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This project was successfully funded on July 22, 2013

Bum Phillips (2014 World Premiere Opera)

by Luke Leonard


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Bum Phillips is a world premiere opera about an icon of the National Football League and America: O.A. "Bum" Phillips, head coach of the Houston Oilers in the late 1970s.  The opera will be an epic portrait combining aspects of Phillips’ life using the structure of a football game, exploring how one man’s passion fueled an entire city’s hope and examining his ability to overcome strife through resilience and faith.  Encouraged by Phillips’ motivational skills and homespun principles, we aim to push the boundaries of where and for whom opera is staged.

In 2011, I recalled my high school football days growing up in Texas and in a flash conceived an opera based on Bum Phillips.  I was further inspired by reading Coach Phillips’ autobiography, Bum Phillips: Cowboy, Coach, Christian.

In 2012, by the gracious support of 69 pledges via USA Projects, my nonprofit company, Monk Parrots, was able to commission playwright Kirk Lynn and composer Peter Stopschinski to provide the libretto and score.  I will serve as stage director and production designer.  All native Texans, this opera seems the ideal next step in our artistic and professional growth as well as Monk Parrots’ undermining approach to established traditions.

From 1975 to 1980, Bum Phillips converted the Houston Oilers into a winning franchise.  Success resulted in Houston fandom dubbed “Luv Ya Blue”, then a surprising termination propelled him toward a spiritual quest that he later said he had avoided his entire life.  Sundays, previously a time for football, became a time for church.  As such, Bum Phillips uses the question, “What to do on a Sunday?” as a unifying principle in which to examine themes relevant to contemporary audiences; such as, family, faith, profession, nationalism, loyalty, betrayal, and serenity.  The opera will show Bum Phillips’ growth from a small-town childhood, to a soldier in the South Pacific in WWII, where he learned the discipline he later used to coach the Houston Oilers during the Luv Ya Blue era, returning to small town Texas to ranch, before becoming a Christian and starting an ambitious prison ministry.

Bum Phillips’ legacy and beliefs based in the rudiments of family and religion provide the anchor on which to hinge complicated issues.  The opera will prompt questions like “How do you live in the present and fully appreciate a moment?,” and “Can you better yourself, and consequently improve the world around you?”  The purpose is to provide a forum where all types, regardless of political or religious beliefs, race, or economic status, can assemble and reflect on personal values and desires in relation to being American, and to inspire hope, and individual and social refinement.

Engaging non-traditional patrons will be incredibly rewarding to building future audiences for contemporary opera and experimental theatre in America.  Furthermore, it will provide an ideal platform on which we can continue to nurture our imaginative instincts while fostering a healthy professional path.

During January and February 2013, Peter and I worked alongside music director, Kerry Prep, with students at Long Island University on a workshop performance of Act I.  The workshop earned excellent praise at the LIU Post campus, followed by a presentation at the La MaMa Great Jones Rehearsal Studios in Manhattan.  Another workshop performance is scheduled for September 5, 2013 at Dixon Place.  Dates for the world premiere are confirmed and will take place from March 13-30, 2014 in the Ellen Stewart Theater at the legendary La MaMa Experimental Theater Club in New York.

Our remaining fundraising goal to produce the world premiere is $67,000.  At this time, we are asking the public to help by supporting approximately 30% of the maximum goal; therefore, our minimum fundraising goal for this campaign is $20,000.  If we do not reach the minimum goal of $20,000 by 11:59 PM on Sunday, June 30, 2013, we will not receive any of the pledges and the project will not be funded.  Should we surpass the minimum goal, all pledges will be applied to the overall production expenses.  Please note that funds raised on USA Projects are now 100% artist earned, meaning that Monk Parrots, Inc. will receive 100% of the funding to produce the opera.  Monk Parrots is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit performing arts organization and donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Please help bring this groundbreaking new opera to life by contributing to the fundraising campaign today.  Your generosity will be proudly acknowledged in the production playbill and on Monk Parrots’ company website.  Our sincerest thanks for your continued support!

For more information about:

Bum Phillips and Bum Phillips Charities, please visit

Composer Peter Stopschinski:

Librettist Kirk Lynn:

Director Luke Leonard:

Monk Parrots:

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