Speech & Debate Playwright Stephen Karam Pens Opera Libretto for Dark Sisters

News   Speech & Debate Playwright Stephen Karam Pens Opera Libretto for Dark Sisters
Dark Sisters, a new opera about one woman's attempt to escape a fundamentalist sect of the Mormon faith, will get its world premiere in November 2011. Playwright Stephen Karam (Speech & Debate) will pen the libretto.

The commission was announced by Gotham Chamber Opera, Music-Theatre Group and the Opera Company of Philadelphia on Oct. 28.

Composer Nico Muhly will write the music. Neal Goren will conduct. Busy theatre director Rebecca Taichman will direct.

The three organizations have co-commissioned and will co-produce the opera, which will have its world premiere in November 2011 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, 899 Tenth Avenue, in New York City. It will be one of the first works to be presented at the theatre following the creation of a new lobby at the space.

The 2011 cast will be headed by Caitlin Lynch and Kevin Burdette, with Kristina Bachrach, Jennifer Check, Eve Gigliotti, Brenda Harris and Jennifer Zetlan.

Dark Sisters will also be presented in June 2012 as part of the Opera Company of Philadelphia's chamber opera series at the Perelman Theater. This is Karam's first libretto. His Speech and Debate has received more than 80 productions since it premiered in Roundabout Theatre Company's Roundabout Underground series.

Here's how the opera is described by the producing partners: "[It] follows one woman's dangerous attempt to escape her life as a member of the FLDS Church (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints), a sect that split from mainstream Mormonism in the early 20th century largely because of the LDS Church's renunciation of polygamy. The male founders of the Mormon faith (Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, chief among them) have traditionally loomed large in American history; Dark Sisters puts the women of the FLDS sect front and center. The narrative draws inspiration from the flurry of media attention surrounding the two most infamous raids on FLDS compounds (the 1953 raid at Short Creek, AZ and the 2008 raid at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, TX) as well as the stories of the over 80 wives of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Set against a red-earthed landscape filled with revelations, dark prophets and white temples stretching towards heaven, Dark Sisters charts one woman's quest for self-discovery in a world where personal identity is forbidden."

Karam is the co-author of columbinus (published by Dramatic Publishing Co.), which ran Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop following a co-production by Round House/Perseverance Theaters. His plays Girl on Girl and Speech & Debate debuted as part of the inaugural seasons of Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep, both directed by Lowry Marshall. His latest play, Sons of the Prophet, will receive its co-world premiere in 2011 by Huntington/Roundabout Theatre. He is writing the screenplay for the film version of Speech & Debate for Overture Films.

Director Taichman's credits include Theresa Rebeck's The Scene, starring Tony Shalhoub and Patricia Heaton (Second Stage); Menopausal Gentleman (Obie Award); Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew (The Shakespeare Theatre); premiere of David Adjmi's The Evildoers (Yale Rep; Sundance Theater Lab); premiere of Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone (Woolly Mammoth, Helen Hayes nomination); premiere of Theresa Rebeck's Mauritius (The Huntington, IRNE and Elliot Norton Awards); premiere of The Scene (Humana); Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House (Woolly Mammoth, 2006 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Resident Play); and Elise Thoron's Green Violin, starring Raul Esparza (2003 Barrymore for Outstanding Direction).

For news and information on this project as it develops, visit DarkSistersOpera.org.

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