JACKSONVILLE, FLA, July 30, 2015 – Ken Sutherland has Parkinson’s disease. He’s no longer able to toss a ball with his grandson, hold a paintbrush or write music on a piano. His wife, Laura, is a minister and now works two jobs to support them.
But that’s not the story here. Sutherland doesn’t want your pity. He wants to see his play, “Lippi, The Musical”, come to the stage.
“[Parkinson’s] has made me ramp up my time schedule and get things done and I am conscious of it every day,” Sutherland said. “The nature of this show leads me to hope.”
“Lippi” received standing ovations at staged readings in Dallas and New York. Now, The York Theatre Company, a 501(c)3 organization renowned for discovering new musical works, has selected “Lippi” for its Developmental LAB Series.
The York Theatre Company will stage performances for producers and backers connected to New York and regional theaters. However, the pre-production budget is $50,000 and Sutherland must raise the money himself. Due to his situation, that isn’t a feasible option.
“I have a site on GoFundMe and high hopes that people will go to the website and see and hear and want to help produce it,” Sutherland said. “My deepest wish is to stay involved in my Parkinson’s program and see our new musical live.”
“Lippi, The Musical” is based on a true love story. It’s 1455 in Florence, Italy: the dawn of the Renaissance. Fra Lippo Lippi, orphaned to a monastery, is an indentured friar and gifted artist whose love of art is exceeded only by his lust for wine and women. He pays for both with commissions for work he has yet to complete.
One drunken night, he defaces a Prince’s fresco and is consequently confined to a monastery located next to a convent. There, he finally meets the “Madonna” of his dreams, Lucrezia. Ironically, she has chosen religious orders over an arranged marriage to the same prince. Lippi and Lucrezia fall in love and she becomes pregnant.
He is charged with crimes against the church and the Pope must choose Lippi’s fate: forgiveness or death.
“Lippi, The Musical” delivers an unblinking honesty that is even timelier today. Audiences will relate to the choices versus consequences theme. “Lippi” balances drama and political intrigue with humor and the transformational power of love.
Ken Sutherland is a composer, lyricist, playwright and artist who has written songs and scores for a number of movies, including the award-nominated 1982 film “Savannah Smiles”. He earned a degree in Industrial Engineering from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and began his career at the NASA research facility in Cleveland, Ohio. Fuller, Smith and Ross gave him a start in the advertising business, where Sutherland eventually worked for the famed agency Ogilvy & Mather. Years later, he moved to McCann-Erickson in Houston, Texas, where he worked on the rebranding of Esso and Enco to Exxon.