Press Released: 02 Dec 2014

OPERA America Selects Finalists of the 2015 Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase

Finalist Teams Will Present Concepts to Opera Producers at Opera Conference 2015 in Washington, D.C.

OPERA America is proud to announce the 2015 finalists of the Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase, a biennial program offered as part of OPERA America’s continuing effort to foster emerging opera artists. The showcase, made possible through support from the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund, was established to bring promising talent to the attention of the field and connect these directors and designers with those who are in a position to advance their careers.

Forty applicant teams of directors and designers each created a production concept for an American opera, chosen from a diverse, curated list. As part of the application process, each team submitted a production concept that included visions for staging, scenery, props, costumes and required personnel.

2015 Director-Designer Showcase Finalists

Mary Birnbaum, director
Grace Laubacher, set designer
Moria Clinton, costume designer
Anshuman Bhatia, lighting designer
Adam Cates, choreographer

Four Saints in Three Acts (Virgil Thomson/Gertrude Stein)
This production of Four Saints in Three Acts slams some of the theatrical conventions of the 1930s —Follies divas, historical tableaux vivants and religious pageantry — up against the efforts of Stein and Thompson, turning their original rebellion on its head to create a new, exciting dissonance.

Andreas Hager, director
Kate Noll, set designer
Seth Bodie, costume designer
Solomon Weisbard, lighting designer

Lizzie Borden (Jack Beeson/Kenward Elmslie)
Lizzie Borden is a psychological thriller, and this period production seeks to mirror the gradual unraveling of the protagonist’s mind through the stage design. Set in the family quarters of the Bordens’ Victorian home, each room is a territorial battleground for the women of the house, both living and dead.

Joshua Miller, director
William Anderson, set designer
Hope Bennett, costume designer
Stephanie Busing, projection designer

Three Decembers (Jake Heggie/Gene Scheer)
This team of Gen Xers connected emotionally to the three decades represented in Heggie and Scheer’s Three Decembers (the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s). This production concept focuses on telling the story of this beautiful opera by re-envisioning and highlighting the small details of the plot, both in the design and in the direction.

Alison Moritz, director
Charles Murdock Lucas, set designer
Dina Perez, costume designer
Kyle Grant, lighting designer

The Cradle Will Rock (Marc Blitzstein)
This concept presents The Cradle Will Rock as modern music-theater, not a footnote in the history of 20th-century theater or dated agitprop. The team’s staging uses functional tools to cut artifice and ask big questions: For whom do the people work? Who does the engine of labor serve?

These four production designs were selected by panelists Izumi Ashizawa, director and producer; Todd Hensley, lighting designer and theater consultant, Schuler Shook; Drew Landmesser, deputy general director, Lyric Opera of Chicago; Tobin Ost, scenic and costume designer; and David O. Roberts, costume designer. As opera is an intrinsically collaborative art form, the projects chosen were selected not only because they demonstrate the requisite creativity and skill, but because they display true collaboration, creative vibrancy and collective passion.

The finalist teams will each be given $2,000 to be used toward further research and the production of more comprehensive renderings and models. Each team will also be mentored by one of the panelists as they prepare the final presentation of their designs. Up to two representatives from each team will be provided with transportation, lodging and registration to attend Opera Conference 2015 in Washington, D.C, where they will present their proposals to opera producers at a special live-streamed session as well as network with conference attendees. At the most recent Director-Designer Showcase, held in 2013, over 80 opera producers attended the presentation and more than 18,000 viewed the live stream. Over the next two years, each team will also have their designs featured in a six-month exhibition at the National Opera Center in New York.

Director Walker Lewis, one of the 2013 finalists, stated, “Presenting our work at Opera Conference 2013 provided the opportunity to meet so many opera professionals face to face, forming important relationships that I can now strengthen and nurture for years to come. That experience gave me the confidence to continue expanding my circle of opera colleagues and to think more creatively and boldly about possible opera projects,” he continued.

As a direct result of their Showcase experience, members of the 2013 finalist teams received engagements with member opera companies, including Amarillo Opera, American Opera Projects, Gotham Chamber Opera, Music-Theatre Group, Opera Columbus, Opera North, Opera Philadelphia and Opera Theater of Pittsburgh. These finalists have also since worked with Central City Opera, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Labyrinth Theater Company, NBC (for the telecast of the Sochi Winter Olympics), Pittsburgh Opera, Second Stage, Tulsa Opera and on various film and television projects.

“OPERA America is uniquely positioned as the field’s convener and connector to advance the careers of the most talented creative artists,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase enables us to support the career development of stage directors and designers and, through them, further the artistic development of the opera form.”

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