Rock Hefner to portray🎭 'Bobbe Penn' in Easter.Die, Detective!

Moving along...

In my opera, Easter, we have an overarching plot with a lot of smaller substories. And in those substories are front-facing characters with tie-ins to real-world happenings. Basically, what this amounts to is me trying to say that I couldn't tell the story of Easter without a ritornello.

What may be confusing to some people is that the prelude, Die, Detective!, is in itself a backstory, so to speak (sort of like a roman à clef), that sets up the remaining four (4) chords (you'll see). But, as it stands, this actual first chord features a number of times where the protagonist/antagonist must revisit his past in order (for the audience) to piece together present-day clues. Take, for instance, August 1978, where we find a young Montana-grown Joseph, full of hope+aspirations, caught between his military friend's personal strife, and his own ambitions of perhaps someday becoming a renown comedian.

Note (+): The comedian angle for Pascha is reminiscent of me. Part of my own biography is that I was a touring stand-up comic during my teenage years. I retired from the craft February 14, 2009, but I *think* I still have some funnies left. In this chord, pretty much all of the jokes spoken are mine. I consider it a natural extension of what Bruce Willis brought to the John McClane role, where he would make wisecracks throughout. Also, Philadelphians (particularly folks from West Philly) have a special kind of humor that I'm excited to showcase here.🤪

black and white photo of the Uptown Theater


That Summer (Labor Day weekend), Philadelphia's famed Uptown Theater is closing its doors due to increasing blight in the north part of town*; the neighborhood is no longer as safe and vibrant as it was just a decade prior. The African-American community is still feeling the effects of the Civil Rights Movement, compounded with first Chief of Police and then-Mayor Frank Rizzo's antics and policies frozen in place during that decade. Turning inward, the Community becomes increasingly activist, self-destructive, and simulataneously self-expressive [in my opinion, some of the most beautiful music from that era came directly out of Philly]. In the middle of all this we have some blue-eyed soul, a young Pascha who is also struggling to find his place in the world as he chases his dreams, follows his heart, and succumbs to destiny. This part of the story (fictitiously what transpires in the aftermath of the Amateur Night held on Saturday August 5, 1978) is the most pivotal in telling because the events define who and what our eponym is (to become).The venue's closure🔒 part is factual, but the date(s) may not be accurate.

The significance of the Uptown Theater cannot be understated here (it was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1982). Factually, Georgie Woods ceased to produce shows in/by 1972, not 1978. I, of course, am using artistic license with many facets of this history - dates, names, etc.. I'll artifact some interesting tidbits of information about that period of time in Philadelphia's history in this footnote.

The venue is located at 2240 N. Broad Street, near the campus of Temple University. It was erected between 1927 - 1929. For many years afterward, as North Philadelphia became a bright spot and entertainment destination for fresh immigrants to the city, the middle and upperclass residents frequented the area (section of town) for its nightlife, which complemented the blue collar vibe of the neighborhood. In its heyday, Uptown Theater was a rival to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NYC in terms of acts brought in, community tradition, and popularity.

In its later years, namely those from the 1960s and early 1970s, it was a hub for civil rights activism in the forms of spoken word and music, as the Black demographic was somewhat under siege from law and order. The area was riddled with high crime, causing the neighborhood to, well .. change. A lot of prominent and high-profile African-Americans from that era, such as Malcolm X and those from the NAACP, would visit (the area, radio stations, and the venue itself), thereby re-energizing the Community. Additionally, Woods would hold what he called 'freedom shows' to further make this point.

In Die, Detective!, we go as far back as June-July 1978, and explore the ongoings of MOVE (particularly the buildup to August 8, 1978). This is crucial as presented inside (metaphorically-speaking) the Uptown Theater.


Rock Hefner posesAgain, in bringing this flashback to life, there was a lot of second-hand study done during my research, but I had a few allies here. There are people still around who can vividly recall the days when acts such as The Supremes were booked to perform at the venue on the cheap (relatively speaking, $400 for a 10-day residency!!!🤯). Uptown Theater was also a staple on the so-called Chitlin' Circuit. Many of the acts (colored or otherwise) over a period of time were brought in courtesy of Georgie Woods, himself a voice (literally, he worked in radio🎙️📻) instrumental in getting other voices in the Community heard at a time when the work to do so was still greater than the payoff. As they say, old habits die hard. In Die, Detective!, Woods is portrayed (an indirect representation) by native Philadelphia personality, Rock Hefner, who - as Bobbe Penn (the name was his pick) - brings his own individuality to the role.

Note (+): At first, I had Bobbe Penn as part of a duo that was supposedly modeled after the music production team, Gamble & Huff, from that era. They were called 'GO' from 'Todd G' and 'Warren O'. There was a scheduling error with the would-be partner of one of the actors, so I went ahead with just making the producer solo. I then decided that music production (having to create 1970s-style R&B tunes) just for a solo act would be too costly, and wouldn't really add anything outside of a soundtrack.

Penn's story was always going to be attached to the Uptown Theater. After further review, the solo act became synonymous with the tellings of those years through the lens of Georgie Woods. Now with that character being a disc jockey, I have a perfect excuse to introduce one of my all-time favorite songs, 'Blame It On the Boogie', which was something I was going to do, anyway.😅

In real life, Rock Hefner has a fantastic sense of humor. Considering that this chord is ultra-serious in its content, having him onboard to convey this backstory is quite the treat in an otherwise pseudo-depressing piece.

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