VA Arts Festival, May 2017//Composer/Kristin Kuster//Librettist/Megan Levad//Set/Erhard Rom//Lights/Anshuman Bhatia//Costumes/Whitney Locher
It’s 1842. A lighthouse keeper and a romantic young woman embark on an arranged marriage at “edge of the reckoned world”, the lighthouse on Old Presque Isle, Michigan. Both have secretive, shame-filled histories – both allude to physical abuse, promiscuity, addiction; both are essentially lonely people in search of connection and healing. Through their stormy romance, they realize their relationship is too full of ghosts to exist in the present and their inability to speak their needs puts the nail in its coffin.
Symbolically speaking, ghosts are a photonegative, a presence of an absence, a co-existence of two states we find incompatible. Something is haunting or creepy if you do not see its cause – if you cannot see it coming. Historically, lighthouses, which illuminate one direction while leaving all the others in the dark, have harbored many ghosts. Carl Jung's theory of water as the unconscious makes the beacon of hope a natural nexus for the spirit world.
KEPT is a story of the unsaid, of suppression and of what can happen when you don’t talk about the elephant in the room. KEPT is a story of all the ghosts that haunt us: the ghosts of our pasts and of our unfulfilled expectations of each other and of ourselves.
The Juilliard School, April 2016
Set Designer/Grace Laubacher//Lighting Designer/Anshuman Bhatia//Costume Designer/Moria Clinton//Choreographer/Sean McKnight/Adam Cates
Photos by Richard Termine
A marriage of opposites, Die Zauberflöte doesn’t fit neatly inside any traditional boxes.
Vaudeville and spiritual quest, ethereal but familiar, populated with moms who are also queens and birds who are also men, spaces aglow with fires that instantaneously flood with water, Mozart’s Enlightenment masterpiece touches our hearts by presenting the panoply of human possibility.
I started with certain instincts about the piece, which I have loved since before I had the cognitive ability to know why I loved it. I knew I wanted it to be simple and elegant, in the same way as I hear the music. I also knew that I wanted the costumes to expose, rather than hide, the humanity of each character. I wanted to see the Queen and Sarastro struggle with their problems, to divest them of golden robes and mountainous headdresses. The designers and I took inspiration from the bird and planetary imagery in Joseph Cornell’s boxes, Joseph Campbell’s work on the hero’s journey, and Karl Jung’s alchemical images from Edward Edinger’s book Mystery of the Coniunctio. The space is loosely based on research about Masonic lodges in New England, and the natural elements we portray come from that region as well.
LA FINTA GIARDINERA
Juilliard, Fall 2017
Set Designer: Grace Laubacher//Costume Designer: Amanda Seymour//Lighting Designer: Anshuman Bhatia
Pacific Symphony / Feb 2017 //Set: Grace Laubacher//Lights: Anshuman Bhatia//Choreography: John Todd//Costumes: Katie Wilson
2017 is a perfect time to present Aida, an opera about how national politics influence the choices individuals are forced to make in order to maintain their integrity. Studying the piece, I was struck by the way Verdi shifts between epic and personal modes; royal processionals give way to intensely private meditations on homeland, duty, justice and jealousy.
Elemental, powerful, and gripping, Aida speaks to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. Anyone who has ever felt the personal and the political collide. Sometimes our greatest task in this world is to figure out how to share the sandbox.
Juilliard, February 2014
Conductor: Matt Aucoin//Set Designer: Grace Laubacher//Lighting Designer: Anshuman Bhatia//Choreographer: Adam Cates
This was a chamber version of Onegin, for 9 singers and a twelve-piece orchestra. We cut the act 1 women’s chorus, much of the interstitial music, and combined the characters of Mme Larina and Filipyevna. Following Tchaikovsky’s lead, we became fascinated by Tatiana and the story through her eyes.
At the beginning of the piece, we are introduced to a childlike, unconscious Tatyana. In her perception, edges are blurry, objects are undifferentiated, and the world is open to her, full of possibility. Fiction is her reality and her secret imagination is colorful and obsessive. We found a visual analogy to her fluid, epic internal life: the way the painters of Pushkin’s period (1800-1850)– specifically Turner, Caspar David Friedrich, and Constable– used light in their landscapes and skyscapes. These paintings magnify, “Romanticize”, and externalize emotions that are intimate, internal and private.
Romantic painting continues to inform 21st century visual expression. On Instagram, we ‘filter’ photographs to make them emotionally evocative. We manipulate their light and color to render a situation more dramatic than it actually is. Teenage Tatyana filters her world– seeing in Onegin the mysterious glow of depth and passion, and in Olga and Lensky a vintage idyllic love. Our production is based on this idea of filtering, to allow you to feel the dreamy quality of her interior life.
When Tatyana is rejected by Onegin, her world starts to change. When we meet her again, in Act 2, her internal world has developed edges and become defined. She has made clear choices and set up distinct boundaries. Her chosen path would seem to make rejecting Onegin’s declaration of love easy. But unfortunately, Tatyana’s mature choice is even more painful because it’s permanent and limiting, as all grown-up choices are. At the end of Onegin¸ it is not a character we are left to mourn, but Tatyana’s youth.
Photos by: Richard Termine
A MOUTH IS NOT FOR TALKING
Poulenc's La voix humaine at National Sawdust, March 2017. A duet between soprano Laura Bohn and pianist Mila Henry. A fight to the death for authenticity.
Projections designed by Hannah Wasileski.
Lights designed by Bruce Steinberg.
Photos by Jill Steinberg.
Otello at the Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra, July 2016
Photos by Yung-nine Wang王永年
THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA
Juilliard, February 2015//Set/Grace Laubacher//Lights/Anshuman Bhatia//Costumes/Sydney Maresca//Choreography/Adam Cates
Territory folk sing themselves into statehood as Laurie, a young woman, discovers the limits of her own desire. R+H's classic about the boundaries we create and the faith it takes to become someone.
Charlottesville Opera, July 2017
Costumes by Jessa-Raye Court
Lights by James McHugh
Photos by Janet Moore-Coll
Laurie -- Jennifer Zetlan
Curly -- Nathan Granner
Jud -- Tobias Greenhalgh
Aunt Eller -- Diana DiMarzio
Ado Annie -- Sharin Apostolou
Will Parker -- Isaac Bray
Ali Hakim -- Scott Thomas
IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA
Beginning of Ecco Ridente
THE CLASSICAL STYLE
An Opera (of Sorts) at The Ojai Festival and Cal Performances Berkeley (June 2014) and Carnegie Hall (December 2014.)
Music by Steven Stucky
Libretto by Jeremy Denk
2014 Ojai Music Festival - World Premiere of "The Classical Style: An Opera (Of Sorts)"
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was born in 1876 to a German painter father, and Venetian mother, and despite spending most of his adult life in Germany, considered himself an Italian composer. At 19, he hyphenated his own last name, one suspects, due to that pride in his heritage. It is no surprise then, that his first successes as a composer were his musicalizations of the plays of Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793.) Goldoni, a Venetian and a great writer of the Italian commedia dell’arte, pioneered changes in the form. At the beginning of his career, all of the characters were masked and outlandish. By the end, none of the actors wore masks, and one couldn’t distinguish the stock commedia characters from the members of the bourgeoisie that Goldoni had created. Goldoni was fascinated with the minutiae of these people's lives, and explored their emotions with a prolific pen; Le Donne Curiose was written and performed in 1753 - a year after his similarly named but distinct Le Donne Gelose. Wolf-Ferrari’s rise in the Verismo movement cemented these thematic similarities. His operas were about the real life and emotions of a group of Italians. In Le Donne Curiose (1903), the commedia characters set the Venetian tone, but blend in with the bourgeois people (with their bourgeois concerns) that are at the center of Wolf-Ferrari’s opera.
Goldoni, like many great playwrights, was a radical and championed social equality through comedy– his servants are always craftier than their masters, the women often smarter than the men they took up with. The fundamental story of Le Donne Curiose is as old as Adam and Eve. Women get curious about their loved ones' lives, and in the process, destroy something (and some might argue, begin to build something much greater -- certainly more real.) The designers and I resisted relegating this piece to the past, intent on making the male-female relationships real and not giving into potential over-the-top silliness of the characters. Our Venetian Men’s Club is contemporary and very alive—just check the Man Cave aisle of your local supermarket.
The other strain of the piece that captivated us was the unlimited capability of the human imagination. Each idea the women come up with for what the men could possibly be doing is more ridiculous than the last – gambling, whoring, searching for the philosopher’s stone? That made Grace Laubacher, the set designer, and I wonder about the possibilities of occlusion and perspective. What if we put the audience in the position of the Donne--- always trying to discover what lies behind, underneath, and at the heart of the issue.
Beatrice tries to shake the truth out of Eleonora. Are the men doing Alchemy?
Columbina "accidentally" spills coffee on Ottavio's jacket. On SL we see the action under a magnifying glass.
Pantalone yells at Arlecchino.
Florindo stands outside of Rosaura's window.
Pantalone and Arlecchino admire the gondolas in "blessed Venezia".
The Donne spy on the Men's club dinner from the skylight on the roof.
Rosaura apologizes to Florindo. Columbina seduces Arlecchino, and Pantalone bemoans the women's admission to the club.
SCHOOLED (or m. moliere's the learned ladies)
February 2009 @ different apartments around NYC
This February, SCHOOLED gets right to the heart of Moliere's "The Learned Ladies" by inviting a small audience into a chic New York apartment over Valentine's Day weekend. Inspired by the early films of Brigitte Bardot, French pop music of the 1960s and Parisian Salon culture, SCHOOLED will be plop art: created entirely in a rehearsal room and 'plopped' in a different apartment for each performance. Equal parts voyeuristic salon party and hilarious satire, SCHOOLED is the story of a family's struggle to save themselves, and their home, from their warring ideals.
Founded in fall 2008, art.party.theater.company strives to create accessible, generous, physical performance with a methodology based on community building, spatial sensitivity, and irreverence.
SCHOOLED/Duchess in the Dark
Summer 2010 @ Bryant Park
From NY Daily News:
A mysterious 8-by-8-foot shiny box is coming to Bryant Park next week - and a star may be inside.
The folks at art.party.theater.company are betting New Yorkers will line up to meet a secret celebrity inside the Mylar-covered "Starbox" on the park's fountain terrace, starting Friday.
"We invite lots of speculation about who the celebrity will be," said Artistic Director Mary Birnbaum, hinting, "It's someone probably everybody knows and someone that probably everyone likes."
Birnbaum and her cohorts hope to create a celeb-crazed stampede - about 30 performers will play scripted agents, personal assistants and star-struck fans to build the hype. There will be a red carpet. And velvet ropes.
While organizers promise there will be a real celeb inside the box, they won't guarantee which list the star is on: A, B, C, D or even Z.
Could it be Beyoncé? Justin Bieber? Or someone less, um, current, like Scott Baio? Those behind the box already are building buzz, tweeting with tongue in cheek.
"Awesome! I heard that @bryantparknyc is hosting #starbox July 2-3/30 and August 6/13! I saw it in Sydney last year and met Hugh Jackman!"
And: "woke up late. but i hear that lindsay has requested only blue pretzel m&m's for her stay inside #starbox."
The performance is about hope as much as it is about hype, say members of the troupe, who also invaded Bryant Park last summer to play croquet in bright white outfits and quote the park's poet namesake, William Cullen Bryant.
And even if it is all smoke and mirrors, organizers have devised a way to keep people coming to the Starbox, which will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. every Friday through Aug. 13.
Beginning July 23, the "starbox" will be inhabited by a secret celebrity, and visitors are invited to come take a peek at who's inside.
Artistic Director Mary Birnbaum said, "We invite lots of speculation about who the celebrity will be. It's someone probably everybody knows and someone that probably everyone likes."
Birnbaum would not comment on exactly how big a star the box dweller will be.
Before guests enter the box, they'll be required to sign a non-disclosure release.
From NY Mag:
If the performance troupe art.party.theater.company is to be believed, an eight-by-eight-foot box will show up in Bryant Park this Friday, and in that box will be a famous person. This famous person will sit in the box from between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., on every Friday from July 23 to August 13, and will be viewable to all those who show up and are willing to sign a nondisclosure form. As we see it, inside the box will either be: (a) an individual who is technically famous but in no way fulfills the layperson's understanding of the word celebrity, (b) the punch line to a potentially amusing/terrible joke, or (c) David Blaine (please don't be David Blaine). Okay, care to guess which "celebrity" may in fact be in the box?
Starbox in Bryant Park NYC who's in there?
BABY NO MORE TIMES
Written & Developed by MARY BIRNBAUM, MELISSA LUSK & CAROLINE V. MCGRAW
Female pop sensation BABYNOMORETIMES returns to NYC for a sold-out concert to celebrate their latest album skyrocketing to #1 on the charts. Join them for an evening of sexy, raucous girl power as the divas fill the 90's pop formula with the real stuff in American women's hearts and minds (pay inequality, body shame, the blessing of the vibrator). Bring your best friends and your best whistle-tone; this show will make you twerk and think.