Shows

Thumbprint

January 2014

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About the Show

In this world premiere, an illiterate woman is gang-raped as retribution for an ‘honor crime’ her brother allegedly committed. She doesn't surrender. She becomes the first woman in Pakistan to bring her attackers to justice. Her name is Mukhtar.

With a score influenced by traditional Hindustani and Western classical music, Thumbprint, the contemporary opera-theatre work by composer Kamala Sankaram, librettist Susan Yankowitz and directed by Rachel Dickstein, follows Mukhtar’s human rights crusade along a road she must walk and pave at the same time. The libretto stems originally from a series of interviews with Mukhtar herself, and poetically explores the deep family ties and tribal traditions that shape Mukhtar's story. Through acts of courage that astonish even her, Mukhtar is transformed, and so is the world that watches. 

A Post-Show Conversation about International Human Rights with esteemed panelists will follow the January 11 show.  Join us for a talkback and reception centered on the subject of International Human Rights following the January 11 performance of Thumbprint. Moderated by Peter McCabe, the discussion will feature Maitreyi Das, Lead Social Sector Specialist, World Bank; Mohammed Naqvi, director of SHAME a special Emmy winning documentary about Mukhtar Mai; Shantha Rau Barriga, Director of Disability Rights Human Rights Watch; Kamala Sankaram, Composer & Susan Yankowitz, Librettist; and Mukhtar Bibi will join the conversation via Skype.

Thumbprint started as a song-cycle commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects for the 2009 21c Liederabend at Galapagos Art Space, was further developed for the 2011 iteration at The Kitchen, and will now receive its final development and world-premiere in this co-production by BMP and HERE.

Location: Baruch Performing Arts Center, The Nagelberg Theatre.
Baruch College, 55 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

90 min

Composer: Kamala Sankaram
Librettist: Susan Yankowitz
Music Director: Steven Osgood
Director: Rachel Dickstein

Performed by:
Kamala Sankaram (Mukhtar)
Steve Gokool (Father)
Theodora Hanslowe (Mother)
Manu Narayan (Faiz)
Leela Subramaniam (Annu)
Kannan Vasudevan (Shakur)

Scenic Designer: Susan Zeeman Rogers
Costume Design: Kate Fry
Light Design: Jeanette Yew
Video Design: Shaun Irons, Lauren Petty
Sound Designer: Matt Schloss
Stage Manager: Ryan Gohsman
Assistant Music Director: Sam McCoy
Assistant Director: Jeana Scotti
Assistant Stage Manager: Elizabeth Goodman
Assistant Scenic Designer: Johanna Pan
Video Assistant: Chongren Fan

Mila Henry (Piano)
Greg Chudzik (Bass)
Margaret Lancaster (Flute)
Deep Singh (Percussion)
Andie Springer (Violin)
Philipa Thompson (Violin)
 

Artist Bio

Kamala Sankaram is a composer whose music has been praised as “strikingly original” (Allan Kozinn, The New York Times). She performed as part of American Opera Projects “Opera Grows in Brooklyn” series, at HERE, the Stone, the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, the Santa Fe New Music Festival, and the Lucerne Festival, among others. As a resident artist at HERE, Kamala created Miranda, a steampunk murder mystery opera called “enjoyable, utterly original opera” (New York Post) and “among the very best theater achievements of 2012” (NYTheater.com). She was the 2011 Con Edison/Exploring the Metropolis Composer-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy and the 2012 Composer-in-Residence at the Eugene O’Neil Theater. She is the recent recipient of a 2013 Jonathan Larson Award. Kamala is currently a composer-in-residence with American Lyric Theater's Composer Librettist Development Program.

Susan Yankowitz is a playwright, novelist, librettist and occasional screenwriter.  Among her best-known plays are Night Sky (produced off-Broadway and internationally); Phaedra in Delirium (produced at CSCand WPP, NY; winner, QRL poetic play competition); Terminal and 1969TERMINAL1996, collaborations with Joseph Chaikin's Open Theatre (Drama Desk Award); A Knife in the Heart (Sledgehammer Theatre 2002); and Foreign Bodies (finalist, O’Neill Conference 2008.) Cheri, with music by Michael Dellaira, was a finalist for the 2006 Richard Rodgers Award and excerpts were performed by artists from Portland Opera and Tacoma Opera as part of OPERA America's New Works Sampler.  She wrote the libretto for Slain in the Spirit, a gospel-and-blues opera with music by Taj Mahal, and book/lyrics for True Romances, music by Elmer Bernstein Silent Witness, her novel, was published by Knopf and her teleplay about Sylvia Plath aired on PBS and won her a WGA nomination for best-written documentary of the season.  Her long monologue about Mukhtar is in continual production in the U.S. and internationally, as part of Seven. Her work has been translated into ten languages and is widely published and anthologized.

Steven Osgood conducted the world premieres of Tan Dun’s Peony Pavilion, Jonathan Sheffer’s Blood on the Dining Room Floor, Janice Hamer‘s Lost Childhood, Paula Kimper‘s Patience and Sarah, Xenakis's Oresteia, Missy Mazzoli‘s Song from the Uproar, and most recently Daron Hagen’s Little Nemo in Slumberland.  Later in 2013 he appears with Memphis Opera, makes his debut with Hawaii Opera Theater, and conducts workshops with American Lyric Theater and the Metropolitan Opera.  In July he returns to Chautauqua Opera to conduct Peter Grimes.

He was Artistic Director of American Opera Projects from 2001 to 2008.  He created the company’s nationally recognized Composers and the Voice Workshop Series, and led workshops of dozens of works in development.

In recent seasons he has conducted productions with De Nederlands Opera, Ft. Worth Opera Festival, New York City Opera, Long Beach Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Memphis, Edmonton Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard Opera.  He has led concerts with the ICE Ensemble, Chautauqua Symphony, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and Wintergreen Festival Orchestra.  He has been a Cover Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera since 2006.  His recordings of Lee Hoiby’s A Month in the Country and Summer and Smoke are available on Albany Records.

Rachel Dickstein is a writer, director, teacher and founding Artistic Director of Ripe Time, a company devoted to creating movement based, ensemble devised adaptations. For the company, she choreographed and directed Septimus and Clarissa(Drama Desk and Drama League nominations) at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, for which she was nominated for a SDC Calloway Outstanding Directing award.  Other Ripe Time projects include Fire Throws at 3LD Art and Technology Center,Betrothed Innocents at the Ohio Theatre, The Secret of Steep Ravines at P.S. 122, The Holy Mother of Hadley New York co-produced with New Georges at the Ohio Theatre, and The Palace at 4 A.M at HERE Arts Center. Other projects include Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd In What Language? at the Asia Society, REDCAT and PICA; and Ellen McLaughlin The Trojan Women at Purchase College. Rachel is under commission with People's Light and Theatre to write and direct Sylvan Wood, in collaboration with Susan Zeeman Rogers, a site specific dance-theatre work to be staged at Longwood Gardens. She has served as Assistant Director to Martha Clarke on new opera works at Lincoln Center Festival, New York City Opera, the Munich Bienale, and the Hong Kong Arts Festival. Recipient of the NEA/TCG Director's Fellowship researching and training with dance master I Ketut Kantor in Bali, Indonesia. She is also a former Drama League Fellow, a graduate of Yale College, and faculty member at Purchase College's Conservatory of the Arts. www.ripetime.org

Artist Statement

As an Indian-American, it is very exciting for me to be able to bring together the different elements of my cultural heritage in the service of telling Mukhtar’s story. In writing the music for the Thumbprint, I drew on both my background as a sitar player and my training in Western music. The piece is largely written using Hindustani ragas, which have been layered to create harmonies not found in Indian music, but essential to Western composition. Much of the writing for the piece, particularly the vocal ornamentation, is inspired by Pakistani and Indian traditions including Qawwali music, kirtan, and tabla bol. In this way, the music is a true fusion of East and West.

-Kamala Sankaram, Composer

 

Much of my work has touched on violence, especially violence toward women, and the silence that surrounds oppression. In my own way, through theater, I try to break through some of those silences. Mukhtar Mai has actually done that, and changed lives for women everywhere. And so, when Carol Mack and Vital Voices (www.vitalvoices.org) invited me to write about her for a yet untitled play, the trumpets did sound.

We met together three times in the course of a year. Because she spoke no English and I had no Urdu, we communicated through interpreters. The tape transcribed her words and inflections, my pen noted mood, tension, changed expressions, whispers with her cousin – and with the addition of intuition (and sometimes a little bourbon) I wrote that first monologue which has now been many times around the globe as part of SEVEN. www.seventheplay.com 

Then the trumpets blared again, this time when Beth Morrison commissioned Kamala and me to create the opera that has become THUMBPRINT. It was an inspired idea. Music has brought emotional richness and variety to a story that began its life as a single spoken voice.  And I must admit, it is very satisfying to place on the operatic stage a heroine who does NOT commit suicide.

And who, in fact, goes on to speak for others.

One voice sings,
thousands hear the song. 

--Susan Yankowitz, Librettist

Photos

Videos

Location

Baruch Performing Arts Center

55 Lexington Ave., New York, NY Entry on 25th St.

Show Press

Sometimes lushly lyrical and sometimes memorably stark.
— Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times

The clarity and simple eloquence at the culmination of the drama are searingly, overpoweringly beautiful.
— George Grella, New York Classical Review

Glassian minimalism...intermingled with sinuous patters from Hindustani classical music. ... Eclectic vocabulary…adroitly handled.
— Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Sankaram simmers together ragas, Qawwali songs, and Pucciniesque soft-core lyricism.
— Justin Davidson, New York Magazine

Ms. Sankaram's music, inflected with the rhythms and melismas of Indian ragas, has a driving percussive energy and a distinctive sound.
— Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal

One single person: one body, one voice made this enormous change.
— Jeff Lunden, NPR "Weekend Edition"

An alluring blend of South Asian and Western music.
— Jennie Matthew, Agence France-Presse

It's not a story about Muslims in Pakistan; it's about one woman finding her voice.
BBC Urdu

A piercing, engaging, even angering narrative.
— Robert Leeper, Feast of Music

Intriguing blend of Western and Hindustani influences. ... An unstoppable driving pulse worthy of a thriller.
Classical Music Rocks

A powerful piece about a remarkable person.
— Barry Bassis, Epoch Times

Should inspire anyone to fight for the right cause, not only for himself or herself but for others too.
— Arthur J Pais, India Abroad

A profoundly moving work…haunting and original.
— Meche Kroop, Voce di Meche

Her vocal line also grows in range and power until, in the finale, it soars.
— Kamala Sankaram, International Arts Manager

A thrilling, blood-stirring score that musically fuses East and West. ... In Thumbprint, we have a new operatic heroine: Mukhtar Mai.
— Phyllis Chesler, On the Issues magazine