My June: a new Opera, an Ibsen Play, 3 Concerts and an Important Celebration

I am very excited for the busy month ahead. I’ll be working on four varied projects with many diversely creative artists, and am glad to be back on the East coast after spending most of the year in California.

OPERA: June 3 – 9, 2013 @ The Watermill Center, Watermill, NY. I’ll be in New York rehearsing a new contemporary opera called Thumbprint created by composer Kamala Shankaram and playwright/librettist Susan Yanowitz, at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center on Long Island.

IBSEN: June 10 – 29, 2013 @ University of Scranton, PA. I join rehearsals a week late as Peer Gynt in a continuing workshop of the Ibsen play in Scranton, PA. The Peer Gynt Project, co-directed by Grace Zandarski and Felix Ivanov, is part of a new artistic summer residency that was dreamed up by Grace, and is sponsored by the University of Scranton as a collaboration amongst its students, faculty, and outside arts professionals. Last summer, we worked on the first three acts, and this year we are working the rest of the piece.

CONCERT 1: June 10, 2013 @ The Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC (9:30PM). I am excited to return back to NYC to sing a concert celebrating the music of a fantastic theatre composer Rona Siddiqui. Entitled Songs Rona Wrote, The Music of Rona Siddiqui, the evening features some of the most talented Broadway actor/singers.

CONCERTS 2 & 3: June 14, 2013 @ The Stone, NYC (8 & 10PM). I have two Klezmer/Bhangra concerts in NYC (The Stone is at Ave. C and 2nd Street, Manhattan), with Frank London, Deep Singh and the rest of the crew from the Washington Jewish Music Fest concert we did a few weeks ago in DC. The two sets are part of Frank London’s week long residency at The Stone, which is under the Artistic direction of John Zorn.

CELEBRATION: June 15, 2013 @ The Fairmont Hotel, Pittsburgh, PA. I am proud to be at my alma mater – Carnegie Mellon University – to celebrate the successful completion of the Inspire Innovation Campaign which, amongst many other things, has impacted CMU’s global visibilty by raising over $1 billion for the university endowment. For More Information on Carnegie Mellon University go to :

After the celebrations, I am back to Scranton for the last two weeks of the Peer Gynt Project.


 THUMBPRINT – (a new contemporary opera)  

June 3 – 9th @ The Watermill Center, 39 Watermill Town Road, Water Mill, New York.

(Public open rehearsal on June 9th, 6 – 7 PM)

I am excited to be doing my first contemporary opera – theatre work, THUMBPRINT by Indian-American composer Kamala Sankaram and playwright/librettist Susan Yankowitz,  from June 3rd – June 9th at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center in Long Island.  Using a mix Indian Classical and European Opera styles, Thumbprint is a new piece inspired by the experiences of Mukhtar Mai, a young illiterate peasant who was gang-raped as retribution for an alleged ‘honor’ crime by her little brother and who became the first woman in Pakistan to bring her rapists to justice. When offered a settlement, she instead asked for a school where girls in her village could be educated so that they, unlike her, would never know the humiliation of having to sign their names with a thumbprint. Despite government opposition and repeated death threats, she has now become an international voice for human rights. Mukhtar’s remarkable story is at the heart of this boundary-leaping work. While in residence at Watermill Center this summer, Kamala and Susan will be revising and finalizing the libretto and score. At the same time they will be exploring the piece on its feet with director Rachel Dickstein and a small cast of singers/actors as a first opportunity to work on the intersection of words, music, movement and character. The cast includes Eric Brenner, Miriam Khalil, my friends Rajika Puri and Kannan Vasudevan, whom I grew up with in Pittsburgh.

Kamala Sankaram’s music has been praised as “strikingly original” (Allan Kozinn, The New York Times), and performed as part of American Opera Projects Opera Grows in Brooklyn series, at HERE Arts Center, the Stone, the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, the Santa Fe New Music Festival, and the Lucerne Festival, among others. She had the featured commission on the 2009 21C Liederabend, selected as one of Time Out’s 10 Best Classical Concerts. Her music for Sounding (directed by Kristin Marting) was praised as “gorgeous pop-rock interludes” (Time Out New York). She was the 2011 Con Edison/Exploring the Metropolis Composer-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy and the 2012 Composer-in-Residence at the Eugene O’Neil Theater. She has received grants from the MAP Fund, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Meet the Composer, and the Asian Women’s Giving Circle, as well as residencies from the MacDowell Colony and the Hermitage. As a resident artist at HERE Arts Center, Kamala created Miranda, a steampunk murder mystery opera called “enjoyable, utterly original opera” and “among the very best theater achievements of 2012”.

Susan Yankowitz is a playwright, novelist, librettist and occasional screenwriter. Among her best-known plays are Night Sky (produced off-B’way and internationally); Phaedra In Delirium (produced at CSC and WPP, NY; winner, QRL poetic play competition); Terminal and 1969Terminal1996, collaborations with Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theatre (Drama Desk Award); and A Knife in the Heart (Sledgehammer Theatre). Boxes A-Z just won the 2012 award for Best Ensemble Play in Ankara, and her long monologue about Mukhtar Mai is in continual production in the U.S. and internationally, on its own and as part of Seven, most recently in India and Afghanistan. Silent Witness, her novel, was published by Knopf and her teleplay about Sylvia Plath aired on PBS and won her a WGA nomination for best-written documentary of the season. She has collaborated on opera-theater works with Elmer Bernstein, Taj Mahal, Moshe Cotel, and Michael Dellaira, and has been awarded grants from the NEA, NYFA, TCG, and Guggenheim, McKnight, Bogliasco and Rockefeller Foundations, among others. She is a frequent resident at Yaddo and MacDowell. Her work is archived and catalogued at Kent State Library.



Monday, June 10th @ The Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 West 42nd St.,  New York, NY


Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at

Join composer Rona Siddiqui and her amazing lyricist friends, Zayre Ferrer, Sander Gusinov, Laura Kleinbaum, Rebekah Melocik, Zoe Samuel, Chris Staskel, Liz Suggs, and Max Vernon, for a night of new theatre music spanning from comic metal love songs to aquatic predator funk jams and everything in between.

The Featured Performers: Manu Narayan (Bombay Dreams), Erin Dilly (A Christmas Story), Sarah Stiles (Avenue Q), Gideon Glick (Spring Awakening), Mykal Kilgore (Hair), MJ Rodriguez (Rent), Margo Seibert, Liam Forde, Ayesu Lartey, Matt Bauman, Andrew Leggieri, and Ben Langhorst.

Directed by: Andrew Willis-Woodward

Band: Rona Siddiqui (Piano), Jon Russ (Guitar), Ayesu Lartey (Bass), Hiroyuki Matsuura (Drums), Susan Mandel (Cello)

Rona Siddiqui is a composer and music director based in New York City. She is the 2011 recipient of the ASCAP Foundation/Max Dreyfus Scholarship and the 2010 recipient of the award for Best Musical Direction by the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle in San Francisco. Rona wrote the music for the original musical One Good Day which has had readings at NYU, Custom Made Theatre Company in San Francisco, and in the Sacramento New Works Festival. She also composed the music for an original 20-minute musical, The Tin, which was selected to be part of the 2012 Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival. She vocal arranged and music directed Tree of Life, the Oneida Nation float song in the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Original scores she has written include The Vagina Monologues, The Good Person of Szechuan, The Clean House, and Love Song of J Robert Oppenheimer. She received international recognition for her composition “Storms and Whispers” from the International Association of Women in Music. She was recently a featured songwriter in The Bill Finn Cabaret: A Night of Comedy Songs, Songs By Ridiculously Talented Composers and Lyricists You Probably Don’t Know But Should at Barrington Stage, and the concert series Broadway’s Future at Lincoln Center. She received her B.A. in music composition from UCLA and her Masters from NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. Rona is currently Music Director for the Off-Broadway production of Piggy Nation.


The Frank London Klezmer Brass Allstars & Bhangra Brass Party feat. Deep Singh, Sarah Gordon & Manu Narayan

Friday, June 14th @ THE STONE (corner of Avenue C and 2nd street, NYC)

8 & 10 PM

 $15 per set *there are no advance ticket sales, all admissions are at the door prior to each performance

8 pm
Bhangra Brass Party: featuring Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars & guests—Yiddish Cabaret feat. Eleanor Reissa + Bhangra Brass Party feat. Deep Singh, Sarah Gordon & Manu Narayan
Frank London (trumpet, alto horn, piccolo trumpet, leader) Susan Sandler (trumpet, vocals) Mark Hamilton (trombone) David Harris (trombone, baritone horn) Curtis Hasselbring (trombone) Merlin Sheperd (clarinet)

Matt Dariau (clarinet, alto saxaphone, guida) Mark Rubin (contrabass helicon) Aaron Alexander (drums) Matt Moran (bass drum) Deep Singh (percussion) Sarah Gordon (voice) Eleanor Reissa (voice) Manu Narayan (voice) And many more!

10 pm
Bhangra Brass Party: featuring Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars & guests—Songs of Zebulon feat. Jeremiah Lockwood & Shoko Nagai + Bhangra Brass Party feat. Deep Singh, Sarah Gordon & Manu Narayan
Frank London (trumpet, alto horn, piccolo trumpet, leader) Susan Sandler (trumpet, vocals) Mark Hamilton (trombone) David Harris (trombone, baritone horn) Curtis Hasselbring (trombone) Merlin Sheperd (clarinet)

Matt Dariau (clarinet, alto saxaphone, guida) Mark Rubin (contrabass helicon) Aaron Alexander (drums) Matt Moran (bass drum) Deep Singh (percussion) Sarah Gordon (voice) Eleanor Reissa (voice) Manu Narayan (voice) And many more!


The Peer Gynt Projecta month long exploration of the classic Ibsen play

June 3 – 29th @ University of Scranton, Pennsylvania

Grace Zandarski is a faculty member of the Acting Department at Yale School of Drama where she has taught Voice since 2002, specializing in Advanced Vocal Technique and Text for 2nd and 3rd Year Actors. She has coached numerous YSD productions and coaching credits at Yale Rep include Comedy of ErrorsThe Master Builder and the 2010-2011 season’s Romeo and Juliet. In addition to YSD, she has served on the faculties of some other fine actor training programs in the U.S. including Fordham University, A.R.T./MXAT (Harvard’s Advanced Actor Training Program), N.Y.U., and The Actors Center. She has taught master classes on Voice and Text for the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab and the Public Theatre’s Shakespeare Lab. Grace was named Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework in 1998. She was a member of the 2006 Voice Consortium Delegation/Teaching Exchange Program with Russia’s MXAT, GITES, and Vaktangov Theatre Schools. In 2008 and 2010, she was the recipient of YSD STAR Grants for work with Pantheatre, Paris, France. Grace continues to work as an actor, director, and voiceover artist. Stage acting credits include the McCarter Theatre, Wilma Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Ashland, and A.C.T. Vocal Coaching credits include Yale Rep, McCarter Theatre and BAM. She has an M.F.A. in Acting from the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and a B.A. in English from Princeton University.

Felix Ivanov has an M.F.A. from the Vakhtangov Academy Theater, Russia. He is a graduate of the Schukin Theater School at the Vakhtangov Academy Theater and the Stasov Musical School (violin), Moscow, Russia. Mr. Ivanov is well versed in the art of the musical clownery, physical comedy, stage combat, movement, and character dance. In addition, he has achieved the master’s level in Chinese martial arts of Kuoshu and the black belt/Shodan rank in Judo. Felix has developed an original dynamic training for the actors, and he gained an international recognition for his teaching method. He has taught at numerous international and American colleges and universities. His choreography of stage movement/combat has been seen at such venues as the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C.; the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis; the Shakespeare Theater Festival in Cleveland; and the Acting Company, the Lincoln Center Theater, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Theater Workshop, the Wooster Group, at the Pearl Theater, the Cherry Lane Theater, the Soho Repertory Theater, Soho Playhouse, and Tele/Vest (TV serial) in New York City, among others in the U.S.A.