Encore Atlanta: Ghost Brothers Of Darkland County Preview/Interview
04.04.2012 - By Bret Love -
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County’ runs April 4-May 13 at the Allliance Theatre.
Tickets: www.alliancetheatre.com or 404.733.5000.
John Mellencamp has accomplished quite a lot over the course of his 35-year
career as one of the American heartland’s most beloved singer-songwriters. He
has sold more than 40 million albums, had 22 Top 40 hit singles, has been
nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, co-founded Farm Aid, and has been inducted into
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But his 12-year quest to take Ghost Brothers of
Darkland County from concept to reality may have been the most challenging.
The concept, which he first spoke to novelist Stephen King about in 2000, is the
story of a father who takes his two constantly bickering sons to a cabin in the
woods, where deep, dark family secrets are gradually revealed. Although details
of the plot have been kept secret, Mellencamp, King, Musical Director T Bone
Burnett and Alliance Theatre Artistic Director Susan V. Booth did chat about the
show in a December press conference.
Here’s some of what this bona-fide rock ‘n’ roll legend said about theshow’s
You and Stephen have both written a ton of material in your respective
fields. What were the challenges of trying to write something for the stage?
Steve and I made a decision early on that we weren’t going to do a musical where
the songs moved the story forward. He had to be able to write something, and
then I had to be able to expand the moment. In essence, it was like Pygmalion
and My Fair Lady: The story was here, and the music was there, now how do we
work it together? After watching it, I feel that Susan has been able to put it
together like the same guy wrote the songs and the words.
I’m curious about the dynamics of creating this show. How did the
Steve and I should probably publish the emails, because some of our
conversations are pretty laughable. Steve writes all the time, and I’m always on
tour, so it’s hard to get our schedules together. Steve and I, we never really
plan anything in our lives. … It’s more like, “Hey, we’ve got 15 hours to work
on this!” I think that’s one of the reasons it took 12 years to get here. But
we’ve had a great 12 years with each other on and off, and we’ve become really
I’ve read that you worked on a radio play version of this project with some
pretty high-profile actors. Is that true?
Yeah, we worked with some great people — Kris Kristofferson, Rosanne Cash, Elvis
Costello, Sheryl Crow, Matthew McConaughey, Meg Ryan. … It’s like an old-time
radio play. T Bone Burnett produced it, and it’s going to come out as an album
What can you tell us about the casting of this show?
This was our third attempt to get this show together. We had done it [a
workshop] in New York, and it just didn’t work. It was too [singing] “Broadway
Rhythm,” but that’s not what this show is. We had to get out of town, even
though some of these people in the cast are from New York. I think that we
needed to redesign it from the ground up. I don’t need to hear my songs sung
that way, and it was imperative that none of these people did that. But all
these kids are great singers, and they can act. Steve and I have done this
before, but, under the supervision of Susan Booth, they really brought life to
these characters. Quite honestly, we’re floored!