Pancho Villa From A Safe Distance

January 2019

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About the Show

NY Premiere | Multi-Media Theatrical Concert
January 5-8

Pancho Villa From A Safe Distance is a bilingual cross-border opera about the enigmatic general, legendary bandit, and hero of the Mexican Revolution. Through a non-linear collage of scenes from or inspired by the life of the complex, contradictory, and controversial leader, the piece provides a timely lens into the relationships and overlaps between the communities of Mexico, the United States, and the borderlands. This Creative Capital Award-winning project brings together an impressive array of artistic collaborators from both sides of the Rio Grande: Austin, TX based composer Graham Reynolds, librettists Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol of Mexico City, director Shawn Sides of Rude Mechs, and an exceptional ensemble of two vocalists and six instrumentalists built around Grammy-winning producer-guitarist Adrian Quesada.

Composed by Graham Reynolds
Libretto by Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol
Directed by Shawn Sides

Lighting & Scenic Design by Brian Scott
Costume Design by Christine Crook
Video Design by Robert S.Fischer

Produced by David Lobel and Kate Murray at Lobel Arts, Graham Reynolds' Management
Originally commissioned by Ballroom Marfa and co-commissioned by Fusebox Festival

Co-presented with BRIC


Show Run Time 75 minutes
Post-Show Conversation on Jan 7

Image by Noel Waggener

Artist Bio

Graham Reynolds (Composer) Called “the quintessential modern composer” by the London Independent, Austin-based composer-bandleader-improviser Graham Reynolds creates, performs, and records music for film, theater, dance, rock clubs, and concert halls with a wide range of collaborators across a multitude of disciplines. Heard throughout the world in films, TV, stage, and radio, he recently scored Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying with Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne for Amazon Studios, the Rude Mechs’ Stop Hitting Yourself for Lincoln Center Theater, Ballet Austin’s Belle Redux, and a multi-year commission from Ballroom Marfa, The Marfa Triptych. Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance is the Creative Capital Award winning final component of this triptych, created with librettists Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol (Mexico City) and director Shawn Sides. With the jazz-based but far reaching Golden Arm Trio, Reynolds has repeatedly toured the country and released four critically acclaimed albums. As Artistic Director of Golden Hornet - a non profit organization which draws on the collaborative spirit of rock bands and the composer-led nature of classical music - Reynolds guides the commissioning of new works, fostering of young and emerging composers, and presentation of adventurous works in non-traditional settings, including his own.

Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol (Librettists) Founded in 2003 by Luisa Pardo and Gabino Rodriguez, Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol is a community of Mexico City-based artists making project that link work and life and erase borders. They seek to clarify and articulate, but also to disrupt and unravel notions of biography, document, and history. In exploring events of the past, their work highlights how arbitrarily history is constructed. But their aim is not to correct the record, rather to put the emphasis elsewhere, to change the narrator, to create perspective, and to make up stories. Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol have presented their work across Mexico and abroad; Festival Automne in Paris, THe Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels, Vienna Festwochen, the High Season of Girona, Contemporary Scene in Madrid, Montreal Transameriques, Theater Spektakell of Zurich, and many others. They have received several awards, among them the nomination of Luisa Pardo and Gabino Rodriguez as candidates of The Rolex Mentor and Protege Initiative 2008, the Audience Award at the Festival Impatience in Paris 2011 (Odean Theatre and Centquartre) and ZKB Foldpreiss in Zurich 2011.

Shawn Sides (Director) is a founder and a Co-Producing Artistic Director of Rude Mechs in Austin, TX where she has co-conceived, co-adapted, and/or directed a new work every year, give or take, since 1996, including Off-Broadway and touring productions of Lipstick Traces, Get Your War On, Stop Hitting Yourself, The Method Gun, and their re-enactment of The Performance Group's Dionysus in 69. Recent projects include Field Guide (an adaptation of The Brothers Karamazov commissioned by Yale Rep), and Not Every Mountain at The Guthrie. Shawn is an Alpert Hedgebrook Prize recipient and was incorporated with her fellow Rudes into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2010. She is a 2015 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award recipient.

Artist Statement

When I was in 5th grade, growing up in Connecticut, my family took a trip to Mexico City. This was my first time in another country, my first time immersed in a language other than English, and, most transformative, the first time I truly felt the full potential and power of art. We saw the revolutionary murals all over the city and in particular the works of Orozco, Sigueiros, and Rivera at Bellas Artes. This experience planted the seeds for a lifelong interest in Mexican history and culture. While active in music, I majored in Latin American history. I live in Austin, Texas, four hours from the border. But, until this project, I hesitated to incorporate this interest of mine into my art. After identifying co-commissioners interested in an opera (Ballroom Marfa and Fusebox Festival), director Shawn Sides and I headed out to West Texas and Chihuahua to look for a subject. In El Paso, we stayed at a hotel where, it turned out, Pancho Villa had lived during the early part of the Mexican Revolution. Here was a truly operative figure and a larger than life persona. We had found our subject. In 2016, I received the Creative Capital Award for Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance. The piece is a non-linear collage of scenes from or inspired by the life of the complex, contradictory, fascinating, controversial, and iconic man. He provides a lens into Mexico and the Mexican Revolution, the Mexican-American border, and the relationship and overlaps between the communities of both nations. I consider this piece to be a living work.

- Graham Reynolds, Composer


Graham Reynolds - Photo Credit Bill McCullough

Shawn Sides - Photo Credit Courtesy of the Artist

Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol - Photo Credit Courtesy of the Artist

Courtesy of Fusebox Festival

Courtesy of Fusebox Festival

Courtesy of Fusebox Festival

Courtesy of Fusebox Festival

Photo by Alex Marks




647 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Artist’s Praise

"[Graham Reynolds is] the quintessential modern composer"
— The London Independent