Melisa Tien's SWELL to Explore The Personal Immigration Stories Of 10 Composers

By: Jun. 13, 2019

Melisa Tien's SWELL to Explore The Personal Immigration Stories Of 10 Composers


SWELL is a music-theatre work that weaves together ten original avant-garde/new music compositions written by ten richly inventive composers drawing from their personal histories as immigrants and children of immigrants. Their unique, surprising, and deeply human stories are told through voice, piano, cello, and violin in this music-based contribution to the global immigration narrative.

The company of artists, with immigrant backgrounds from India, Israel, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, Taiwan, and Trinidad have deftly assembled a quilt of contemporary sound that, in this workshop presentation, is gently enhanced by movement and video projection. Conceived by lyricist, librettist, and playwright Melisa Tien, and directed by Elena Araoz,SWELL explores the wildly varied and often complicated relationships immigrants and children of immigrants have with America.

"It's especially meaningful, right now, for all of us to see immigration with a wider lens, so that the subject isn't limited to what we learn from mass media reportage," says producer and lyricist Melisa Tien, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan before she was born. "Everything that it means to leave your current home for a new one is something I think lots of people will find they can relate to." Director Elena Araoz, whose father is an immigrant from Peru, adds "As people migrate, languages and cultures swirl, blend and shift. Through this workshop, I want to begin an experiment on how migrating and moving affects both the performance of the music and our perception of it."

This production is a part of SubletSeries@HERE: Co-op, HERE's curated summer rental program, which provides artists with subsidized space and equipment, as well as technical support.


Saturday 7/13 at 8:30pm, Sunday 7/14 at 4pm, Tickets $20

HERE, 145 6th Ave., New York, NY 10013 (Enter on Dominick, 1 Block South of Spring)



  • Melisa Tien (Yellow Card Red Card, New Ohio Theatre),Producer & Lyricist
  • Elena Araoz (Original Sound, Cherry Lane Theatre), Director
  • Jeanette Yew (KPOP, Ars Nova), Projection Design
  • Mila Henry (Words on the Street, Baruch Performing Arts Center), Music Direction
  • Joshua Cerdenia (Feuertrunken/Firedrunk, Virginia Symphony Orchestra), Composer
  • Carolyn Chen (The Sleeper and the Drinker, LA Philharmonic New Music Group), Composer
  • Justine F. Chen (The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing, JACK Quartet), Composer
  • Deepali Gupta (Ski End, New Ohio Theatre), Composer
  • Or Matias (The Wave), Composer
  • Tamar Muskal & Stevie Allweiss (Two Lands), Composer/Lyricist team
  • Polina Nazaykinskaya (Nostalghia, Joyce Theater), Composer
  • Izzi Ramkissoon, (Domesticated Animalia, NYCEMF), Composer
  • Kamala Sankaram (Thumbprint, Prototype Festival), Composer
  • Jorge Sosa, (La Reina, Prototype Festival), Composer


  • Jonathan May (Orfeo, New York Continuo Collective),Countertenor
  • Kannan Vasudevan (Thumbprint, Prototype Festival), Tenor
  • Jenna Zhu (You Across From Me, Humana Festival), Soprano
  • Naomi Florin, Violinist
  • Mila Henry, Pianist
  • Jennifer Shaw, Cellist


Melisa Tien is a New York-based playwright, lyricist, and librettist. She is the author of the plays Untitled Landscape, The Boyd Show, Best Life, Yellow Card Red Card, Familium Vulgare, and Refrain. Her new musical Mary, co-written with composer Matt Frey, will have a workshop at New Dramatists in Fall 2019. Her play Best Life was selected to participate in the 2018 Bushwick Starr Reading Series and will be part of JACK's inaugural season in its new space in Brooklyn. Her play Yellow Card Red Cardwas presented as part of the Ice Factory Festival in 2017 at the New Ohio Theatre, and prior to that had a workshop production at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 2016. In addition to being a resident playwright at New Dramatists, Melisa is a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Playwriting/Screenwriting, a Walter E. Dakin Fellow at the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and a recipient of the Theater Masters Visionary Playwright Award. She has been a resident of the MacDowell Colony and the Millay Colony, and was a member of the 2010-2012 Women's Project Lab. She has presented work at the Great Plains Theatre Conference, the Women Playwrights International Conference, and the National Asian American Theatre Conference and Festival. She holds a BA from UCLA, an MFA from Columbia University, and a culinary diploma from the French Culinary Institute.

Elena Araoz most recently directed the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway world premiere Original Sound (Cherry Lane Theatre). Upcoming productions include the world premiere opera I Am A Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams (White Snake Productions at The Paramount, Boston) and Migdalia Cruz's Fur (New York Theatre Workshop Next Door and Boundless Theatre). Other Recent NYC productions include Mac Wellman's A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds (New York Theatre Workshop Next Door), Kidnap Road (La MaMa), Alligator (New Georges/The Sol Project), Warren Leight's Union Square Incident (24 Hour Plays on Broadway, American Airlines Theatre), Architecture of Becoming (Women's Project). And with NYC's Boundless Theatre Company: Maria Irene Fornes' plays The Conduct of Life and Mud, and Octavio Solis' Prospect. Most recent regional productions: The Migration Plays by Mfoniso Udofia, Martyna Majok, Heather Raffo, Adam Gwon, Karen Zacarias (McCarter Theatre Center), In Between (Walnut Street Theatre), Sweat (People's Light), Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Festival St. Louis), Azaan (Oregon Symphony). Opera: La traviata (New York City Opera/Gilman Opera House at BAM), Lucia di Lammermoor (Opera North), Falstaff and Così fan tutte (Brooklyn Philharmonic/Gilman Opera House at BAM), Latin Lovers (Glimmerglass). Faculty: Princeton University.