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SFO The Righteous Illustration copyright Benedetto Cristofani

The Righteous

World Premiere

July 13 - August 13, 2024

Faith. Power. Ambition.

David struggles to reconcile spiritual humility with ambition. His desire for more wreaks havoc on his family, friendships and, perhaps, his own faith. His journey from preacher to Governor, like the lives of those closest to him, is shaped by the current affairs of the 1980s.

Music By
Gregory Spears
Libretto By
Tracy K. Smith
Sung In
Instant Translation Scree
English and Spanish
Production support generously provided by
Robert L. Turner
Additional artistic support provided by
The Edgar Foster Daniels Foundation
The performances of Jennifer Johnson Cano are supported by
The MacKay Fund for Debut Artists
The performances of Anthony Roth Constanzo are supported by
Gene & Jean Stark
Run Time
Approximately 3 hours; includes a 25-minute intermission

Act I

1979. A state that could be Texas. Paul, an oil magnate with political aspirations, his friend CM, his son Jonathan, and his son’s best friend David are out for a day of turkey hunting. David, a preacher, tells Jonathan he feels that God is telling him to marry Jonathan’s sister Michele. Jonathan cannot hide that he wishes David could be more than a brother-in-law to him. Back at Paul’s ranch, David proposes to Michele, and she accepts.

Eli, an army officer, tells his wife Sheila that he will be leaving soon to lead training exercises overseas. She protests, for her own sake and that of their daughter Shannon. David preaches a sermon on the importance of loving one’s neighbor. A few weeks later, David asks Sheila, a parishioner in his church, to lead a women’s group. David and Michele read the laudatory article that has just been written about the church. David’s charisma and leadership skills have led to whispers of his potential emergence as a write-in candidate for Governor, and Paul and CM are worried that David’s big personality is a threat to Paul’s own gubernatorial campaign. Michele asks David to make a public statement that he has no intention of running against Paul.

1986. Jonathan challenges David on his stance on AIDS. In David’s words, “Love is terrifying.” In Jonathan’s, “Isn’t it?” Sheila leads the women’s group – all profess the need to be calmed and soothed in the midst of family issues – and confesses that she is a survivor of abuse, but a believer in the all-knowing love of God. “Terrible and wonderful.” David and the Deacons plan to expand the sanctuary. Michele misses the David she’d thought she knew. David, seeing that Sheila is still in the church, goes back in after her to offer his prayerful attentions. They kiss.

Act II

Paul’s ranch, after the election. First Lady Marilyn is planning a dinner. Michele confides in her mother that her relationship with David has cooled. Marilyn assures her that she and Paul will always provide options for her. Michele sees a vision of David and Sheila’s affair. Paul has a heart attack and dies. The family is stricken. At the ensuing wake, old friend and consultant CM arrives and immediately asks David to run in the special election to replace Paul as governor.

Three months later David has won the special election. He returns to his church to say goodbye. Michele offers a curious prayer about forgiveness for husbands who betray their wives.

1990. David and Sheila, now husband and wife, host a reception at the Governor’s Mansion. They meet various guests, among them is Jacob, a young Black preacher from a struggling urban community. He complains that his community is misrepresented, but David holds fast to his party line: cracking down on crack and on the areas it affects. Sheila extemporizes a speech about God’s compassion and privately excoriates David for the change in his heart and views. David immediately shuttles her away.

Shannon, Sheila’s daughter, has brought her friend Dierdre home from college. The dinner conversation with Sheila and David so manifests the tension between progressive Shannon and her more staid stepfather that the girls take their meal upstairs. In the morning Shannon offers encouragement to her mother. Sheila makes a generous gift to the Women’s Shelter and goes there to offer her services as a group leader. There she meets Michele, who is there as legal counsel. Though no forgiveness is sought nor offered, the two seem almost relieved to see each other.

Jonathan visits David at his office, interrupting a meeting on a new piece of “quiet” legislation. Jonathan is leaving for a place where he can be himself. David reflects on friendship and the passage of time and asks of God, “What did I mistake for you?” Sheila begins to start life over on her own.

Michael Mayes headshot

Michael Mayes



Elena Villalon

Elena Villalón



Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson Cano



Anthony Roth Costanzo headshot

Anthony Roth Costanzo



Wendy Bryn Harmer headshot

Wendy Bryn Harmer



Newton, Nicholas headshot

Nicholas Newton



Greer Grimsley headshot

Greer Grimsley



Brenton Ryan

Brenton Ryan



Jordan De Souza

Jordan de Souza


Kevin Newbury headshot

Kevin Newbury


Mimi Lien

Mimi Lien

Scenic Designer

Devario Simmons

Devario Simmons

Costume Designer

Japhy Weideman

Japhy Weideman

Lighting Designer

Greg Emetaz headshot

Greg Emetaz

Projection and Video Designer


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