A Good Man is Hard to Find

2002-2003 ICE Project Grant
George Contini, Professor, Drama
David Volk, PhD. Candidate, Music

A chamber opera based on the story by Flannery OConnor.

This modern chamber opera, based on Flannery O’Connor’s short story masterpiece of the same name, is a collaborative effort that brings together talents and ideas from across the state of Georgia to participate in this unique theatrical experience. O’Connor’s short story, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, is about a Georgia family, traveling to Florida on vacation, who come across a serial killer, the Misfit. Their confrontation raises questions about redemption, faith, grace and common humanity in this dark comic parable.

The opera, which is an adaptation of O’Connor’s short story, is composer David Volk’s doctoral dissertation at UGA.

“This project has been a twenty-year dream that started in my undergraduate and masters program at FSU,” Volk says. “I was in an electronic music class at UGA when the idea to revive the project suddenly struck me. We were listening to Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Jungerlinge” and I suddenly realized that an electronic score would be a very effective way to set “Good Man” operatically.”

The opera does not rely on electronic music alone. There will be a full chamber orchestra to accompany the cast that will be conducted by Dr. Mitch Turner, a music professor at LaGrange College.

Ellen Ritchey, a soprano who is playing the Grandmother, received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from UGA and is an adjunct instructor of music at Gainesville College in Gainesville, Georgia.

The opera is directed by George Contini, a professor in the Department of Drama and Theatre at UGA who last directed “The Laramie Project”. He says that the production is unique because every element from the design to the writing to the singing is a product of the southern American region.

“I think a college audience will really respond to O’Connor’s dark, grotesque humor,” Conini says. “Her skewed view of religion and ethics can be seen as a precursor to the warped work of Tarantino and Lynch. I applaud ICE funding such projects.”

Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925 and died from lupus in Milledgeville, Georgia in 1964. In those thirty-nine years, she contributed a brief, powerful canon (two novels, thirty-two short stories, plus reviews and commentaries) that continues to be studied. O’Connor is considered to be one of the most important voices in American literature.

The opera has been performed at the Seney-Stoval Chapel in Athens, Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia, and was the featured event at the International Flannery O’Connor Conference at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia.

The cast and crew are made up of UGA students, as well as professors from UGA and other Georgia colleges. A Good Man Is Hard to Find is a collaboration of the Department of Drama and Theatre and the School of Music and is supported by an ICE Project Grant and the Mary Flannery OConnor Foundation.