Anna Ishida To Headline Midwest Premiere Of THE FOURTH MESSENGER At Remote Theater

Headlining the cast of The Fourth Messenger as a modern-day female Buddha, Ishida comes full circle, having originated the role of the younger protagonist ten years ago.

By: Feb. 20, 2023
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Anna Ishida To Headline Midwest Premiere Of THE FOURTH MESSENGER At Remote Theater

Remote Theater, an award-winning online theater company born of the pandemic, today announced that Bay Area and NYC actress Anna Ishida will play the role of modern-day Buddha Mama Sid in the Midwest concert premiere of THE FOURTH MESSENGER.

Featuring book and lyrics by award-winning playwright Tanya Shaffer and music and additional lyrics by beloved indie recording artist Vienna Teng, THE FOURTH MESSENGER is a contemporary Western re-imagining of the Buddha legend featuring a flawed, female Buddha figure. This marks the first time that Ishida will play this role, after having originated the character of the younger co-protagonist Raina in the World Premiere production ten years ago in Berkeley, California, 2013.

People will be able to see the show - a one-performance concert version of the musical on March 18, 1PM - either via a free livestream or for $20 in person, $10 with student ID. To register, go to

The event is directed by Giovanni Rodriguez and Tanya Shaffer and music directed by Rebecca Biber. The cast features Anna Zavelson as Raina, as well as Lleyton Allen, Robert Chester, Zuri Clarnoe, Nic Folson, Robby Griswold, Christine Kapusky Moore, Brent Stansfield, Sarah Stevens, Lisa Tucker-Gray, and Mason Van Gieson, with dramaturgy by Rick Sperling.

Anna Ishida is known for a fierce and engaging performance style that is arresting in its many manifestations yet hard to pigeonhole.

"Anna has been involved with this project for close to fifteen years, since the earliest stages of development," said playwright Shaffer. "It feels incredibly powerful and right for her to be playing this role at this time."

Ishida was born in Tokyo, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and originally studied classical/Bel Canto singing. She has built her acting career on both coasts, with extensive experience in new works by composers and playwrights alongside classical repertoire. Recent regional credits include: This Much I Know (Aurora Theater, CA), The Three Sisters (Two River Theater, NJ), The Antelope Party (Dutch Kills, NYC), Shipwreck (Woolly Mammoth, DC), Moby-Dick (American Repertory Theater, MA), The Importance of Being Earnest (Aurora Theater, CA), Henry VI Parts 1 & 2 (NAATCO, NYC - Drama Desk Nomination: Best Revival), Trigger (Leviathan Lab, NYC), It Can't Happen Here (Staged & Radio Play @ Berkeley Rep, CA), Mr. Burns: a post-electric play (American Conservatory Theater & The Guthrie, CA/MN), Water by the Spoonful (Theatreworks Silicon Valley, CA), Beowulf-A Thousand Years of Baggage (Shotgun Players/Banana Bag & Bodice: US/UK tours). Film: I Am a Ghost & Bitter Melon (writer/director/composer: H.P. Mendoza)

"I've been very lucky to have helped develop a couple of pieces of theater over several years (BEOWULF-A THOUSAND YEARS OF BAGGAGE, script/lyrics by Jason Craig and music by Dave Malloy) and this one, THE FOURTH MESSENGER," said Ishida. "To be with a piece for years in a variety of iterations is a rare opportunity because while I track and discover how the work evolves, it also inherently helps me reference how I evolve as an actor and human. To have ten years (exactly) between Raina and Sid is a real gift as an actor - the opportunity to step into both sides of this lovely story. So is being able to inhabit things like Tanya's gift for writing complicated women and their oftentimes complicated circumstances and Vienna Teng's transcendent music."

What if the Buddha were a woman, living in our times? Loosely inspired by the Buddha legend, THE FOURTH MESSENGER imagines a modern-day "awakened one," a world-famous spiritual teacher named Mama Sid. When Raina, a young woman on a mission to reveal Mama Sid's hidden past, arrives at her meditation center, Sid's carefully constructed world starts to fall apart. At once epic and intimate, comic and profound, THE FOURTH MESSENGER explores what it means to be both enlightened and human.

Internationally renowned five-time Independent Music Award-winning recording artist Vienna Teng's layered harmonies and intricate, haunting melodies bring the piece vividly to life, adding depth and resonance that linger long after the lights come up.

Hailed as "an absolute delight" by the San Francisco Chronicle when it premiered at the Ashby Stage in Berkeley in 2013, THE FOURTH MESSENGER enjoyed a sold-out run and across-the-board critical acclaim. KQED-FM, the nation's largest NPR affiliate, placed it on its year-end Top Ten list, dubbing it "a satisfying and remarkably entertaining new musical that takes on spiritual life with wit and emotional resonance." The Huffington Post proclaimed it "hugely ambitious and refreshingly original," Stage and Cinema called it "masterful and compelling," and Theater Dogs-which also named it a year-end Top Tenner-called it "a triumph."

It went on to productions in Taiwan and at the New York Musical Festival, where Time Out New York, Playbill, and SpoiledNYC all chose it as one of the don't-miss shows of the 2017 festival. Times Square Chronicles' Suzanna Bowling got to the heart of the story when she wrote, "This show helped heal a piece of me ... [It shows] the power of our fragility and of our strength ... We need more shows like this to heal our world." This tale of transgressions and redemption shines a light toward reconciliation in these divisive times.

Prior to its Berkeley premiere, the musical had developmental support from Playwrights Foundation, TheatreWorks and Stanford University.


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