The Indie Opera Podcast is releasing part two of an episode that was recorded in the Spring of 2020 that got derailed during the start of the pandemic and features all the composer/librettist teams to receive the 2020 OPERA America Discovery Grants which support composers who identify as women in the development of new operatic works and the advancement of their careers in the opera industry.
Peter, Brooke, and Walker welcome the three remaining composers with their librettists and play video samples of their operas with musicologist Greg Moomjy’s music notes.
Justine Chen, composer, and Stephanie Fleischman, librettist, talk about delving into Justine’s multifaceted Taiwanese family history for Seven Sisters, which follows the form of a formal Taiwanese funeral. Melissa Dunphy and Jacqueline Goldfinger, composer and librettist, share the macabre origin of Alice Tierney: an unsolved 1880 murder in Philadelphia on Melissa’s property, and discuss the novel way they are choosing to tell the story. Kirsten Volness, Susan Werbe, and Kate Holland, composer and librettists of Letters That You Will Not Get: Women’s Voices from the Great War, discuss the work’s fascinating journey from song cycle to opera, and how they set to music the real-life accounts of multiple women on all sides of the conflict who lived through World War I.
- Justine F. Chen, composer & Stephanie Fleischmann, librettist – Seven Sisters
- Melissa Dunphy, composer & Jacqueline Goldfinger, librettist – Alice Tierney
- Kirsten Volness, composer & Susan Werbe/Kate Holland, co-librettists – Letters That You Will Not Get: Women’s Voices from the Great War
- Justine & Stephanie met via American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program.
- How they found their story for the new opera:
- Composer Justine F. Chen’s mother was born in Taiwan, the oldest of seven sisters, daughters of a complicated matriarch, a businesswoman/politician whose power and influence She only truly understood upon attending my grandmother’s funeral in Taiwan in 2018. Her mother and her sisters, known in their family as numbers instead of by their given names, are an embattled lot, who came of age in a culture that demeans and disempowers women, stripping them of their voices. Chen’s grandmother raised her daughters without warmth, manipulating them with money and shame. As a 2nd-generation American who barely speaks pidgin Mandarin, Chen’s attempts to understand these dynamics have been stymied by mistranslation and a cultural chasm that privileges silence.
- Stephanie has previous experience creating operatic works based on real-life stories.
- A Long Walk Home — Stephanie and composer Jeremy Howard Beck received a commission from ALT for create this opera. It is based on the memoir The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows by Iraq War veteran Brian Castner. It is a deeply personal exploration of a soldier’s return from Iraq, where he served as an officer in an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. Upon returning from the war, Brian battles what he calls “the Crazy” as he struggles to reintegrate into his family life.
- Stephanie also interviewed members of Brian’s unit and his family.
- The world premiere was produced by Opera Saratoga in 2015.
- After the Storm—Stephanie and composer David Hanlon were commissioned by Houston Grand Opera to create and opera about the community of Galveston Texas and their experiences with Hurricanes.
- Houston Grand Opera & Galveston 1894 Grand Opera House gave this opera it’s world premiere in 2016
- A Space of Sky—Stephanie and composer Jeremy Howard Beck have been commissioned to create an opera about homelessness in Houston, TX.
- HGO intend to present the world premiere in 2022.
- The Seven Sisters libretto is weaving in the myth of the Pleiades and the constellation whose 3rd star exhibits a disappearing act as if it is being chased by Orion.
- Opera Synopsis:
- In this 90-minute opera, the ritual of a formal Taiwanese funeral—the site of the sisters’ squabbles over largesse and power—frames a series of flashbacks centering on sister #3, who was given away at birth; juxtaposed with a narrative focused on sister #1—the nurturer, who sponsored her siblings’ emigration to the U.S.A.
- Harnessing sharp humor and a dark lyricism, SEVEN SISTERS looks at hard truths via a boldly theatrical, prismatic form. As the funeral unfolds, Philomena, a second-generation Taiwanese-American, grapples with the fallout of her aunts’ animosities, struggling to understand what’s expected of her, the strange ways this family expresses love. Reliving her struggle to connect with her mother (#1), she discovers how she can move beyond this legacy, finding redemption through music. Interspersed between funeral and flashback is the myth of the Pleiades, the constellation known as Seven Sisters, which has given rise to legends across cultures, here reimagined.
CLIP 1: Love Duet for Alan & Christopher from The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing
- This excerpt is a scene with Alan and his boyhood crush, Christopher Morcom. American Lyric Theater presents InsightALT, Merkin Concert Hall, January 12, 2017
- Justine F. Chen, composer
- David Simpatico, librettist
- Commissioned by American Lyric Theater in 2012 to commemorate the Turing Centennial.
- Performance Credits:
- Alan Turing – Jonathan Michie, baritone
- Christopher Morcom – Andrew Bidlack, tenor
- Members of MasterVoices
- Conductor & Chorus Master – Lidiya Yankovskaya
- Pianist – Djordje Nesic
- Opera Synopsis:
- The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing is a two-act opera inspired by the life of the groundbreaking computer scientist, Alan Turing. After saving England in World War II by cracking the Nazi U-boat code, he was found guilty of gross indecency for a homosexual relationship and was chemically castrated. Two years later, Turing was found poisoned near a cyanide-laced apple with a bite taken from it. The apple is believed to be a reference to his obsession with Disney’s Snow White, and an image rumored to be the inspiration for Apple Computer’s logo. Turing’s mysterious death was labeled a suicide – but there are many other theories. The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing is a historic-fantasia on Turing’s life. “Our opera imagines the man inside the legend of Alan Turing: his unique perspective of the universe, his unabashed view of his homosexuality, and his impact on the future of civilization. This piece is relevant today not only for restoring Turing to our collective memory, but also because the institutionalized homophobic attitudes faced by Turing continue to threaten the lives of gay men and women across the globe. In fact, this opera is not merely about homophobia, it is about prejudice. This opera celebrates the power of memory, creativity, and the potential within us all to live fully and truly.”
CLIP 2: Scene 3, hut 8 (Clip will be shared at the end of episode.)
- It’s WW2: everything in computer scientist Alan Turing’s life is going right. As lead cryptographer for the British, he’s made a machine that can sporadically decrypt encoded Nazi transmissions; he & fellow cryptographers enjoy the work. The emotion of wartime joy conjures the Andrews Sisters, who inspire the Crypts’ musical style. The orchestra mimics the industrial swishes, clicks, and bangs of Turing’s code-breaking machine. Socially awkward Turing –more comfortable w/ machines – becomes suave and confident as he imagines beating the German’s Enigma machine.
- Performance credits:
- Alan Turing – Jonathan Michie, Baritone
- Arnold – Arnold Livingston Geis, Tenor
- Wrens/Crypts: Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble of Northwestern
- Conductor: Lidiya Yankovskaya
- Chicago Opera Theater Orchestra
- The podcast has been granted unofficial permission by Chicago’s local AFM to allow two excerpts.
- Indie Opera Podcast would like to thank Ashley Magnus, the Edlis Neeson General Director and Lidiya Yankovskaya, the Staley Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater for their efforts to gain permission for use of this recording clip.
Greg Moomjy Note about the Score
- The opening chorus of Alan Turing does a great job of evoking the ethos of the digital world of computers. This is something that not every modern opera that deals with the internet or the digital age does successfully. This piece is full of local color that serves to place the audience squarely in the 1930s, using music composed in imitation of radio jingles. The orchestration of the baritone aria is evocative and impressionistic in a way that recalls Ravel.
Chuck’s Notes about Seven Sisters
- The experiences that Justine Chen has had trying to understand her families’ traditions and behaviors that are being reminded Chuck of the recent movie
- The Farewell
- Lulu Wang – director/screenwriter
- Awkwafina – lead actress (stand in for Lulu in the movie)
- The movie shines a light on the differences in traditions between the Chinese American family and their Chines relatives.
- Justine & Stephanie said they had studied this movie to see how it told its story.
- Chuck mentioned his own experiences trying to understand and relate to the traditions and behaviors of both his Sicilian and Transylvanian ancestors.
The OPERA America Discovery Grant is the first grant that Melissa Dunphy has ever won.
- Both she and Jacqueline work in Philadelphia theater, but not together until this new opera.
- Jacqueline was already a big fan of Melissa’s work as a sound designer for plays, as Melissa was a huge fan of Jacqueline’s plays.
- Jacqueline’s plays have made The Killroys, The list 2019 – Babel and Honorable mention 2015 & 2016 – The Arsonists.
The Boghouse podcast
- A podcast about the time Matt and Melissa bought a magic theater from a pedophile, discovered buried treasure in two covered over privy pits, and became accidental amateur archaeologists.
Genesis of the opera
- A few years ago while researching the history of the building they own in Center City Philadelphia, Melissa uncovered newspaper reports of a death that occurred on a cold January night in 1880: a 45-year-old “dissipated woman” (i.e. sex worker) named Alice Tierney was found strangled and strung up on a fence in the rear of my property.
- Shockingly, Tierney’s death was written up by the police and the press at the time as an accident and never investigated, although it seems likely from the details that she was murdered. (This was 8 years before the Jack The Ripper murders happened in London.)
- As soon as Melissa put this together, she made a pledge to find a way to tell Alice’s story, which is especially resonant in the 21st century, when our culture is actively grappling with the ways in which women’s stories of trauma are silenced or minimized, especially those of vulnerable women such as poor immigrants.
- The libretto story-telling style will be very Rashomon-esque.
- The first hitch Melissa ran into when considering telling Alice’s story is that, other than the reports of her death, there’s little written information about her. What we can learn about her is dimmed by the passage of 140 years and hampered by the general lack of records about anyone who lived on the fringes of society.
- She then sat down with playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger, a dear friend of hers, and they came up with the idea to tell Alice’s story as an opera from the perspectives of four modern-day grad student archaeologists who are running into exactly these issues piecing together Alice Tierney’s life while excavating the place where she lived and died.
- The use of four different perspectives leads to an inevitable problem: historical narratives say just as much about the person telling the story as the story that is being told. What assumptions, experiences, prejudices, knowledge, and personalities do these four archaeologists bring to their research, which affect the way they see and conceive of Alice Tierney?
- Attempting to answer this question delves into big issues like truth, justice, and equality—and, again, this question is something that has become increasingly important in the 21st century. For hundreds of years, American history (and indeed, the entire genre of opera) has been primarily told by one demographic and centers that demographic by default.
- In recent years, there has been a cultural movement to create a fuller picture of our society by including the stories and perspectives often ignored: those of poor people, enslaved people, people of color, women … basically everyone who wasn’t allowed to vote in the first century-plus of our nation’s existence.
- So despite the apparent focus on the sordid death of a 19th-century sex worker (a very operatic trope!), Alice Tierney is actually an opportunity to explore the ways that different storytellers shape the story being told, a very current issue. This framing also gives Melissa the opportunity to have at least four different singers portraying Alice Tierney in four very different ways, which she’s very excited about.
The 1619 Project
- is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html
Oberlin Opera Commissioning Program
- As of April 29, 2020 Melissa Dunphy has been named the next composer in residence.
- Over the next two-plus years, Dunphy and librettist Jacqueline Goldfinger will develop their opera Alice Tierney through interactive experiences with Oberlin students, culminating in a world premiere at Oberlin in January 2023.
- As part of their two year residency they will engage in workshops with conservatory students in addition to likely interactions with creative writing, theater, and other departments in the College of Arts and Sciences.
- Director/Associate Professor – Christopher Mirto
- Dramaturg – Julia Bumke
- Launched in 2019 through the generosity of Elizabeth and Justus ’71 Schlichting, the Oberlin Opera Commissioning Program supports the development and world-premiere staging of new operas by living composers. Each opera is delivered from conception to completion through extensive on-campus experiences at Oberlin.
CLIP: Parts 3 & 4 excerpts from Tesla’s Pigeon
- Part 3 text from G. S. Viereck, “Queen Lilith” from The Candle and the Flame
- I hunted thee where the Ibis nods,
- From the Brocken’s crag to the Upas Tree,
- My lonesomeness was as great as God’s,
- When He cast us out from His Holy See,
- But now at the last thou art come to me!
- Part 4 text from Goethe, Faust (Ariel)
- When the spring blossoms rain down,
- When the fields’ green benediction shines on us,
- I will hurry to help you where I can.
- I hover o’erhead in airy circles,
- quieten your heart’s grim trouble,
- Pull out the burning, bitter arrows,
- Cleanse your mind of sorrow.
- I lay your head on a cool pillow,
- Bathe you in milk of amnesia,
- Loosen your stiffened limbs
- And return you to the holy light.
- A staunch believer in the connection between his genius and sexual abstinence, Tesla shunned women, choosing instead to feed and care for street pigeons in his hotel room at the New Yorker. His closest friend was a white dove that visited him every day at his hotel room window.
- Tesla’s Pigeon is sung from the dove’s perspective in these final moments, and explores parallels between the relationship between Tesla and his pigeon, and Prospero and Ariel in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
- Performance credits (2013):
- Jessica Lennick, soprano
- Kensho Watanabe, conductor
- The Curtis Symphony Orchestra
Greg Moomjy Note about Tesla’s Pigeon
- The excerpt from Tesla’s Pigeon reminds me of something Renata Scotto once said about mad scenes: that the quick shifts in mood are what makes them fun to play. Dunphy’s music can really set a mood. In this case, the opening anger was extremely palpable. But what really drew me in was the abrupt shift to melancholy, which dominated the latter part of the piece.
Chuck’s Notes about Tesla’s Pigeon
- I hear echoes of some of my favorite opera & movie score composers in this excerpt from Tesla’s Pigeon, Erich Korngold, Benjamin Britten and Bernard Hermann. The dramatic juxtapositions of colors and timbres in the orchestration both supports and underlines the transparent and yet highly melodic setting of the text. The melancholic section has a distinct Britten vocal feel.
LETTERS THAT YOU WILL NOT GET – Women’s Voices from the Great War:
- This piece began as a song cycle, commissioned by Susan Werbe; written for Opera Cowgirls and Hotel Elefant for three sopranos, mezzo-soprano, violin, and cello receiving its world premiere in 2018
- The original 9 song cycle was commissioned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
- To create the new opera, the collaborators have decided to break open the cycle, add more characters/letters and two more mezzo-sopranos. The instrumentation will now be for string quartet.
- Opera Cowgirls is being joined by American Opera Projects to support the development of the opera.
- Kate Holland will direct the premiere production.
- Susan was introduced by her daughter Kate Holland to
- Kaitlin McKechnie, one of the founders of the band
- Opera Cowgirls
- Kaitlin then introduced Susan & Kate to Kirsten Volness
- Kirsten sets a libretto by Susan Werbe and Kate Holland, featuring a collection of letters and poetry, it gives voice to American, European, Asian, African and Caribbean women affected by WWI through a series of vignettes that share their responses to the war—from enthusiasm to resignation; support to opposition; the war’s beginning to its end.
- Combining haunting melodies of the past, the contemporary rhythms of the present, and excerpts from women’s writings on all sides of the conflict in which over 37 million people died and many more were wounded. Letters tells the story of the Great War as experienced by the women who lived through it.
- The opera may receive a site-specific staging where the audience shifts rooms/spaces with the performers.
Creating the story arc and characters:
Since this opera is all based on historical women’s writings the collaborators are creating character archetypes. All four original female characters have been kept and two more characters have been created. The two new characters will represent women from India, Indonesia and some African countries.
CLIP 1: Song #6 – Right and Left
- Excerpted from the German artist, Kathe Kollwitz’s diary who was anti-war. She is answering her son who has told her he intends to enlist.
- Kathe Kollwitz diary excerpt translated by Henriette Kets de Vries for the Smith College Museum of Art exhibition; Mother’s Arms Kathe Kollwitz’s Women and War.
CLIP 2: Song #3 – Women of Europe
- A call to arms for women all over the world, excerpted from a speech given by the Women’s Peace Party, 1915 (German).
- World premiere performance by Opera Cowgirls and Hotel Elefant – The Crypt, Church of the Intercession, Harlem NYC, December 1, 2018
- Jessica Sandidge, soprano
- Andie Tanning Springer, violin
- Meaghan Burke, cello
Greg Moomjy Note about the Score
- The interesting thing about both excerpts here is the use of drones and repetitive rhythmic figures. Not only do they provide tension, but they also provide brief snippets of a kind of haunting, almost-melody which draws the listeners in. It is a very unique way of composing for the theater, but it definitely has a strong dramatic connection to the text. At times it was evocative of Eastern music, particularly the Ottoman Empire—which is on point because the Ottomans were major players in World War I. It is also great that Volness is collaborating with World War I historians for the libretto.
- Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, MC was an English poet and soldier.
- He is regarded by many as the greatest poet of the First World War, known for his verse about the horrors of trench and gas warfare.
- He was strongly dismissive of many pro-war British female authors, especially Jessie Pope.
- Jessie Pope’s war poetry was originally published in The Daily Mail; it encouraged enlistment and the handing of a white feather to youths who would not join the colours. Nowadays, this poetry is considered to be jingoistic, consisting of simple rhythms and rhyme schemes, with extensive use of rhetorical questions to persuade (and sometimes pressure) young men to join the war.
- Her treatment of the subject is markedly in stark contrast to the anti-war stance of soldier poets such as Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Many of these men found her work distasteful, Owen in particular.
- His poem Dulce et Decorum Est was a direct response to her writing, originally dedicated “To Jessie Pope etc.”. A later draft amended this as “To a certain Poetess”, later being removed completely to turn the poem into a general reproach on anyone sympathetic to the war.
What’s up with and where are our Artists during this Covid-19 shutdown?
Justine F. Chen
- She and her family moved to Connecticut in July, 2019. Both she and her husband teach at Pierrepont School. They have identical twin five year old boys. This year has been about adjusting to not living in NYC.
- They are doing their best to teach their sons what “social distancing” means.
- She is at her house in Columbiaville, NY situated in the Hudson Valley.
- Her opera Poppae with composer Michael Hersch was commissioned by Wien Moderne for the soprano, Ah Young Hong.
- It is to receive its world premiere November 2020 at the Odeon/Wien Moderne, Vienna.
- She is in her home in Philadelphia with nine tubs of excavated artifacts to clean and catalogue.
- Her mother escaped from mainland China to Australia when she was a young woman.
- All of the lessons her mother tried to teach her growing up are coming back to her now during lockdown.
- She is at home with her husband, a daughter aged 21 – out of work and twin 7 year old girls.
- Having an interesting time home-schooling the very competitive twins who require separate lesson times.
- She is at her home in Portland, OR and it is beautiful weather there.
- At home in Newton, MA.
- Enjoying watching American Repertory Theater’s online programming.
- Lunch with Lundsford – A.R.T.’s weekly lunchtime webinar series hosted by Artistic Producer Mark Lunsford.
- At home in Brooklyn, NY with her partner and their 13 month old.
- She is working full-time from home for a tech company. Her partner is a film-maker out of work due to the shutdown.
- They are working in shifts to take care of their baby.
Composer & Librettists Short Biographies
BIO: Justine F. Chen
The “propulsive, emotionally resonant” music of native New Yorker Justine F. Chen has been commissioned and presented by New York City Opera, New York City Ballet, The Juilliard School, NYFOS, Tapestry Opera, JACK Quartet, Opera America, and Chicago Opera Theater.
Her first opera, The Maiden Tower, was presented at Juilliard, NYCO’s VOX 2006 Showcase, and by Chants Libres. Her opera Jeanne, featured in VOX 2008, was described as “lyrical, atmospheric… striking… Throughout, Ms. Chen balances despair and humor.” (NYTimes)
She is working on a full-length opera commissioned by American Lyric Theater on the life of computer-scientist Alan Turing, an evening-length choral work for The Crossing, and a chamber opera with Stephanie Fleischmann. Recent honors and activities include grants from the Jerome Fund for New Music, Frances Goelet Charitable Lead Trust, and Opera America. She has been featured on WNYC’s Studio 360, and WBAI.
She received her DMA in composition from Juilliard, where she also earned her Bachelors and Masters in violin and composition. Passionate about education, Chen created the curriculum and heads the music department at Pierrepont School in Connecticut.
BIO: Stephanie Fleischmann
is a librettist and playwright whose texts serve as blueprints for intricate three-dimensional sonic and visual worlds. Her “lyrical monologues” (New York Times), “smart” opera libretti (Opera News), plays, and music-theater works have been performed internationally and across the United States.
Upcoming: POPPAEA (Michael Hersch; Wien Moderne); IN A GROVE (Christopher Cerrone; Pittsburgh & LA Opera); DIDO (Melinda Wagner; for Dawn Upshaw/Brentano Quartet); THE PIGEON KEEPER (David Hanlon; Santa Fe Opera); A SPACE OF SKY (Jeremy Howard Beck; Houston Grand Opera). Premiered: THE LONG WALK (Opera Saratoga, Utah Opera); AFTER THE STORM (HGOco). Current collaborations: Julia Adolphe, Peter Knell, Justine Chen.
Selected plays/music-theater: SOUND HOUSE (the Flea), RED FLY/BLUE BOTTLE (Christina Campanella, Mallory Catlett; HERE, EMPAC, Noorderzon), THE SECRET LIVES OF COATS (Red Eye), THE SWEETEST LIFE (New Victory LabWorks). And venues including: Roundhouse Studio (London), Exit Festival (France), MASS MoCA, Birmingham Rep (UK), Synchronicity, Roadworks, New Georges, Here, Soho Rep, Mabou Mines/SUITE.
Grants/Fellowships: Toulmin Foundation, Venturous Theater Fund, Howard Foundation, 3 NYSCA Individual Artist Commissions, NEA Opera/Music-Theater, 3 NYFA Fellowships, Tennessee Williams Fellowship, Frederick Loewe and Whitfield Cook Awards, MAPFund, Opera America repertoire development grant, NY State Music Fund, Greenwall Foundation, Mid-Atlantic Fund. Residencies: New Dramatists; New Georges Audrey; American Lyric Theater. http://www.stephaniefleischmann.com
BIO: Melissa Dunphy
is a composer who specializes in political, vocal, and theatrical music. She first came to national attention when her large-scale work the Gonzales Cantata was featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, National Review, Fox News, and on The Rachel Maddow Show, and was staged by American Opera Theater in a sold-out run. Other notable works include the song cycle “Tesla’s Pigeon,” which won first place in the NATS Art Song Composition Award, and choral work “What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach?” which won the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers Competition and has been performed by ensembles including Chanticleer and Cantus. Dunphy has been composer-in-residence for the Immaculata Symphony Orchestra, Volti, and the St. Louis Chamber Chorus. In addition to her concert and choral music, she is a Barrymore Award-nominated theater composer and sound designer and is Director of Music Composition for the O’Neill National Puppetry Conference. Dunphy has a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.M. from West Chester University. www.melissadunphy.com
BIO: Jacqueline Goldfinger
(she/they) is a poet, playwright, and librettist. She’s won the Yale Drama Prize, Smith Prize, Generations Award, and Barrymore Award. Her poetry-play, Bottle Fly, is published by Yale Press and was a finalist at the International Book Awards. Her plays have been on The Kilroy’s List. Her stage work has been developed and/or produced by theaters including: The National Theatre/London, The Kennedy Center, Oberlin Opera, AMUSE Choral Singers (NYC), Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Unicorn Theatre, Disquiet/Lisbon, The Court Theatre/New Zealand, Kansas City Rep, Perseverance Theatre, Seattle Public, and Manhattan Theatre Works. She is currently commissioned by Oberlin Opera, The Kennedy Center, Florida Studio Theatre and Wilma Theatre. Represented by The Gurman Agency. MFA University of Southern California, BA Agnes Scott College.
BIO: Kirsten Volness
is an electro/acoustic composer and pianist whose music is inspired by nature, myth, science, spirituality, and environmental and sociopolitical issues. She has received commissions from BMI Foundation, ASCAP/SEAMUS, World Future Council Foundation, and Third Practice Electroacoustic Festival, writing new works for Hotel Elefant, NOW Ensemble, Transient Canvas, Ann Arbor Symphony, and Experiential Orchestra. She performs with NYC-based Hotel Elefant and Providence-based Verdant Vibes, a new music ensemble and concert series she co-founded in 2015. Recipient of the MacColl Johnson and RISCA Fellowships in Music Composition, Kirsten was 2017 composer-in-residence at the Music Mansion creating the First Fridays concert series, and served on the board of directors as Secretary. She collaborates with Meridian Project on multimedia performances exploring astrophysics, writes and performs operas with homeless advocacy group Tenderloin Opera Company, and is an affiliate artist of Sleeping Weazel theatre company. Her first opera Letters That You Will Not Get: Women’s Voices From The Great War is in development with The American Opera Project with support from a 2020 OPERA America Discovery Grant. She taught privately and at the University of Rhode Island before joining the faculty at Reed College as Visiting Assistant Professor of Music.
BIO: Susan Werbe
is an independent scholar who focuses on the social and cultural history of WWI, working with artists to create performance pieces that highlight individuals’ responses to the war, using original writings from men and women from both sides of the conflict. Susan commissioned a dance piece based on a war poem, performed at a Boston arts festival. She was creator, executive producer and dramaturg for The Great War Theatre Project: Messengers of a Bitter Truth, performed in the USA and UK. She has served as presenter or panelist at WWI conferences at the National World War I Museum, USA, and the University of Kent, UK; and a conference on War, Literature & the Art, USAF Academy. She was a panelist on Visual Memory in a Time of Endless War, companion to an art installation Paul Emmanuel: Remnants, hosted by Boston University. She holds a BA in English Literature from New York University and a Master’s in Education from the University of Massachusetts.
BIO: Kate Holland
trained in London as an actor and director at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. She has performed in New York, regional theatre, and international arts festivals. Directing credits include: Little Wing as part of a Field Artist Residency, Cloud 9 at the Drayton Theatre in London, Henry VI Part 1 at the Fall Festival of Shakespeare, Bongani in FringeNYC 2011, and the solo show The Actual Dance starring Sam Simon. Kate has produced and directed June and Nancy in FringeNYC 2012, and Clear Cold Place and A Bright Room Called Day with Vilde Chaya Collective. Kate co-wrote No Provenance, a new play about love, loss and art, with longtime collaborator and award-winning playwright Caroline Prugh, which was presented at FringeNYC 2014. Kate co-wrote the script for and directed the short film No Monsters in Berlin which featured Berlin-based Syrian refugees as members of the cast and crew. The film was awarded the Jury Prize at the Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase as well as the Best Short Film at the 2017 New York Short Film Festival. Kate is currently working on the script for a feature-length version of No Monsters. In December 2018, Kate directed the premiere performance of Letters That You Will Not Get: Women’s Voices from the Great War.