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Project Summary | Videos | Creative Team | Show Specifications | Community Engagement | Music | Photos | The Squad | Partners

Project Summary

Ardea Arts is proud to present BOUNCE, which was premiered in November 2017 with development and premiere partner University of Kentucky Opera Theatre. Performed on an actual basketball court, BOUNCE is grounded in contemporary issues facing today’s youth, particularly teen violence. The production, which pairs diverse casting with a fresh approach to arts education, integrates local and high school students into the world of opera and music theater using the powerful medium of basketball.


BOUNCE is an American story told through basketball, a modern take on the Icarus Legend. Centered on Ike “The Flight” Harris, BOUNCE charts the triumphs and tragedies that basketball dreams bring. Ike grows wings, and soon he flies too close to the sun. His wings start to melt, and he crashes into the sea, his dreams crashing with him. Ike struggles to keep going amid ugly rumors while his chief rival soars into the limelight. BOUNCE asks, what does it take to work through trauma and tragedy to rise again, to regain one’s full self? The answer lies in the game of basketball itself.


BOUNCE is a groundbreaking new American work that melds genres and defies stereotypes, embracing the full palette of contemporary American music. It tells this story with the hard-hitting sounds of modern hip-hop, R&B, jazz, gospel, and classical vocal technique, melding with the squeak of sneakers across the court, and the percussive beat of the basketball. Performed on an actual basketball court, BOUNCE features local basketball players playing side-by-side with professional actors, singers, rappers, game commentators, and guest artists. BOUNCE also rocks the rim with extraordinary community engagement programs to attract diverse, new audiences of all ages.


BOUNCE addresses issues of teen violence, the school-to-prison pipeline, the accountability of one’s actions, as well as the importance of education. BOUNCE also celebrates our love of basketball, the opportunities it brings, and how basketball itself saves and transforms lives. Our goal is to bring this uniquely American story to communities across the nation.

Lead Composer

Story & Libretto

Concept & Direction

Additional Libretto

Additional Lyrics

Additional Music

Hip-Hop Tracks

Music Director/Conductor

Development/Premiere Partner

Production Consultant

90 – 100 Minutes

Age Group
All Ages, General Audiences

Development & Workshop Period
2014 – 2016

Preview, Premiere, & Touring
2017 – Present

Selected Press

Click on any of the publications BELOW THAT BOUNCE has been featured in to read more!

BOUNCE is a groundbreaking work at the intersection of basketball, musical theater, and opera. Music, poetry, and spectacle combine to entertain, challenge, and drive social change. Welcome to BOUNCE.

Please join and support us as we strive to bring this extremely important work across the country in a four-city tour—on street courts, in gymnasiums, or any urban backdrop where young people dream.

“One Step Beyond . . . busting the boundaries of opera” –The New York Times

**Closed captions are available in the player settings by clicking the CC button. Segments that are difficult to hear or understand have been open captioned (burned) into the video.**

Ardea Arts is proud to present BOUNCE, a new, groundbreaking American work of music-theatre and opera, attracting new audiences young and old, and celebrating our love for basketball across the nation.

Since the opera also touches on important social issues for youth today, we launched an extensive community outreach program, teaming up with Marcellus Barksdale of the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, to bring BOUNCE and its unique and important message to youth from Manhattan, to Brooklyn, and all the way to Lexington, Kentucky.

Len Elmore introduces BOUNCE The Basketball Opera.

Elmore is a 10-year NBA veteran, currently NCAA Basketball commentator for ESPN and Fox Sports. 
He is also a Harvard-educated lawyer and head of the NBA Retired Players’ Association. He also serves as an integral part of Ardea Arts’ Board of Directors.

When basketball and opera mix: “I had to learn how to play basketball.”

Opera singer Phillip Gay had to learn how to play basketball for his lead role in “BOUNCE,” an work that combines opera, hip-hop, R & B, and music-theatre with live basketball playing.

GLEN ROVEN (Lead Composer)

Late two-time Emmy-winning composer, lyricist, conductor, pianist. Founder and Artistic Director of Roven Records, distributed worldwide by Naxos. 12-time nominee and 4-time Grammy winner; collaborated with Quincy Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Frank Sinatra, Julie Andrews, Aretha Franklin, Renee Fleming, Kathleen Battle, and hundreds of other celebrities for film, television, Broadway, Carnegie Hall, and many other international venues and orchestras.

Charles R. Smith, Jr. (Story and Libretto)

Award-winning author, photographer, and poet with over thirty books to his credit, including a Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration (2010) for his photographs accompanying the Langston Hughes poem “My People” and a Coretta Scott King Honor Author Award (2008) for his biography on Muhammad Ali, Twelve Rounds to Glory. Early books such as Rimshots, Hoop Kings, and Hoop Queensfocus on his love of basketball.

GRETHE BARRETT HOLBY (Concept & Creative Director)

Worked with Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center Festival, Houston Grand Opera, La Scala, LA Opera, & companies across the US. Originating cast member of Einstein on the Beach; collaborations with Leonard Bernstein, Lou Reed, Robert Wilson, and Yusef Komunyakaa. Founding Artistic & Executive Director of Ardea Arts & Family Opera Initiative; Founder of American Opera Projects. A Rockefeller Fellowship Recipient, Holby holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from MIT.

Tomás Doncker (Additional Music)

Global Soul composer and producer. Directs, composes, and performs with his ensemble, Tomás Doncker Band. Guitarist for James Chance & The Contortions, Defunct, J. Walter Negro & The Loose Jointz. Collaborated with Boosty Collins, Yoko Ono, The Itals, & Prince Charles Alexander. Current Project with Ivan Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Meshell Ndegocello, In Living Color’s Corey Glover, P-Funk keyboardist AmpFiddler Shamekia Copeland, & Bill Laswell.

Ansel Elgort (hip-Hop Tracks)

A DJ, producer, singer, and actor, Elgort has performed in major EDM concert venues and festivals around the world. He was nominated the 2017 Golden Globe Best Actor for his role in Baby Driver. Currently in production on The Goldfinch, based on the Pulitzer-winning novel, his past credits include Carrie, The Fault In Our Stars, and the Divergent series. He is signed with Island Records and is a graduate of LaGuardia Arts High School here in New York City. 


Professor of Voice, OperaLex Endowed Chair in Opera Studies, and Director and Executive Producer of University of Kentucky Opera Theatre: Artistic Director of the National Chorale, New York City; Director of American Spiritual Ensemble; Vice Chair Kentucky Arts Council. Professional Credits: Kentucky Center, Metropolitan Opera, Teatro Communal (Italy), Radio Music City Hall. A basketball fan, he often sings the National Anthem for Kentucky Wildcats games.

BETH GUTCHEON (Additional Story & Libretto)

Beth Gutcheon has ten novels in print. Her eleventh book The Affliction was recently published by Harper Collins. She is also a vested member of the Writers Guild of America, with some dozen studio feature screenplays to her credit, as well as the narration for the documentary Children of Theatre Street, which was nominated for an Academy Award.

FRANK X WALKER (Additional Lyrics)

Former Kentucky Poet Laureate, Walker is a founder of the Affrilachian Poets and the author of nine collections of poetry. Voted one of the most creative professors in the South, he is the originator of the word “Affrilachia.” A Lannan Poetry Fellowship Award recipient, he has degrees from UKY and Spalding University as well as four honorary doctorates from UKY, Spalding University, Centre College, and Transylvania University.

Project Summary | Videos | Creative Team | Show Specifications | Community Engagement | Music | Photos | The Squad | Partners

Cast & Instrumentation



    • Flight (bass-baritone)

    • Future (baritone)

    • Coach (tenor) (possible local)

    • Sabrina (soprano—jazz/some belt) (possible local)

    • Daphne (lyric mezzo) (possible local)

    • Mrs. Lucas (gospel) (possible local)

    • Mrs. Harris (mezzo/soprano) (possible local)

  • 1 RAP ARTIST “Poet” (authentic rapper)

  • 1 GAME ANNOUNCER (experienced freestyle game commentator, play-by-play announcer)

  • 3 BASKETBALL PLAYERS / ACTORS (many lines, helpful if can sing on key)

    • Ajax (great point guard, ball handler, and shooter.) (possible local)

    • Odell (nice if good singer, but great basketball is tantamount) (local)

    • Akili (great basketball – experienced actor) (local)


Best if from home city (We can travel with basketball team if desired)

  • 6-7 EXCELLENT BASKETBALL PLAYERS (requires one-week additional Basketball rehearsals)

  • 5-6 FEMALE SINGERS (requires one week rehearsal with full cast, music memorized)

  • 5-6 MALE SINGERS (requires one week rehearsal with full cast, music memorized)

  • 1 POLICE OFFICER (actor)

  • 1 YOUNG BOY (5 years old – supernumerary role, requires 3 final rehearsals with cast)


  • 1 PRO BASKETBALL PLAYER (6’6”+, can dunk – “Hector the Helicopter”) best if from home city


  • 1 POLICE OFFICER (requires one hour rehearsal and memorize a few lines)

  • 1 GUEST GAME COMMENTATOR (minimal rehearsal)
    Local radio or TV sports celeb makes it fun.

  • 1 GUEST REPORTER (requires one hour rehearsal & lines)
    Local TV or Radio celebrity makes it fun.

  • 1 GUEST BASKETBALL COACH (Local Basketball Coach or Player preferred)
    No lines, but some staging and responsibilities.

  • LOCAL CHEERLEADING SQUAD (Fun but not necessary – two rehearsals required)

NOTE: Any younger basketball players or students can participate as fans or teammates sitting on the bench.
Requires rehearsal during run-throughs.


Local Band possible for extended run, or we can travel with core band, optional musicians guest in.

Minimum: 1 Keyboard, 1 Synthesizer; or piano and rhythm.

  • Touring Band

    • Keyboard 1 (piano)

    • Keyboard 2 (synth)

    • Electric Bass

    • Drum Set

  • Optional Add-In

    • Electric Guitar

    • Brass or Winds

Technical Specifications


For Performances on a Full Basketball Court

2 Acts / 2 Hours with Intermission

Our stage is a basketball court. This can be:

  • An actual basketball court inside in a gymnasium or sports center (with bleachers for audience)

  • A basketball court outside in a park or in a tent.

  • A theater space that can accommodate the dimensions of a basketball court: in the round, three quarter thrust, or black box flexible.

Note: A similarly-sized basketball court is required for rehearsals.


Court/Stage Minimum Size: 45 – 50’ wide x 74 – 84’ long with a 3 – 5’ area on either end of the court, and a minimum ceiling height of 16’. The only limitation is overly reverberant facilities.


  • 20 wireless head microphones for all performers with full audio support equipment*

  • 2–3 wireless handheld microphones

  • Microphone-amplified band stand (all instruments must be amplified)

  • Stage monitors (for performer monitoring)

  • PA systems monitors for the spectator area (if performed on an outdoor court)

*Detailed sound spec sheet available upon request


Outdoor courts: during the day requires only natural light.
Indoor courts: minimal theatrical lighting is preferable but not necessary.
Theatrical venues: Full theatrical lighting setup is preferred.


Preferred but not critical are:

  • Electronic programmable scoreboard.

  • Video. There is one video shown during the performance. The video can also be sent to spectators’ cell phones via our BOUNCE App. This would require Wi-Fi capability.


Full tech rider available on request. Please contact gbholby@ardeaarts.com.

BOUNCE seeks to offer community engagement workshops in a collaborative effort to help introduce and expose young people to theatre and music through the game of basketball. The workshops allow youth to learn basketball dribbling fundamentals, gain basic theatre and music knowledge, combine the two elements of art and sport to express their creativity and, most importantly, the gain the chance to better understand the complexities of growing up in today’s world.

The beauty of BOUNCE lies within its relevance. Each outreach event can offer something different depending on what message the group of students needs to hear most. First, the Director of Community Engagement coordinates with a representative from each school, and asks about specific topics they would like to see addressed. This provides a better understanding and direction on how to creatively craft the message and the activities for the students.


In anticipation of the November premiere, BOUNCE partnered with Lexington, KY area organizations and schools to offer community engagement workshops in a collaborative effort to help introduce and expose youth to theatre and music through the game of basketball. The workshops allowed youth to learn basketball dribbling fundamentals, gain basic theatre and music knowledge, combine the two elements of art and sport to express their creativity, and most importantly, have the chance to better understand the complexities of growing up in today’s world. The workshop was led by BOUNCE cast members—the Basketball Ensemble team.

At Crawford Middle School, BOUNCE was asked to address gun violence and conflict resolution, as the week prior there were two separate instances where students brought guns to school. The team was able to discuss the friction between the two main characters, “Future” and “Flight,” and ultimately share the consequences of Future’s poor and rushed judgement. This was followed up by further discussing the impact gun violence can have on the lives of the shooter, victims, and their families, themes inherent to BOUNCE.

Finally, the workshop ended on a positive note by teaching conflict resolution by allowing the students and cast to get to know one another through a hip-hop cypher. This allows kids to share their talents and express themselves through spoken word, dance, dribbling and/or singing, helping them see that they have an entire gym of students, faculty and staff, and strangers working with them, and rooting for them!


Ardea Arts presented Showcase Performances of BOUNCE at Paerdegat Park in East Flatbush, Brooklyn in June 2016. Pairing diverse casting with a fresh approach to arts engagement, local high school students, ranging from Business of Sports School (BOSS) in Manhattan to EBC High School for Public Service in Bushwick, Brooklyn, worked alongside seasoned professionals and integrated into the production using the powerful medium of basketball. They became the basketball players, the cheerleaders, and Flight’s classmates and teammates. Local and national community leaders, including figures such as Officer Robert Thybulle of the NYPD, and Jumaane Williams of the New York City Council and recent NY State Lieutenant Governor candidate, also played a number of the adult roles.


Ardea Arts, in partnership with the City Parks Foundation presented Bounce: The Basketball Performance Event for children age 10– 18 and their families, at Kaiser Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn on Sunday, September 14, 2014. Kids enjoyed a ball handling workshop, a performance of words and music by noted performers, and got the chance to be filmed showing off their basketball skills and expressing their creativity.

Music excerpts copyright © 2014–2018 Ardea Arts Inc. All Rights Reserved. Ardea Arts Inc. owns all parts of the master recording and individual tracks, including the full rights to reuse, reproduce, and/or repurpose any part of these recordings. For legal information, including the status of any contract, please send an inquiry on our contact page.

Ardea Arts deeply thanks and appreciates the many foundations, individuals, community partners, and sponsors that have brought BOUNCE this far.