Amy Beth Kirsten & Mark DeChiazza's QUIXOTE to Premiere at Peak Performances

Peak Performances will present the world premiere of Quixote, from composer-librettist Amy Beth Kirsten and director-designer Mark DeChiazza, March 23-26.

Commissioned by Peak Performances and developed entirely at Montclair State University as park of Peak Performances' new extended residency program, PeARL (Performing Arts Research Laboratory), Quixote is a bold re-imagining of the Cervantes classic, performed by the HOWL ensemble, including Lindsay Kesselman (soprano), Hai-Ting Chinn (mezzo-soprano), Kirsten Sollek (contralto), Mark DeChiazza and four singing players from Sandbox Percussion: Ian Rosenbaum, Victor Caccese, Terry Sweeney and Jonathan Allen.

Quixote, equal parts storefront theatre and expressionistic opera, is the follow-up to Kirsten and DeChiazza's critically lauded 2014 collaboration Colombine's Paradise Theatre.

Performances of Quixote will take place at the Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University (1 Normal Ave, Montclair, NJ) March 23 & 24 at 7:30pm, March 25 at 8pm, and March 26 at 3pm. Tickets, affordably priced at $20, can be purchased at or 973.655.5112. Running time is approximately 75 minutes, with no intermission. Following the March 25 performance, Kirsten and DeChiazza will participate in a post-show discussion that is free and open to the public.

With a score and libretto by Amy Beth Kirsten and direction and design by Mark DeChiazza, Quixote pokes Miguel de Cervantes' timeless novel The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha with a sharp stick, giving a compelling glimpse of the mad knight on his deathbed. Kirsten and DeChiazza place the musicians at the center of the action, as they did in Colombine's Paradise Theatre, which was commissioned, produced and performed by the group eighth blackbird and premiered at the Miller Theater at Columbia University. In Quixote, HOWL provides the voices inside the old man's head. Because books figure so prominently in his lunacy, the musicians play books as instruments with a compelling sound of their own. The score also includes tuning forks, triangles, plain white paper and human breath.

The creative team for this world premiere production includes lighting designer Mary Ellen Stebbins; sound designer Palmer Hefferan; costume designer Sylvianne Shurman; choreographer Denisa Musilova; and production manager Jason Kaiser.

Kirsten, DeChiazza and their collaborators have created Quixote at Montclair State University over the past two years as the inaugural artists in Peak Performances' PeARL residency program. PeARL provides artists with a platform to undertake a deep creative process, and opens the experience to Montclair State students in all fields who may take inspiration from the evolution of new work. The University committed $175,000, studio and stage time for the creation of Quixote, developed at the Alexander Kasser Theater and in a new rehearsal space on campus created specifically for it.

Over the past twelve years, the Office of Arts and Cultural Programming and Peak Performances (Executive Director, Jedediah Wheeler) at Montclair State University have provided creative residencies for diverse artists including Robert Wilson, Bill T. Jones, David T. Little and Royce Vavrek, Trisha Brown, Fred Hersch, Jan Fabre, Heidi Latsky, Andrea Miller, Susan Marshall, David Rousseau, Robert Woodruff, David Gordon and Liz Gerring. The PeARL extended residency program is a natural extension of Peak Performances' ongoing commitment to support artists in creating new work without compromise.


Composer, librettist and vocalist Amy Beth Kirsten's music combines popular idioms with fierce expressionism and theatre and is distinguished by an intense physicality that pushes players to extremes by making their bodies and voices instruments of artistic expression.

Her most recent staged work, Colombine's Paradise Theatre, opened the 2014-15 seasons of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art and New York's Miller Theatre, selling out both venues. The Washington Post called it a "tour de force" and said it has "a beguiling element of the grotesque throughout, and the music is complex and multilayered, rich in allusions, and often extraordinarily beautiful." Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times praised its "wondrously eclectic score, which combines spiky modernism, breezy pop, hints of Indian music, percussion wildness and more." The work was commissioned and produced by the multi-Grammy-winning eighth blackbird and designed and directed by Mark DeChiazza.

Recipient of fellowships and awards from the John S. Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, ASCAP, among others, Kirsten is co-founder and director of HOWL, a modular new music ensemble that specializes in theatre.

Her recent works have been commissioned and supported by the New World Symphony, Harvard University Fromm Foundation, Chamber Music America, The MAP Fund, New Music USA and The National Endowment for the Arts. She was educated at Roosevelt University (MM) and the Peabody Institute (DMA). Kirsten lives and works in New Haven, CT, and teaches music composition privately and at the HighSCORE summer festival in Pavia, Italy. She was recently appointed Adjunct Faculty of Music Composition at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University for the 2015-17 academic years.

Mark DeChiazza is a director, ?lmmaker, designer and choreographer. Many of his projects explore interactions between music performance and media to discover new expressive possibilities. His work can bring together composers, ensemble and musicians with visual artists, dancers, music ensembles and makers of all types.

Colombine's Paradise Theatre, his prior music-theater collaboration with composer Amy Beth Kirsten, continued an ongoing relationship with multiple-Grammy-winning ensemble eighth blackbird that began in 2009 with his acclaimed production of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire.

DeChiazza's recent work includes production concept, direction and choreography for Orpheus Unsung, a collaboration with composer Steven Mackey premiered at the Guthrie Theater in June 2016; direction, video projection and set design for My Lai, an opera monodrama by Jonathan Berger featuring Kronos Quartet, traditional Vietnamese instrumentalist Van-Ahn Voh and actor/tenor Rinde Eckert; direction and editing of the ?lm Hireath, which partners with performance of Sarah Kirkland Snider's 35-minute orchestral work of the same name, commissioned by North Carolina Symphony and Princeton Symphony Orchestra; choreography and design for Pulitzer-winning composer John Luther Adams' Sila, a massive site-determined piece for 80 musicians, commissioned by Lincoln Center; and design and staging of SS15 and AW15 NYC fashion week installation/events for Japanese fashion label pas decalais. DeChiazza's ?lm Colloquy with God for New York Polyphony and his interpretive concert video of So Percussion performing Steven Mackey's It Is Time have been featured on NPR Music, and American Composers Orchestra and The Crossing premiered his ?lm installation for Amy Beth Kirsten's strange pilgrims at Carnegie Hall in February 2014.

DeChiazza studied ?lm at Dartmouth College and Rhode Island School of Design, and set design and contemporary dance at North Carolina School of the Arts. He worked as a scenic artist for theater, before moving to New York City to begin a performing career in contemporary dance and dance-theater that spanned nearly two decades. Investigating the body and its relationships to space, time, and experience remain vital to his process across all disciplines.

Equal parts storefront theatre, opera company and grotesque chamber ensemble, HOWL was founded in 2012 by longtime collaborators Amy Beth Kirsten, Lindsay Kesselman, Mark DeChiazza and Ian Rosenbaum in order to explore the edges of music and theatre. To HOWL, a musician is more than just the instrument they play. Their collaborations explore ways in which a player's body and voice can also become a vehicle for artistic expression. A modular ensemble, HOWL's roster boasts some of today's most sought-after young musicians, many of whom are multi-instrumentalists who sing and singers who play instruments. HOWL's mission is to transform the concert experience into a theatrical one by boldly animating all elements of performance and all resources of the stage. HOWL is based in New Haven, CT.

Peak Performances is a program of the Office of Arts and Cultural Programming at Montclair State University and has been honored by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts with an Arts Citation of Excellence and Designation of Major Impact. Programs in this season are made possible in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Alison and James T. Cirenza; Holly and Robert Gregory; and The Honorable Mary Mochary.

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