When Katy Blake and Peter Davenport began their long collaboration five years ago, they set about to find a story that would give exposure and a voice to the historically marginalized people of West Virginia, upon whose backs the American coal industry was built. It was Katy’s strong desire to shed light on the lives of these coal miners and their families, as well as on the deep dark recesses of an industry that to this day treats its workers unfairly that guided their search.
While doing historical research, Katy came upon the novel, Storming Heaven, by Denise Giardina: a sweeping tale of intertwined lives, love and loss, actual historical coal industry events coupled with the start of the United Mine Workers of America. It was in Denise’s compelling work that Katy and Peter found the perfect material upon which to base their own story.
Storming Heaven: The Musical is about the coal-rich small town of Annadel, West Virginia, in the hills of Appalachia where the inhabitants witness the coal company stealing everything it hasn’t bothered to buy: their beloved land, deeds, private homes, and ultimately the souls of its men and women. These mountain people are forced to work in the mines, are cheated out of their pay, and are threatened by hired guns – Baldwin Felts guards – to keep quiet and acquiesce, or lose their jobs and livelihood. Set within this tumultuous and precarious world is our story of five people whose lives are irrevocably changed by the events surrounding them.
At the core is our heroine, Carrie Bishop, the mine doctor’s nurse and sister of the mine superintendent, who finds herself unwittingly in the middle of a love triangle with Albion Freeman, her husband and mine worker who is also preacher to the miners, and Rondal Lloyd, a charismatic miner and Union organizer. Carrie’s journey of self discovery – a woman at the turn of the nineteenth century struggling to find her own identity and power while living a life decided for her – parallels the miners’ struggle for basic human rights. She ultimately learns to reconcile what she knows is right with what she feels is right for her in her heart.
They all bear witness to nearly forgotten events of history, culminating in the final tragic Battle of Blair Mountain - the largest insurrection since the Civil War - when the United States Army greeted 10,000 unemployed pro-Union miners with airplanes, bombs, and poison gas.
It was the first crucial battle of this war that is yet to be won.
JANUARY 11, 2019
Storming Heaven: The Musical is having a staged reading in Morgantown, WV, thanks to a collaboration with the West Virginia Public Theatre. After a week-long workshop, the reading was held on Saturday, January 19, at the Gladys G. Davis Theatre (WVU Creative Arts Center).
JUNE 19, 2018
We are thrilled to share that Storming Heaven: The Musical has been named recipient of The Anna Sosenko Assist Trust grant for the 2018 reading series at NYMF! To learn more about the organization's mission, click here.
APRIL 2, 2018
Katy and Flip wrote a beautiful new song for Aunt Jane, "Goin' Home", in the traditional early Appalachian ballad style. Katy and Peter also expanded Miles and Doc Booker's argument about Capitalism vs Socialism in the song "A Company Man".
JAUNARY 31, 2018
Storming Heaven: The Musical has been selected for NYMF 2018! For the cast of the staged reading, please click here.
NOVEMBER 11, 2017
After reworking the book and with addition of new songs, Storming Heaven: The Musical has been submitted to several developmental organizations around the United States.
FEBRUARY 3, 2017
We would like to extend heartfelt thanks to everyone who came to witness the first showing of Storming Heaven: The Musical at our Equity 29 Hour Reading. Stay tuned for updates on the next steps of development!
JANUARY 11, 2017
Rounding out the cast and musicians for the Equity 29 Hour Reading of Storming Heaven: The Musical, the show features John McDaniel (Piano/Conductor), Mark Hartman (Keyboard), and Brad Parker (Guitar/Banjo/Mandolin/Fiddle).
DECEMBER 19, 2016
We are happy to share the list of incredible actors and friends who bring our story to life. The cast features Jane Blass, Jake Boyd, Cole Burden, Harley Jay, Jayme Lake, Kevin Mambo, Paul Anthony Stewart, Don Rey, Lizzy Brooks, Gisela Dubuisson, Clyde Voce, Kristi Holden, Kathryn Markey, Ed Romanoff, and Jake Smith.
DECEMBER 16, 2016
Rehearsals for our Equity 29 Hour Reading begin on January 7, 2017, with two readings scheduled for Thursday, January 12, at 12p and 4p at Playwrights Horizons Studios in New York.
JANUARY 18, 2019
West Virginia Public Theatre is hosting professional actors and musicians this week in Morgantown. They are rehearsing a new musical based on a novel about life in the coal camps of southern West Virginia leading up to the historic Battle of Blair Mountain. Authors and musicians aim to highlight the sacrifices that laid the groundwork for the modern labor movement.
JANUARY 17, 2019
JANUARY 17, 2019
JANUARY 14, 2019
WVPT has teamed up with New York City composers, Denise Giardina and country music artist Tracy Lawrence to develop Storming Heaven: The Musical and will reveal the culmination of their work at the stage reading of the new musical on Saturday, January 19th, 2019 at 7:30 PM at the Gladys G. Davis Theatre (WVU Creative Arts Center) in Morgantown, WV.
JULY 17, 2018
If Storming Heaven’s book is pasta and its music is the sauce, then it’s nearly dinnertime. The sauce is already delicious and the pasta is just shy of al dente. A couple of minutes and it’ll be perfect.
JULY 26, 2015