A New Take on the Ancient Biblical Story
with Contemporary Themes
by Pali L’Yriel Delevitt
New Musical Work: Three Concert Versions throughout the Triangle May 21-23;
World Premiere Full Productions October 2010 in Durham
“If I had followed logic or sage advice, I would have stayed hidden in the safety of my sex and prescribed role. But I
followed love, for all its foolishness and all its risk, and came to know a side of myself that I would have left buried or
unawakened though I had lived to a hundred and twenty. This is my story. “— Esther
Media Contact: Allison Savicz, Esther Publicist
photos, cd, interviews: email@example.com (919) 923-2791
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Chapel Hill NC April 26, 2010—Esther: A New Musical, based on the
timeless biblical tale, with music, lyrics and book by Chapel Hill composer, Pali L’Yriel Delevitt
will have its world premiere in October 2010 at Durham’s Carolina Theater with three concert
workshops May 21-23 in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh respectively.
Initially conceived in 1985, the musical work stepped up in earnest in 2003 with a recording of
some of the original score featuring an ensemble of local singers and musicians.
Esther is an ancient story with contemporary themes; a timeless tale yet a story for our times. It
tells of politics and prejudice, love and redemption, and the powerful influence of the Divine
Feminine which flows through both Hebrew and Persian cultures. It is a powerful testimony to
love, an impassioned plea for tolerance, and an indictment of the insidious undercurrent of
politics that can knowingly or unknowingly destroy lives. It is a story of courage and faith in the
face of the forces of power, and how the power of love can alter lives.
Enriched with humor and satire, Esther is an electrifying new production, featuring a musical
score that blends lush, captivating, lyrical melodies with the rhythmic heartbeat of global
sounds. The story unfolds with six intriguing central characters and an ensemble of singers, who
portray the King’s Men, the Harem, visiting courtiers, and the many multi-cultural people of
Persia. The vibrant choreography, from fierce sword dancers to fabulous belly dancing and
beyond, sets the stage for this compelling story to unfold.
This musical retelling of a familiar and favorite Biblical story introduces additional characters and
themes, as well as a change of story line to reflect a deeper understanding and vision, while
drawing the powerful parallels between those historical times and our world today.
“My intention in writing Esther is to create a musical that is both intelligent and entertaining;
one that leaves the audience deeply moved by the story as well as the music. The story of Esther
has such a rich biblical and cultural history while addressing issues that are contemporary and
eternal,” said Pali Delevitt, composer, lyricist and Executive Producer of Esther.
“My hope is that Esther will be more than a successful play and great entertainment, it will be
an artistic voice that inspires the possibility and potential for peace and reconciliation between
people of different cultures and beliefs, but a shared humanity,” adds Pali.
Based on the Biblical book of the same name, Esther tells the story of a young Jewish woman
who becomes the wife and queen of King Ahasuarus of Persia. The progression from dreamy-
eyed young girl to concubine, to wife of Ahasuarus, finds Esther gradually transforming into the
strong and courageous woman who will risk everything, including her life, to save others. This
King has unwisely empowered his chief advisor, Haman, who reveals his true nature with a plot
to have all the Jews of Persia annihilated. Esther, bolstered by wise council from her Uncle
Mordecai, and the support of her friend and mentor, Vashti, risks her own life, exposes Haman
and his plot, and ultimately saves her people and others around her.
The story unfolds in ancient Persia where King Ahasuarus has banished the independent-minded
Queen Vashti and is now looking for a new wife. Esther, a beautiful and gifted Jewish maiden, is
forcibly carried off to become a concubine in the King’s Harem. The former Queen Vashti
recognizes something special about Esther, and becomes her friend and mentor, grooming her
to become the next Queen, as Vashti’s way of honoring “The Goddess.” Ahasuarus is enchanted
with Esther from their first meeting, and makes her his Queen. Mordecai discovers a plot to
assassinate the King and informs Esther in time for the King to thwart the would-be assassins.
Meanwhile, Haman, the King’s Chief Minister, offended by Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him,
crafts a plan to exterminate all Jews in the entire kingdom on the 13th of Adar as retribution for
Mordecai entreats Esther to go to Ahasuarus and ask him to intercede for her people, even
though approaching the King unbidden is an offense punishable by death. But Ahasuarus’ heart
is moved by the sight of Esther, and he offers to grants her any favor she wishes. Esther asks the
King and Haman to attend her banquet. There Esther exposes Haman’s plot against her people,
and the horrified King has Haman arrested and executed. Now Ahasuarus, along with Esther
and Mordecai, race against time to find a way to override the original edict and save Persia from
a bloodbath that would involve all people. In the end, Esther’s wisdom, Mordecai’s faith, and
Ahasuarus’ willingness to embrace a different possibility marks the beginning of a new era in the
Empire. And the end of this story of Esther departs dramatically from the original.
About Composer and Executive Producer Pali Delevitt
A five-time cancer survivor since 1987, Pali Delevitt has learned the value of never
giving up, no matter what the odds, and credits her love of music, dance and
singing, and especially her passion to see Esther produced, with her continued
healing and joy of living.
She wrote, produced and directed her first original musical at age ten and continued to explore
the many different aspects of theater, including playwriting, composing, choreography, as well
as performance and directing. Pali studied at the University of Michigan School of Music,
combining her music with training in theater and multi-media. She won the prestigious
Hopwood Award for Creative Writing three consecutive years, including awards for poetry and
Pali earned her Masters at Tufts University, where she was a Teaching Fellow in Theater Arts,
and developed a love for teaching as well as theatrical production. She founded the Boston
Public Theater, where she produced her original work, a musically infused version of Oscar
Wilde’s Salome. While in Boston she also served as a coordinator for the Arts in the City
summer program for Boston’s young people.
Pali earned an award from the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis for her original plays, and a grant
from the Virginia Council on the Arts for her musical, Where I’m Comin’ From. She initiated the
restoration of the Theater at Little Washington in Rappahannock County, Virginia, which
ultimately evolved into the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community.
Addressing the need for both summer activities for the community youth and additional need
for the arts, she started a Creative Arts summer youth program in Rappahannock County.
Pali was honored by the Russian government for her work in “peace-building” with visiting
Russian students in the play Peace Child, a project that created cross-cultural living and
understanding between U.S. and Russian high school students while developing and performing
an original musical, combined with training in conflict resolution.
In her other life, Pali has been a pioneer in the field of “Integrative Medicine,” creating
innovative programs in medical education, teaching across the U.S. and Canada, including at
UVA and Duke Medical Schools, advocating for improved patient/provider relationships,
and the inclusion of “complementary therapies” as a resource for expanding the healing
potential. She was delighted to discover how much creativity and talent for the arts exists in
those practicing medicine, and is convinced that science, healing and music are deeply
Calling Chapel Hill her true home, Pali celebrates life’s gifts including the love of her sons, Gabe
and Dan, and her ever-encouraging family and friends. She dedicates Esther to everyone who
has a dream they long to fulfill.
Historical Roots of “Esther” and Interweaving of Spiritual Traditions
This production of Esther chooses to focus on what connects people of differing cultures, rather
than what divides them, and how different spiritual perspectives can co-exist in acceptance of
each other, honoring what is good and meaningful for all.
Both the Judeans and the Persians share a common historical origin in the ancient culture of
Sumer which flourished for thousands of years in the Fertile Crescent which is now the Southern
half of modern Iran.
The City of Ur, where the Jewish and Islamic Patriarch, Abraham, first embraced monotheism
and the God known as “Yahweh”, was a major urban center of Sumer in 3000 B.C.E. It was in
the city of Ur that some of the cuneiform clay tablets that inscribed the ancient tale of Inanna,
the Great Goddess, were discovered. The Goddess Inanna would eventually become known as
the Babylonian “Ishtar,” and “Ishtar” would also be “Esther;” the Morning and the Evening Star,
the Queen of Heaven and Earth.
The role played by the Divine Feminine, “The Goddess,” was central to these cultures for
thousands of years, and wisdom inherent in the Goddess traditions was woven into the beliefs
and practices of spiritual traditions across cultures and religious identity. “We feel the role of
the “Divine Feminine” is very important in our lives more than ever. The story of Esther is part
of that acknowledging of the strength and wisdom of the “Divine Feminine” that flows through
everyone. Wherever we can offer love and be affirming of life, everyone benefits,” said Pali.
Esther Community Outreach
Prior to the major premiere performances in October, Esther will be performed in concert
workshops May 21-23, 2010 at UNC’s Friday Center, Grumman Auditorium, the Durham Arts
Council’s PSI Theater and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh. Each performance
will be followed by an educational dialogue with the audience, and a reception to meet the cast
and creative team. The project intends to continue its educational initiative and outreach in the
community going into the performance and beyond, believing that the Arts can provide a
positive platform for the discussion of issues that impact all our lives.
Committed to this purpose, a portion of the profits from Esther will be dedicated to community
programs that create cross-cultural collaboration and understanding through the Arts.
Cast Esther-A Musical
In keeping with the theme of cross-cultural collaboration, Esther brings together a cast and
creative team of diversity and talent from different ethnic and spiritual backgrounds. This
dynamic group of local artists is excited to be co-creating, working and growing together, and
embracing the same vision and purpose.
Carly Prentiss Jones, soprano, Esther
A young woman, orphaned by war, and taken from her homeland, Esther is called to a life and a
role she would not have chosen, first in a Harem and then as a Queen. As she spiritually
matures, she finds power and purpose, and courage to face her own potential destruction,
which will change the destiny of a people.
Veronica Harper, soprano, Young Esther
David Mellnik, bass baritone, Mordecai
Esther’s uncle, her wise protector, guardian, and spiritual guide.
Scott McLeod, baritone, Ahasuaras
A warrior king concerned with securing his kingdom by any and all political and military means,
but with a mind and heart on the verge of transformation.
Shannon French, mezzo soprano, Vashti
The beautiful Queen who is scorned and deposed when she refuses to degrade herself before
men becomes Esther’s mentor and best friend.
Rita Glynn, soprano, Young Vashti
Steve Dobbins, baritone, Haman
The self-serving minister to the King, he seizes the opportunity to manipulate the King so that he
is empowered still further as Chief Advisor.
Steven Lumpkin, tenor, Gideon
Esther’s childhood sweetheart, and her betrothed before she is taken away to the King’s Harem.
Esther includes several supporting roles and an ensemble of singers and dancers, including
colorful Belly Dancers. The concert workshops will feature a five-piece live musical ensemble;
the October 2010 full production features a sixteen-piece orchestra; Al Sturgis, conducting.
Esther Creative Team
Pali Delevitt, Esther Creator and Executive Producer
Leigh Brown, Choreographer, Belly Dancers
L.D. Burris, Choreographer
Debra Gillingham, Director
Ross Kolman, Lighting Designer and Production Manager
Keval Khalsa, Choreographer
Porangui MacGrew, Musician and Percussionist
Evelyn McCauley, Production Director
Glenn Mehrbach, Arranger
Al Sturgis, Musical Director
Donovan Zimmerman, Puppet Master and Musician
“The Devoted” Tribal Belly Dance Troupe
The Musical by Pali L’Yriel Delevitt
2010 PREMIERE Concert Workshop Performances
Friday May 21 • 7:30pm UNC Friday Center, Grumman Auditorium, Chapel Hill NC
Saturday May 22 • 7:30 pm, PSI Theatre, Durham Arts Council, 120 Morris Street, Durham NC
Sunday May 23 • 4 pm, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship 3313 Wade Avenue, Raleigh, NC
ALL GENERAL ADMISSION TICKETS
$16 in advance at www.etix.com or www.estheramusical.com or $18 at the door at each venue;
includes post-performance discussion and reception
ESTHER WORLD PREMIERE (Full Production)
October 8-10 and 14-17, 2010 • Carolina Theatre, Durham NC
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.estheramusical.com