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The Mary Shelley Opera
Miniature by Reginal Easton [Bodleian Library, Oxford]
May 16, 2002  Creative Team

Allan Jaffe, Composer | Deborah Atherton, Lyracist | Stephen Hannock, Designer

Ben Levit, Director | Alan Johnson, Music Director | Peter J. Jakubowski, Lighting Designer | Claudia Carlson, Graphic Designer

Allan Jaffe has arrived at composition through his experience as a jazz-guitarist and improvisor. He has toured the United States and Europe playing improvisations at the side of such musicians as Oliver Lake, Julius Hemphill, Anthony Davis, Ray Anderson, Tim Berne, and George Russell. His ability to play a groove has gotten him work with funk artists such as James Brown and Maceo Parker. His quintet Slickaphonics achieved a large following in Europe. With them, as well as the others mentioned above, Allan has recorded on major labels and has appeared at major festivals, as well as televised performances, in Europe and the U.S. It was during his studies at Yale University that Allan began writing music for the stage and collaborated with director A.J. Antoon. His association with Deborah Atherton began seven years ago with their musical theater adaptation of J.S. LeFanu's vampire story Carmilla. In their most recent collaboration, an opera based on the life of Mary Shelley, Allan draws on his experience in the fields of classical music, jazz and funk, forging a unique approach to rhythm and harmony.

Deborah Atherton has worked extensively as a lyricist and librettist for opera and music theater. She received a commission from the "Opera in the Eighties" program of Opera America for her opera, "Under the Double Moon," written with composer Anthony Davis, which premiered at Opera Theater of St. Louis in 1989. Excerpts from this work, and her other collaboration with Mr. Davis, "The Beginning of Light/Of Time passing," were also presented at the Serious Fun Festival at Lincoln Center in 1990. Her most recent collaborations, written with composer Allan Jaffe, include "Carmilla," a music theater work (workshopped in 1992 at Music Theater Works) and "Mary Shelley," an opera in progress, both of which explore, through fantasy and modern myth, the darker sides and consequences of creativity. She has been a Writer-in-Residence at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, Opera Theater of St. Louis, and the Palenville Arts Colony. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines, and she currently hosts America On Line's weekly chat for literary writers, "Cabaret Voltaire."

Stephen Hannock, who will design the production of Mary Shelley, is a painter and artist in many mediums. After an apprenticeship with Leonard Baskin in Northampton, Massachusetts, he moved to New York City, where he paints and shows regularly at the James Graham & Sons Gallery. He has been described as the “pre-eminent contemporary luminist;” his work in all mediums, including his stage design, reveals the extraordinary behind the ordinary. His paintings are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the LaJolla Museum of Contemporary Art. He recently received an Oscar for Visual Effects for his work on the film “What Dreams May Come.” A book on his work entitled "Luminosity" was published in 2000 by Chronicle Books. For more information about his work visit: www.stephenhannock.com/

Ben Levit, Director, served as Artistic Director of the American Music Theater Festival in Philadelphia from December 1993 to August 2001. During his tenure the theater built its first permanent home, the Prince Music Theater, and produced and presented over seventy musical plays, revivals, cabarets. The AMTF gained a regional and national reputation for not only introducing innovative new works, but for producing them at the highest level of excellence. Mr. Levit directed for the company five world premiere productions and conceived and directed the AMTF/WHYY Televisions' Digital Youth production of Ballad for Americans/Stand in the Light.

Mr. Levit has also staged for Opera Delaware the world premiere of Billy and Zelda by composer Tina Davidson, and for the Curtis Institute of Music Opera Theatre: Menotti's The Medium, and Mozart's Così Fan Tutte. Mr. Levit was awarded the 2000 Barrymore Award for 'Outstanding Direction of a Musical' for his world premiere production of Peter Foley and Kate Chisholm's The Hidden Sky. Prior to coming to the Prince Music Theater, Mr. Levit freelanced as a director at Off-Broadway and Regional Theaters for 14 years and served as a Director-in-Residence at both the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and Playwrights Horizon's in New York City.

Alan Johnson, Music Director, has conducted opera and music theater premieres by composers Philip Glass, Polly Pen, Dan Moses Schreier, Tina Davidson, John Duffy, Leroy Jenkins, Michael John LaChiusa, Edward Barnes, Jonathan Dove, and John Moran. Some productions include In the Penal Colony (Classic Stage Company), The Three Willies (The Kitchen), The Night Governess (McCarter Theater), The Shoulder (Long Wharf Theater), Billy and Zelda (Opera Delaware), Black Water, Punch and Judy Get Divorced (Prince Theater), Cymbeline, Henry IV Parts I & II, All's Well That Ends Well, First Lady Suite (New York Shakespeare Festival), The Mysteries and What's So Funny? (Spoleto Festival), The Manson Family (Lincoln Center), Bed and Sofa (Vineyard Theater).

As vocal coach and pianist he has prepared many notable premieres, including The Making of the Representative for Planet 8, Hydrogen Jukebox, Orphée, La Belle et la Bête, (Philip Glass), Amistad, Tania, (Anthony Davis), Floyd Collins, (Adam Guettel) and Nixon in China (John Adams). He has performed solo and joint recitals at venues including the Walker Art Center, Diverseworks, Dia Center for the Arts, Alice Tully Hall, and the Kitchen.

Alan received an Obie Award in 1998 for Sustained Excellence of Music Direction. He holds degrees in music from the University of Illinois and the University of Miami in Florida, studying with John Wustman and Ivan Davis.

Peter J. Jakubowski, Lighting Designer, is an award winning freelance designer. He recently designed Elegy at The Walnut Street Theatre (Philadelphia, Pa) and Letters From Nam at North Shore Music Theatre (Beverly, Ma.) Designs include many productions at Prince Music Theater/AMTF (Philadelphia, Pa) Running Man, Candide and The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe to name a few, Other designs include Curtis Opera's Marriage of Figaro and Cosi Fan Tutte, Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival's King Lear, Measure for Measure, Taming of The Shrew, Winters Tale, and Hamlet. He serves as the production manager and designer for Colorado Ballet's Snowy Range Summer Dance Festival, and Koresh Dance Company. He has works in the repertory of Denver's Colorado Ballet and NYC's Peter Pucci Plus Dancers. He is a member of IATSE USA 829

Claudia Carlson, Graphic Designer, is currently a senior book designer at Oxford University Press. She has worked as a web designer, cartographer and illustrator. She is co-editor, with Jeanne Marie Beaumont, of The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales forthcoming Spring 2003 from Story Line Press. As a poet she has been published in Heliotrope, Coracle, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, and Space and Time. Her website www.claudiagraphics.com features her design work.