O.K. – The Musical
As part of Tate Liverpool’s ongoing community focused spring season, Christopher Kline’s O.K. The Musical unfolded in the gallery in April 2017. O.K. is a long-term project developed in collaboration with many people over several years’ worth of exhibitions, publications, performances, videos, workshops and social projects, evolving over time. The project’s focus is on the micro history of the small, obscure town of Kinderhook, New York. Acting as parables or fables, whose meaning and interpretation can be applied universally, the stories covered within the musical are wide-ranging, tracing the area’s history back from the Mohican Indians and their first interactions with explorer Henry Hudson, to post-colonial tales like Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. The Shakers, a well known celibate religious sect known for their furniture and exuberant worship services, once had their central ministry in the area. Later notable locals to the area such as artist Ellsworth Kelly and police corruption whistle-blower Frank Serpico are appended to the story arc, as are more obscure creatures, crimes and haunted sites.
Working together with community groups in Liverpool and the Lancashire-based organisation Super Slow Way, hundreds of participants become involved in the project, taking on roles such as acting, singing, painting, prop making and stage design. Many of these participants came from charities and organisations in the region, such as: Blue Room (Bluecoat), Choir With No Name, City of Liverpool College, Valley Street Textile Group, YPAS, Royal Court Community Choir, and Tate Liverpool’s Family Collective. Although there were many other individuals who volunteered their time to fabricate sets, play instruments, and sing along. Kline, along with the curatorial team, facilitated these relationships through regular visits to Liverpool over a 6-month period, after he was selected for the project, via an open call in November 2016.
Throughout April 2017 the gallery was transformed into a community theatre, complete with a backstage area, woodshop, costume and prop department, and a rehearsal space. Over 8,800 visitors to the gallery experienced the development of the musical, which culminated in two sold-out matinee performances (240 visitors). The dress rehearsal also sold-out with 80 visitors attending. Crucially, this project forges links with communities in the North West by facilitating the involvement of participants in the musical. The musical created (for a short period) a community theatre in the gallery, that not only inspired participants to contribute to a bigger project; but also allowed them to share skills and challenge our perception of what is possible inside the museum. Tate Liverpool will continue to produce a socially engaged commission each spring for the next three years.
O.K. – The Musical was Supported by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, as part of Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme, Super Slow Way, Liverpool City Council and Tate Liverpool Corporate Members and Patrons
O.K. – The Musical Playbill by Christopher Kline, 2017.