In 1993, Octavia E. Butler’s “Parable of the Sower,” a critically acclaimed novel centered around a teenage girl with the uncontrollable ability to feel the pain of others was published. Butler, who is considered a pioneering Black female science fiction writer, delved into themes of racial injustice, women’s rights and climate change. She passed away in 2006. But now, 30 years after the book was published, the opera, “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower,” has its NYC premiere at Lincoln Center on July 13.
The story, set in 2024, describes a post-apocalyptic world affected by climate change, an economic crisis and socioeconomic inequality. Sounds a little too much like reality, right?
Singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon certainly thinks so. She worked alongside her mother, musician and activist Bernice Johnson Reagon, to bring Butler’s timely story to the stage. Reagon has previously collaborated with artists such as Michelle Ndegeocello and Nona Hendrix. In a recent interview with NBC News, she said her opera is hitting the stage at just the right time.
“I think that’s the thing that turns us towards the world that Octavia imagines. People are reading her books and seeing that somebody saw this 30 years ago, which means we, in some way, have been living it. In the back of our minds, a lot of us have been worried about where we are now,” she said
Shanta Thake, chief artistic director at Lincoln Center, agrees that the opera is something audiences need to see. “The parable is this hour,” she told NBC News. “The book is a prophecy in a lot of ways, and it’s set in 2024. ‘Parables’ is a warning and holds a lot of beautiful lessons.”
And Reagon hopes one of those lessons audiences take away from the opera is the importance of community. “You don’t have to get along in some mystical, magical way, but you could have the mutual respect of upholding a practice of community,” she said.