Nashville Ballet Presents LIZZIE BORDEN with THE RAVEN October 26-28

As a special Halloween production, Nashville Ballet presents LIZZIE BORDEN with THE RAVEN at TPAC’s Polk Theater from October 26-28 only; two ominous, harrowing tales told through movement, imagery, and music.

The Raven – Photo credit: Heather Thorne

This production begins with THE RAVEN, which is the 1st time this particular program has been presented.  Based on the narrative poem by American writer Edgar Allan Poe that was published in January 1845.

The most famous of Poe’s poems is noted for highly-stylized writing, the dark subject matter, and supernatural elements within.

The Raven. Photo credit: Heather Thorne

Only 15 minutes long, it’s the perfect prelude and pairing to LIZZIE BORDEN, which has returned by popular demand to TPAC’s Polk Theater.

The Raven. Photo credit: Karyn Photography

This production, THE RAVEN, is defined by its simplicity with only 3 dancers on stage playing the roles of the man who has lost his lover/wife, the lover/wife, and the raven.  It is accompanied only by a pianist with a foreboding and classic musical score.

We enter the mind of a tormented man who is in a drunken stuper trying to ease his pain over the loss of his lover/wife.  A simple set of a chair, portrait of his deceased lover/wife, and a door with entryway.

In and out of consciousness from alcohol, is he really seeing the ghost of his beloved or just a figment of his imagination over his longing to see her again?

In his torment, paranoia has set in as he ponders the meaning of a raven appearing at his door and why it keeps returning.  Is this raven actually taunting him and real or symbolic of the foreshadowing of something dark to fall upon him, as the raven represents death?

In the end he collapses to the floor and the curtain falls.  We’ll let you decide if all was just his imagination or not.

Followed by a brief intermission, the stage is set for LIZZIE BORDEN, the main production.

Lizzie Borden. Photo credit: Heather Thorne

The full cast of dancers from Nashville Ballet takes the stage for this story.

Based on the true story of the 1892 axe murders of Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts.  The infamous double homicide is a tale that everyone in the U.S. knows well.  Even children still sing of the famous crime in a nursery  rhyme jumping rope innocently on playgrounds.

The tale is told from the perspective of Lizzie Borden as she looks back at literally the ghosts of her past through the dark recesses of her mind.

Lizzie Borden. Photo credit: Heather Thorne (1)

Starting out, she is a young, innocent, happy girl with a loving, attentive mother.  Then, her mother passes away.  Soon after, her father remarries.  Her stepmother is cruel and cold.  Giving no love to the young Lizzie.  Her father is sexually-abusive to the young girl growing up.  The stepmother is seemingly aware of this, yet turns a cheek and urges Lizzie to keep quiet about her wealthy father known in society.  It’s all about keeping up appearances, and such things were not talked openly about then.  Thus begins Lizzie’s spiral down to the dark recesses of her mind, inner torment, and a young woman simply wanting to be loved.

The young Lizzie, no longer innocent, lost, and unhappy, grows into a woman and falls in love with a young suitor.  I say “suitor” because that is how they were referenced in her time.

Lizzie Borden. Photo credit: Karyn Photography

Lizzie and her suitor court.  Throughout, you see her trying to touch him more sexually, as he brushes off her advances.  Learned behavior by her from years of sexual abuse from her father.

We see Lizzie torn away from the loving arms of her suitor, the one good thing happening in her life, only to be drawn back into her unhappy home with her father and stepmother.  The sexual abuse by her father continues and nothing but cruelty from the stepmother.

Lizzie Borden. Photo credit: Heather Thorne

Lizzie’s mind slips more and more into the darkness.  We witness the struggle between the good & bad sides of Lizzie who is desperate to escape her current situation and losing her grasp on reality.  There are good & bad sides within all of us, and if we were placed in such a situation, what would we do? How would we react if desperate to escape a bad situation?

Shadow figures, known as malevolent spirits people describe seeing throughout history, appear and become more frequent as the tale is told starting after the death of her mother and getting progressively worse as time goes on.

Lizzie’s mind spirals and spirals downward as the story is told through the dancing and movement on the stage.  Until finally she is seemingly at her breaking point.  It is at this time that an ax appears with shadow figures around.  She takes the ax and sheds her clothing.  A red backdrop appears visually representing blood and death.

We don’t actually see anything.  Just like no one actually witnessed the murders.  Once Lizzie reappears, we see her in court with a jury.  Everyone has turned on her and she is alone, even her ex-suitor hss turned his back on her.  She is finally acquitted, but spends the rest of her life living in the same house where all her torment came from growing up and is shunned from society the rest of her lofe.  Whispers, rumors, and loneliness surround her.

Lizzie Borden. Photo credit: Karyn Photography (1)

In the end, she is now a wealthy woman having inherited her father’s money, dressed in beautiful attire.  She appears alone wearing a bright red dress and hat, which symbolizes the “blood on her hands” as she stands accused surrounded by the people from this small town regardless of whether she was acquitted or not.

Did she or didn’t she kill her father and stepmother? We will never know for certain.

Watch a short video trailer by clicking HERE for a glimpse into the LIZZIE BORDEN production.

Lizzie Borden c.1892

Watch a video of the lead of LIZZIE BORDEN and what is was like to become that character by clicking HERE.

I thoroughly-enjoyed both productions.  The dancing and score for both were perfection.  I was drawn into both worlds and maintained my interest throughout the night, and truust me, that is hard to do! Be sure and see these 2 dark productions just in time for Halloween.

This production contains mature content and brief nudity.
Age Recommendation: Adult
Run Time: Approximately 2 hours (including 1 intermission)

Lizzie Borden Choreography by Nashville Ballet Artistic Director & CEO Paul Vasterling
Music by Philip Feeney
Based on the True Infamous Murder Trial from the 1890s

The Raven Choreography by Nashville Ballet Company Dancer Christopher Stuart
Music by Franz Liszt
Based on the Poem by Edgar Allan Poe





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