FACING WEST SHADOW OPERA is a collective of puppeteers, performers, artists and musicians hybridizing art forms to create magical acts of rebellion as small scale experimental art. We create dynamic new work by creating a sustainable model of collaboration in the contemporary gold rush climate of the Bay Area. Currently we are working on a Baroque puppet opera about the wild west that includes projected video, animation and shadow theatre in a portable, modular theatre made from recycled wood combined with creative musical arrangement by countertenor and soprano operatic vocalists and a cellist.
FACING WEST SHADOW OPERA hybridizes art forms to create unique performances, each akin to a live graphic novel with euphoria-inducing live chamber music. FWSO combines analog shadow theatre with whimsical handmade animation, video projection, pop culture imagery and Baroque and New Music. FWSO creates magical acts of rebellion with our modular and portable puppet stage by sustaining experimental art in the gold rush climate of the Bay Area. FWSO depicts stories drawn from the cultural, political, and natural history of California and the American West, re-imagined through queer and creative lenses to create unique and layered combinations of the old and the new.
CONTACT & BOOKING INQUIRIES: https://facingwestshadowtheatre.wordpress.com/contact-information/
UPCOMING & PAST PERFORMANCES: https://facingwestshadowtheatre.wordpress.com/upcoming-performances/
CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION: http://www.lydiagreer.com/about/-donate—
THAT SHADOW, MY LIKENESS is a multimedia shadow puppetry piece with live opera performed behind a transportable wooden stand with a triptych projection screen area. The piece uses as its light sources: overhead projectors, specialty handmade single-point halogen lights, and video projection of found footage interspersed with original stop-motion animation. On the three screens, shadow puppets and live actors in shadow masks create scenes inspired by Walt Whitman’s poetry, particularly from the varied issues of Leaves of Grass. From this collection of poems that Whitman added to and rearranged with every edition, we meditate on his timely obsession with the wild west of California, baroque opera and his avid interest in phrenology as a possible justification for his queer identity. This original play will be told through a song cycle which will weave baroque opera pieces accompanied by solo cello with excerpts of Whitman’s poetry and original narration.
HALLUCINATIONS is an experimental puppet opera combining new music composer John Harbison’s Mirabai Songs with puppetry, performance and multimedia projection. Animated moving images by artist Lydia Greer will be projected with live opera sung by versatile soprano soloist Shauna Fallihee and original puppetry and staging by theatre artist Caryl Kientz.
HALLUCINATIONS is a non-traditional opera and multimedia puppet performance based on the life of Mirabai, a legendary sixteenth-century poet and street performer of Rajasthan, India. Hallucinations features the difficult and beautiful Art Song cycle: Mirabai Songs by new music composer John Harbison and the Devotional Poetry of Bhakti Saint, Mirabai. We are building the performance upon a short experimental animated film created in 2017 featuring puppets, performing objects and cut paper by artist Lydia Greer projected with live opera sung by versatile soprano soloist Shauna Fallihee which premiered at the Exploratorium Museum and featured as single channel video art at PhotoFairs SF. Fallihee performed four out of the six Mirabai Songs. Combined with Greer’s animation this becomes an expressive and contemporary feminist opera. On Mirabai’s husband’s death she refused to join him on the funeral pyre. Instead in terror she escaped to the mountains and found freedom as Krishna’s lover, enveloped in a supernatural ecstasy with a spirit. When she descended from the mountain she sang and danced in the streets calling Krishna the “Dark One”. Mirabai Songs is inspired by the combination of the religious and the erotic. We are intrigued by Mira’s story of escaping societal violence against women, her survival, freedom, joy and ultimate transformation through singing her story in the streets. Hallucinations addresses gender-based violence directly. The full song cycle includes six songs total and will incorporate puppetry, projection and euphoric live musical performance in a unique way inviting audience engagement in narrative construction & play.
Past Experiments & Workshop Performances:
The Euphoria of Walt Whitman is a handcrafted, multisensory immersion into a key moment in the evolution of the American West. Modernizing traditional shadow puppet theater, Facing West merges visual techniques that range from projected video, animation, and shadow theater to create a dense and holistic visual landscape. Drawing inspiration from the book Walt Whitman and the Opera, Facing West explores Walt Whitman’s obsession with the traveling operas of the wild west and the gold rush era. Pairing its innovative visual elements with operatic voice and cello, the piece is a singular and immersive work that examines local history through a unique creative lens. (Text written by Kathleen Maguire curator in the Cinema Arts Department at the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, CA) http://www.exploratorium.edu/arts/cinema-arts
Artistic Director: Lydia Greer www.lydiagreer.com
Theatrical Director: Caryl Kientz (managing director of ShadowLight Productions http://www.shadowlight.org/ )
William Sauerland (Operatic Vocalist-Countertenor)
Shauna Fallihee (Operatic Vocalist-Soprano)
Musician: Adam Young (Instrumental-Cello)
Our modular, portable, found wood puppet stage was designed and built by Oakland, CA based woodworker Drew Prober
Current & Recent:
Fred C. Riley III
Lisa van Wambeck
Tara Ani Baghdassarian
Additional Artwork: John Greer www.johnhundleygreer.com
Co-founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2014 by visual artists Lydia Greer www.lydiagreer.com , Jessica Eastburn www.jessicaeastburn.com and opera vocalist William Sauerland https://www.oaklandsymphony.org/artist/william-sauerland/ Adam Young: cellist, bio: http://www.cellostreetquartet.com/#!member-bios/c1b5y and Soprano Shauna Fallihee http://www.shaunabethfallihee.com/
All Photos by Quinn Peck