How The Light Gets In

In 2017 the annual New York Musical Festival (NYMF), with support from The ASCAP Foundation and Jan Brandt, commissioned 3  micro-musicals (30 minutes or less) to be presented in an inaugural concert aimed at creating more space for arts-based civic engagement. How The Light Gets In, directed by Jonathan McCrory (National Black Theatre) and co-curated by Zhailon Levingston (Broadway Advocacy Coalition), included the works of grant recipients Ty Defoe & Tidtaya Sinutoke with Water Is Life; Lelund Durond Thompson & Jason Michael Webb with Ilathi: The Gift; and Ryan Scott Oliver & Nessie Nankivell with Otherbody. A moderated conversation with artists discussing the process of developing their micro-musicals followed the concert.

Water Is Life, composed specifically with Joan’s vocal talents in mind, envisioned the first baby born amidst the Standing Rock conflict in North Dakota – who was in fact named with the rallying cry Mni Wičoni (‘Water Is Life’)- as a grandmother looking back on her birth, her life and her destiny interwoven with the waters. Along with Joan, it featured the talents of Abena Mensah-BonsuJessica Ranville, Angel Harrison & Kenneth Miles Ellington Lopez, integrated Native traditional instruments with a four-piece band and roused the audience to join in a round dance at the end of the closing song.

Mni Wičoni! Water Is Life! — How the Light Gets In…

Water Is Life


Joan Henry

Jessica Ranville ~ Abena Mensah-Bonsu ~ Angel Harrison ~ Kenneth M.E. Lopez

Music & Libretto by Ty Defoe & Tidtaya Sinutoke
Directed by Jonathan McCrory
Musical Director Max F. Gordon