Why Is Eartha Kitt Trying to Kill Me?:
A Love Story

Music by Jeffrey Dennis Smith

Libretto by David Johnston

A young man. A police station. A legendary star. And a bloodbath.
Now this is where things get weird.

Saturday, July 7 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, July 8 at 2 p.m.
Friday, July 13 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 14 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $45
General Admission

At Signature Theatre

Click here to buy tickets
Or call Signature’s box office at (703) 820-9771


Why is Eartha Kitt Trying to Kill Me?: A Love Story is a new one-act opera about a mysterious – and unlikely – murder suspect. A tour de force love story and mad scene all in one, a man shares his bizarre confession concerning the fate of a hot, young, art world star. Smith’s score blends elements of jazz with an edgy contemporary sound, creating an energy that propels the story forward.


Keith Jameson as JB Williams

Conducted by Robert Wood
Directed by Sam Helfrich

55 minutes long; an audience talk-back will follow each performance.

UrbanArias’ production of Why Is Eartha Kitt Trying to Kill Me?: A Love Story is supported by a very generous gift from the Arlington Arts Commission.

Parental Advisory: Why Is Eartha Kitt Trying to Kill Me?: A Love Story contains mature references, and may not be suitable for young children.

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The setting is a police interrogation room in Queens, New York. The time is the present. A young man, JB Williams, tells an unseen police detective that he is innocent. He begins to tell a strange story, about an unknown crime and the late cabaret/film star Eartha Kitt. His life is in danger. He pleads for help. JB relates how he saw Eartha Kitt about a month ago, just before he met the love of his life, Joey Cocteau, an up and coming young artist.He tells the detective about the first time he saw Joey – on the cover of a gay magazine. It was love at first sight and JB decides he must meet him. He tells of their first meeting. He recalls seeing Eartha Kitt for the second time, while doing his laundry. She threatens his life with a machete. He tells of everything he knows about Joey and how he learned this information. He describes the events of today, leading up to his interrogation. He goes to the Met Museum where he has another encounter with Eartha Kitt.He flees in a cab and goes to Queens. He arrives at his boyfriend’s art opening. At the opening, JB follows Joey up to the roof. Joey lashes out and JB pushes him from the roof. Joey falls but then starts to fly. His body twists and flies and turns into hundreds and hundreds of Eartha Kitts. JB acknowledges that a body was found on the street, outside the building. But he insists that he is innocent and pleads for understanding.





Keith Jameson, tenor, a native of South Carolina, opens the current season with performances of Thisbe and Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Teatro Massimo di Palermo. He returns to Lyric Opera of Chicago as Pong in Turandot, and to Japan’s Veroza Company to sing the roles of Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi and Old Man/Teapot/Frog in L’enfant et les sortileges.

Last season’s performances included Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro with Washington National Opera and Monsieur Triquet in Eugene Onegin with Lyric Opera of Chicago. Mr. Jameson joined the roster of Utah Opera as Sancho Panza in Man of La Mancha, and performed the roles of Ali in Grétry’s Zemire et Azor and Harry Druggist in Mark Blitzstein’s Cradle Will Rock, both with Opera Saratoga. In the 2015-2016 season, Mr. Jameson was Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro with Lyric Opera of Chicago and Houston Grand Opera, where he was also heard as the Gamekeeper in Rusalka. With the Dallas Opera, he created the role of Yab in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s Becoming Santa Claus. Mr. Jameson also sang Goro in Madama Butterfly with Los Angeles Opera, joined Pittsburgh Opera as Sellem in The Rake’s Progress, and closed the season performing the roles of Flute and Thisbe in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain.

Conductor Robert Wood founded UrbanArias in 2009. Under his guidance, the company has achieved national recognition as an innovator in the field of opera, and has given over 90 performances in Arlingon, DC, and New York City. He has conducted UrbanArias’ productions of Independence Eve (Boquiren), As One (Kaminsky), The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (Nyman), After Life, Josephine, and Glory Denied (Cipullo), Before Breakfast (Pasatieri), Blue Viola and The Filthy Habit (Hilliard), Paul’s Case (Spears), and Three Decembers (Heggie).

Maestro Wood made his debut with the San Francisco Opera in 2004 with Verdi’s La traviata, and has also conducted L’italiana in Algeri and several concerts there.. He recently conducted Orpheus and Euridice at the Vermont Opera Project, Three Decembers at Kentucky Opera, Die Fledermaus at Hawaii Opera Theater, and Roméo et Juliette and Carmen at Opera Colorado. Maestro Wood returns to Hawaii to conduct As One with the original cast in January 2018, and will conduct the same opera at Lyric Opera of Kansas City later that month.

Mr. Wood was appointed Conductor in Residence at the Minnesota Opera from 2006-2008, leading productions of L’italiana in Algeri, Le nozze di Figaro, La donna del lago, Rusalka, and Il barbiere di Siviglia. Mr. Wood has also conducted L’italiana in Algeri at Vancouver Opera, Die Entführung aus dem Serail for Hawaii Opera Theater, The Love for Three Oranges at Indiana University Opera Theater, La cenerentola at Opera New Jersey, and The Nutcracker for San Francisco Ballet. Mr. Wood’s collaborations with the Wolf Trap Opera Company include Le Comte Ory and Die Zauberflöte.


Jeffrey Dennis Smith is a composer, percussionist and conductor focusing primarily on music for the stage. He’s currently a Resident Composer with the EtM Con Edison Composer’s Residency administered by Exploring the Metropolis in New York City. From 2011-2015 he was a Resident Artist with American Lyric Theater where he wrote a one-act opera WHY IS EARTHA KITT TRYING TO KILL ME?: A LOVE STORY with librettist David Johnston. He was selected to participate in the 2015 New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Studio, and in 2013 he received a scholarship to study at the European American Musical Alliance in Paris. His musical LIGHTNING MAN was presented as part of the ANT Fest 2011 at Ars Nova and was recently a semi-finalist for the 2015 Eugene O’Neill National Music Theater Conference. Other recent projects include music for BOWES ACADEMY, a short film by director Greg Emetaz and MinorApocalypse Films, and a commission for the Iowa/Hungary Percussion Project. His piece TIGER DANCE was performed at the 2011 Percussive Arts Society International Convention and was recently released on an album by marimba soloist Scott Herring. Jeffrey has performed with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, New Hampshire Music Festival, Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, and the performance group Sonic Inertia. He was the first place winner of the 1996 Young Artist Competition of the Minnesota Orchestra. Jeffrey was a Visiting Guest Artist in percussion at the University of Northern Iowa in the fall of 2001. He holds degrees from Tisch School of the Arts, Northwestern University and the University of Northern Iowa.

David Johnston is an award-winning playwright, librettist and screenwriter. His plays have been performed and read at the New Group, Moving Arts, the Neighborhood Playhouse, HB Playwrights Foundation and Ensemble Studio Theatre. New York productions with Blue Coyote Theater Group include Coney, Conversations on Russian Literature, a new adaptation of The Oresteia (Time Out Best of 2007); Busted Jesus Comix (GLAAD nominee 2005, London, Los Angeles, DC Cap Fringe); A Bush Carol, or George Dubya and the Xmas of Evil, and Effie Jean in Tahiti (both with music and lyrics by Stephen Speights); Regional credits include The George Place (Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater). Mr. Johnston works frequently with director Kevin Newbury. Their collaborations include Candy and Dorothy (GLAAD winner 2006, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, Unexpected Stage), The Eumenides, and the award-winning short film Monsura is Waiting (Best Fantasy Film – Mexico International Film Festival, Best Cult Short – Queen City Film Festival). Publications include Saturday with Martin (Short Plays to Long Remember, TnT), The Eumenides (Playing With Canons, New York Theatre Experience, Inc.), Leaving Tangier (Samuel French), A Number on the Roman Calendar (Applause Theater Books), A Funeral Home in Brooklyn, and A Lesson (Smith & Kraus). Playwriting awards include Theater Oxford, Playwright Residency at the University of Cincinnati, a Berrilla Kerr Foundation Grant, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Arch & Bruce Brown Foundation. He wrote the libretto for the chamber opera, Why Is Eartha Kitt Trying to Kill Me? (American Lyric Theatre, composed by Jeffrey Dennis Smith, premieres July 2018 at Urban Arias) and Daughters of the Bloody Duke, commissioned by Washington National Opera for the American Opera Initiative at the Kennedy Center, composed by Jake Runestad. Mr. Johnston was graduated from the College of William and Mary and completed the Professional Workshop at Circle in the Square. He is a member of Actors Equity, Dramatists Guild, BMI Librettists Workshop, ASCAP, the Actors Studio’s Playwright/Director’s Workshop, and Charles Maryan’s Playwrights/Directors Workshop. He is an alumni artist of American Lyric Theatre. Current projects include the Czech Republic premiere of Busted Jesus Comix in Prague, May 2016, a new film directed by Kevin Newbury with music by Jimmy Lopez, Epiphany V, a new play-in-development, Pelicans, and a new opera commission for Houston Grand Opera, Monkey and Francine in the City of Tigers. Since 2012, David has been the Executive Director of Exploring the Metropolis, Inc., the only NYC-based nonprofit focused exclusively on workspace issues for performing artists, organizations and facilities.