GAYATHRI KHEMADASA - Composer
Gayathri Khemadasa was born in Sri Lanka to Premasiri Khemadasa, the leading music composer in the country’s history. At age 18, Gayathri moved to Prague to study piano at the conservatory there. She started her solo piano performing career in February 2005 in a series of benefit concerts for tsunami victims. She is currently a Fulbright Professional Scholar at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut (2011-12).
Premasiri Khemadasa is the leading composer of serious contemporary music in Sri Lankan history. Over fifty years of composing, Khemadasa fused Sri Lankan folk elements, Indian ragas, and Western classical forms into a beautiful melodic music that captures the deepest longings and sufferings of the simple folk among whom he grew up.
JEFF HUSH - Librettist/Producer
Jeff Hush was born in NYC in Peter Cooper Village. At Wesleyan University he studied writing with V. S. Naipaul and Annie Dillard. He taught Shakespeare and philosophy at UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago. In 1994 he moved to Prague and became an independent filmmaker. He started collaborating with Gayathri Khemadasa in the late 1990s.
DARREN M. LARGE - Producer/Project Manager
Darren is a life long opera fan and became involved in the project after reading Phoolan Devi's powerful autobiography. Born in Portsmouth, UK, Darren has travelled extensively in Europe, North America and Asia. He first met Gayathri in Prague, Czech Republic and is producing PDO with Jeff as well as filming, editing and web design.
OPERA PRODUCTION CREW
JOSEPH GETTER - Music Director
Joseph Getter is a creative world musician who has performed with Art Farm and Oddfellows Playhouse theaters, dancEnlight modern dance, kirtan singer Shubalananda and many more. He plays jazz and experimental music on multi-woodwinds, Carnatic flute of South India, and Javanese gamelan music of Indonesia.
Joseph is Director of the Youth Gamelan at Wesleyan, and also teaches at Southern Connecticut State University, University of New Haven, Independent Day School, and Green Street Arts Center. He has degrees from Oberlin College and Wesleyan University.
ANITRA BROOKS - Phoolan Devi
Anitra Brooks is a multi-disciplined actor, international performing artist, singer-songwriter, musician and educator. She is a Middletown native, a graduate of Brown University, and has toured the US and world with Drama Desk Award-nominated puppet performers and masked musicians Big Nazo, Drama Desk Award-nominated "bad-ass masters of vocalogy" Hotmouth, and with the dance performance installation echo::system.
In her 10 years in New York City, she has performed at such venues as the Public Theater, Belasco Theater, LaMama, HERE Arts Center, Kraine Theater, Ohio Theatre and National Black Theatre. She has also been featured in numerous TV and radio commercials, TV shows and soap operas.
MARCELLA TROWBRIDGE - The Goddess Durga
MARCELLA TROWBRIDGE is an actress, writer, director, choreographer, theater educator and the co-founder and Artistic Director of ARTFARM. ARTFARM is a Middletown, CT based organization whose mission is to cultivate high quality theater with a commitment to simple living, environmental sustainability and social justice. Marcella has written and directed numerous original works, including SemPa Bridge; tales from the mountains of Tibet, The False Door; the stages of dealing with death. rEvolution; war, world change and non-violent dissent, Color Wheel; race and the economic divide, In The Throes , An End To Violets; youth and violence and Phoenix Rising; the rise from adversity to hope, in addition to directing classical and contemporary pieces ranging from the Indian epic The Mahabharata to Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and Macbeth to Langston Hughes' Emperor of Haiti and Anna Deveare Smith's Twilight Los Angeles. She has extensive performing credits on both U.S. coasts. Marcella was a founding member of NY's Greenwood Theater Company, was educated at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, was a member of the Los Angeles' Twelfth Night Repertory Company, was a featured player for several seasons at Key West's Red Barn Theater and spent nearly a decade in artistic leadership at Oddfellows Playhouse in Central CT. Marcella does professional development and consultancy for artists and educators in the public, private and higher education sectors. Marcella works with the Education Departments of Long Wharf Theatre and Hartford Stage Company. She is the founding dancer in ARTFARM's women's company; Terpsichore. She is also known for her trademark choreography and her work with inner-city youth. Marcella is a mother of four.
BANNING EYRE - Guitarist
Banning Eyre is an author, guitarist, radio producer, and Senior Editor at Afropop.org. He has been researching and learning African guitar styles for over 20 years, and has developed an original composition and performance style that incorporates traditions from Mali, Congo, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and beyond, along with his own background in American fingerstyle guitar.
STAN SCOTT - Devadin
Dr. Stan Scott, recipient of the 2011 Mumbai Forum Award for his contribution to the cause of Indian music, teaches Indian music at Yale University, and guitar, banjo, mandolin, and North Indian classical singing at Wesleyan University. His recordings include “The Weaver’s Song: Bhajans of North India” and a major singing role in Anthony Braxton’s opera “Trillium E”. He teaches North Indian music to many members of Connecticut’s South Asian community, and will teach “Music, Identity and Politics in the Irish Tradition” in the summer 2012 session of Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Studies program.
ROBERT HALLBERG - Vickram Mallah
Robert Hallberg is soon to be a junior at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where he studies biology and world music. His interest in the musics of the Asian subcontinent, specifically of India and Sri Lanka, began in high school and he is taking every possible chance to further his education and experience in this sublime art form while at Wesleyan. He would like to express his gratitude towards Gayathri and Jeff for giving him the opportunity to be a part of such an exceptional musical experience; it is truly an honor and he is sure that the Khemadasa legacy will continue to flourish under Gayathri's more than capable hands.
DESIRÉE ALVAREZ - Sets and costumes
Desirée Alvarez is a painter, fabric artist, printmaker and poet who was born and lives in New York City. Her work speaks of the secret powers and beauty of nature, humans, and animals. She has won numerous awards including an American Academy of Arts and Letters Willard L. Metcalf Award, three Artist Fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts (most recently in 2011), an Urban Artist Initiative grant and a European Capital of Culture Award. She has been an artist in residence at P.S. 122 and Yaddo. Alvarez has won poetry and non-fiction awards with poems appearing in Poetry Magazine, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, and Prairie Schooner. Poets House awarded her a 2012 Emerging Poets Residency and she is nominated for a Pushcart Prize.She exhibits widely and her fabric art can currently be seen at Central Booking Gallery, Dumbo, Brooklyn. She teaches at New York City College of Technology, CUNY.
STACEY S. GRIMALDI - Vocalist
Stacey S. Grimaldi was a chorister with Connecticut Opera for many years, and currently sings with CONCORA and the educational quartet CONCORA-to-Go. She is a funeral and wedding cantor at many churches in the greater Hartford area, chants Byzantine music and serves as Assistant Director of the choir at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Barbara in Orange, and is a member of Archangel Voices, a group dedicated to recording music in English for the Eastern Orthodox Church.
JUDITH MILARDO - Vocalist
American Soprano Judith Milardo enjoys an international recital career, as well as being a sought-after vocal teacher and coach. In recent years she has concertized in the United States, France and Italy, and has been featured in Le Festival du Vigan, and many other major concert series. Career highlights include two performances of the Strauss "Vier Letzte Lieder" in France, and singing a concert of all Bellini in Bellini's home in Catania, Sicily.
ELIZABETH CRANNA - Vocalist
Elisabeth (Beth) Cranna sang for many years as a soloist at Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford and as a chorister with Connecticut Opera. She is currently a member of Lollipop Opera (children's opera company) and the Greater Hartford Opera Ensemble. She has performed in a wide variety of venues & styles including classical/sacred, music theater, folk-rock, madrigals, Sweet Adelines, and with the Chinese choir "SYGQ."
MICHAEL PESTEL - Sound artist
Artist and musician Michael Pestel has built large-scale environmental sculpture, multi-media installations and performed on flutes, contr'alto clarinet, piano, diverse hybrid and invented instruments, such as the Violaire, Birdmachine, Birdrawingtable, and Pianotable. His focus over the past fifteen years on bird sound extends the spirit of Messiaen's scored works into improvised and solo performances with live birds in aviaries and in the wild throughout the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia. An account of Pestel's 20 years of playing live with birds can be found in David Rothenberg's book "Why Birds Sing" and in a BBC documentary of the same title.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
NEELY BRUCE - composer - conductor - pianist
Bruce was one of the seven keyboard players in the 1969 premiere of John Cage's HPSCHD. He has been visiting professor and artist-in-residence at Middlebury College, Bucknell University, the University of Michigan, and at Brooklyn College. He is the chorus director for Connecticut Opera, and director of music at South Congregational Church in Middletown, Connecticut.
He is the first pianist ever to play the entire song oeuvre of Charles Ives, which he performed with several singers as part of the Ives Vocal Marathon. He also produced a new adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, which uses American popular music, such as rock and roll, pop, and rap.