Project Summary

Ardea Arts is pleased to announce BOUNCE, its latest project under development in partnership with 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 high school students into the world of opera 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 Partner

Production Consultant

90 – 100 Minutes

Age Group
All Ages, General Audiences

Development & Workshop Period
2014 – 2016

World Premiere & Touring
Nov. 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)

A 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.

Cast & Instrumentation


  • Poet – Spoken Word Artist; Rapper
  • Flight (bb) 6’ 6” Principal Role – Small/power forward or big who can dunk & act.
  • Future (b) 5’ 9” to 6’ 0” Major Role – Point guard, 3-point shooter. Must be able to rap with good flow. Same ethnicity as Flight.
  • Ajax (b) – Ball Handler, Actor, Basketball wing player.
  • Game Announcer – experienced basketball play-by-play announcer.


  • Mrs. Lucas (s) – Gospel singer, one scene only. Non-Caucasian.
  • Mrs. Harris (m) – Substantial scene, Aria carrying soul of the piece. Flight’s mother.
  • Coach Ellis (t) – Major role, robust tenor, actor. Must look like he has played basketball & understands the game.


  • Daphne (m) – Trained singer. Must be able to act awkwardly & nerdy.
  • Sabrina (s) – Jazz/pop background. Movement & dance experience highly recommended.
  • Akili – named role in Basketball Ensemble. Excellent basketball player, preferred good singer.
  • Odell – named role in Basketball Ensemble. Excellent basketball player, preferred good singer.


  • 3–5 Female; 3–5 Male Singers
  • 7 Experienced Basketball Players; ages 16-28, should be shorter than Flight (6’ 6”)


  • Hector the Helicopter around 6’ 6” – Rival phenom point forward/big, can fly & dunk. No lines, but really can dunk.
  • Kwame Lucas – 5 year old boy, but can be played by any boy who looks the part and can be carried by the Poet. Same ethnicity as Mrs. Lucas if possible; non-Caucasian. Supernumerary role.


  • 1 Guest Sports Commentator – Local celeb makes it fun.
  • 1 Basketball Coach – Coaching experience preferred but not necessary.
  • 1 Reporter – Local celeb makes it fun.
  • 1 Police Officer – Local government or police officials.
  • 1–3 Professional Cheerleader(s) – Fun but absolutely not necessary.

BAND* (Minimum: 2 Keyboards; or piano & rhythm)

  • Touring Band
    • Keyboard 1 (piano)
    • Keyboard 2 (synth)
    • Electric Bass
    • Drum Set
  • Optional add-in
    • Electric Guitar
    • Brass or Winds


  • Many of the rap sequences and all basketball games are performed over composed EDM tracks, furnished by Ansel Elgort and Ardea Arts. This would require a speaker/PA system.

*Guest Artist Roles & Production Staff — to be cast & hired by lead partner or travels with show.

**Young Artist Roles — recommended to cast role locally, cast by local partner from professional young-artist or university program. These roles require trained singer or actors, and full rehearsal period.

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

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.

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 ends 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!


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 and consisted of:

  1. Basketball dribbling drills
  2. Music and theatre terminology
  3. Discussions about gun violence, decision making, and overcoming adversity
  4. Sharing the individual stories and experiences of cast members


Ardea Arts presented Showcase Performances of BOUNCE at Paerdegat Park in East Flatbush, Brooklyn in June 2016. BOUNCE The Basketball Opera is grounded in pressing issues facing today’s audiences.  Pairing diverse casting with a fresh approach to arts engagement, local high school students working along side seasoned professionals are integrated into the production using the powerful medium of basketball. They become the basketball players, the cheerleaders and Flight’s classmates and teammates. Local and national community leaders also play 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.

UKOT Premiere – November 2017

Our Supporters

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