The Ballad of Ella May

The life and death of a union organizer and balladeer

Stephen says

Stephen Brown-Fried, Director

This collaboration has been such a privilege and joy. You are an insanely talented composer whose music lifts my heart. Thank you for being so generous, fun, and wonderful to work with!

Project Goals

Original Musical

The objective was to compose a new music theater piece about union hero, Ella May Wiggins. Commissioned by the Working Theater, the musical was to be written in collaboration with playwright Cori Thomas and directed by Stephen Brown-Fried.

Specific Requests


Feel: Folk and gospel.

Details: Create heartfelt, moving songs that dramatize the life and murder of 1920’s union organizer. Draw on folk and gospel styles with sensitivity to race and class issues of the 1920’s and today.

The End


Six songs were created for an all-female cast. Julia Barry auditioned performers with the directorial team, prepared sheet music, and music directed the show. “The Ballad 0f Ella May” was commissioned by the Working Theater for a special performance at the local IBEW’s women’s conference in 2016. Book by Cori Thomas, Music by Julia Barry, Lyrics by Cori Thomas & Julia Barry / Directed by Stephen Brown-Fried.