE, INMATE BILL, COLLEGE GAYS, MIA WORKER #2, LADY ELDERS
A WONDERFUL DAY
STORM OF TEARS
WAKE UP AND LIVE
FBI TANGO #1
CHAIN GANG BOUN’
MR. DRAFT BOARD
WHEN I AM FREE
RULE BOOK SAYS
WE JUST CAN’T LOVE
PRIDE AND JOY
After working for decades as a professional performer, producer, writer, and composer, Lee Summers returned to academia to pursue his M.F.A. While enrolled in NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, Summers received an assignment from the late, award-winning lyricist and librettist, Sarah Schlesinger, to choose an historical figure and create a scene and song for them.
Bayard Rustin had been a hero of his for many years. Rustin, a Civil Rights leader, was a hidden figure from history because he was openly gay. His sexuality was often used as leverage to combat the Civil Rights leaders with whom he was associated.
As the assignment required collaboration with one his classmates of 15 composers and 15 words persons, Summers realized he wouldn’t be able to write both music and lyrics to tell the story of his personal hero. So, he and a classmate created a scene and song about John Lennon, instead. Summers was finally able to write the libretto, music, and lyrics about Bayard Rustin in his Composer/Lyricist class, co-taught by Julianne Wick Davis and Kirsten Childs, both award-winning creatives.
Throughout the year, Summers had struggled to find his voice within the new world of musical theatre rules, structure, and craft, but Childs and Davis pushed him to dig even deeper. When Summers finally presented the first song from his Bayard Rustin project, both professors responded with extremely positive feedback, encouraging him to continue.
Summers persevered and worked on the piece, completing the score and libretto during the pandemic.
The work is still in development and not yet had a production
The following acknowledgement shall appear on the table program flyers and on publicity materials distributed in connection with performances of the Play. Said billing shall be in a type size no less than 50% (fifty percent) of that of the title, and will appear on a single line right below title. Billing shall be in substantially the following form:
Bayard the Musical
Book, Music and Lyrics by Lee Summers
Such billing shall also appear wherever and whenever the name of the Play appears in all advertising issued by, authorized by, or under the control of the Producer. It is understood that under no circumstances may the director, designers, the acting company, or other creative personnel receive any larger billing, except in the case of minimum single-column or directory-type ads, in which the above billing may or may not be used, at the discretion of the Producer. Additionally, the individuals billed as set forth above shall be entitled to a bio in all programs whenever any other party is entitled to same, subject to space limitations no more onerous than to which any other party is subject. No inadvertent failure to comply with the provisions of the above shall constitute a default under the terms of this Agreement, provided, however, that the Producer shall rectify the failure as soon as practicable upon receiving notice from the Author.
ADDITIONAL TITLE PAGE AND BILLING:
Furthermore, you agree to include clear and prominent credit on the title page of all programs and in all publicity wherever and whenever the full production credits are given, in a type size not less than 25% of the type size used for the non-logo title of the Play substantially as follows:
In advertisements of ¼ page size or less where only the title of the play, performance dates and venue are provided, the following “shortened billing” is permissible.
Bayard the Musical
Music Publishing Credits:
Music and Lyrics by Lee Summers
All Songs Published by Butterfly Theatricals Music Publishing Company
In addition to the above billing, you agree t include the following musical compositions credits on or appurtenant to the “Staff Credit Page” of the program for all licensed productions of the Play.
Butterfly Theatricals Billing
In accordance with the Dramatic Performing Rights License, all publicity materials (posters, programs, etc.) MUST include the following credit:
Bayard the Musical
Is presented through special arrangement with Butterfly Theatricals (BT)
All authorized performance materials are also supplied by BT.
The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited.
Item Quantity Included
KEYBOARD – CONDUCTOR SCORE 2
LIBRETTO/VOCAL BOOK 11
BASS ELECTRIC BASS
DRUMS COWBELL, DRUMKIT, SHAKER, WINDCHIMES, WOOD BLOCK
GUITAR ACOUSTIC GUITAR, ELECTRIC GUITAR, NYLON ACOUSTIC ROCK GUITAR
KEYBOARD/SYNTH ORGAN, HORN SECTION, STRINGS
Butterfly Theatricals LLC – Copyright 2023
The song list glides through everything from “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and “Sweet Georgia Brown” to selections from the “Songbook” albums Fitzgerald recorded celebrating great composers such as Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and Rodgers and Hart.
Lee Summers incorporation of the band being used as ensemble members was as brilliant as John Doyle using his Sweeney Todd ensemble as the pit orchestra. I was also moved by Lee’s brilliant timely direction of Ms. Payne’s performance of Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington’s “The Nearness of You”.