OP warmly welcomes multi-award-winning actor, writer, and director L. Peter Callender as director of Harriet's Spirit. His career as an actor spans over thirty years, performing on and off-Broadway, in regional theaters in the US, and internationally in Japan, England, and France. More recently, Callender began writing and directing. He currently serves as Artistic Director of the African-American Shakespeare Company in San Francisco.
A close friend of Harriet's Spirit composer Marcus Shelby, Callender joined the project as dramaturg in 2020 following the OP Hands-On-Opera commission performance of Harriet's Spirit in 2018. "As an actor and certainly as a director, I am always asking questions. There is a lot of information about Harriet Tubman out there, and I wanted to make sure this work stuck to the truth and that the images procured and the story being told through the minds and voices of these young people was interesting and intelligent. And that it served the purpose for which it is being written."
Harriet's Spirit is the first time directing opera for Callender and credits his decision to become director based on his desire to make the work three-dimensional, big, colorful, and broad. Just one week into rehearsals, he has found that he loves the process of making opera. He also looks to the entire team, especially OP Artistic and General Director and Harriet's Spirit conductor Nicole Paiement, and assistant conductor Jaymes Kirksey for guidance. "I am a lucky man. I have the best team in the world who are so experienced in opera. It has been quite a learning experience for me as a director, so when I go back to my regular play directing, it will have changed me as a director because I will hear more music in language, and I will probably add more music to my pieces as I work through them."