Newtown Odyssey: Learnshop and Dress Rehearsal

September 8, 2023, 4pm & 5pm
Géza, 306 Maujer
Newtown Creek Alliance Learnshop
Full Opera Dress Rehearsal

Taking their source material from environmental studies, community board meetings, and interviews with activists, Dana Spiotta, Kurt Rohde, and Marie Lorenz have developed a fantastical, epic opera set on the North Brooklyn Newtown Creek, The Newtown Odyssey is a floating opera and tells the story of the Newtown Creek, a waterway a few blocks away from Amant that separates Brooklyn and Queens. Once marshland, indigenous villages, and more recently industrial farms, today the area is a recovering polluted waterway. Through music and art, this event takes an experimental pedagogical approach and explores the creek’s history by foregrounding environmental and social justice issues that have impacted the surrounding neighbors for generations. 

The Newtown Odyssey is an active space where singing and theater intersect as mediums for storytelling, with librettos developed by writer Dana Spiotta, music scored by composer Kurt Rohde, and set design by artist Marie Lorenz. Their opera deals with a specific nearby place, history, sound, intensity of meaning, and entangled relationships.

At Amant, the Newtown Odyssey holds a dress rehearsal, staging the entirety of its floating opera on land a day before it is premiered on the waterway itself.

Before the dress rehearsal, the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA), a community-based organization dedicated to restoring, revealing, and revitalizing the Newtown Creek, and a close collaborator of the artists, present a learnshop that explores contamination as a crossover of forces between nature and industry found at different junctures of the creek. Detailing many historical phases of the creek, the NCA will tell the story of the waterway’s flora and fauna, climate change adaptations, and water quality.

The NCA learnshop will take approximately 1 hour and is open to all ages 16+; the Newtown Odyssey performance lasts approximately 1-1.5 hrs. Both events are free and open to all, register for the opera via Eventbrite. The learnshop max capacity is 25 participants. Folks who are interested in attending the should rsvp via email to with “NCA learnshop” as subject heading.

Image: Josh Perry with his percussion assembly in the first public workshop at Plank Road in 2022; Photo credit: Cecilia Caldiera

Laura Cocks, Flute
TAK Ensemble Executive Director Laura Cocks is a New York-based flautist and composer. Playing a custom-made open G# Almeida with a Boston-cut Powell headjoint, Laura performs regularly with ensembles including Talea Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, and Wet Ink Ensemble. They recently released an album with Carrier Records and can be heard on many other labels. Laura has been in residence at Harvard University, Stanford University, The Delian Academy for New Music, among others. They currently teach privately at The New School.

Sharon Harms, Voice
Based in New York City, soprano Sharon Harms has premiered the music of many leading contemporary composers and has appeared as a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and as a guest artist of the American Academy in Rome, MATA, Princeton Festival, Resonant Bodies Festival, and more. She is a member of the Argento Ensemble and has performed with other groups including Ensemble mise-en, Limón Dance Company, and MET Opera Chamber Orchestra. Other projects include a 2013 Latin Grammy nomination for Gabriela Ortiz’ s Aroma Foliado with Southwest Chamber Ensemble.

Levy Lorenzo, Electronics
Born in Bucharest, Filipino-American Levy Marcel Ingles Lorenzo, Jr. works at the intersection of music, art, and technology. On an international scale, his body of work spans electronics design, sound engineering, instrument building, installation art, improvisation, and percussion performance. With a primary focus on inventing new instruments, he prototypes, composes, and performs new electronic music.

Charlotte Mundy, Voice
Toronto-born, Brooklyn based vocalist Charlotte Mundy is a member of TAK Ensemble, who have performed at Lincoln Center and the Library of Congress, and Ekmeles vocal ensemble, who were awarded the 2022 Ernst von Siemens award for performance of contemporary music. Passionate about interdisciplinary collaboration, she has acted, danced, and marched through venues including the Metropolitan Museum, the BAM Next Wave Festival, The Park Avenue Armory, St. Ann’s Warehouse, and Abrons Arts Center as well as forests, haunted houses, and hair salons.

Joshua Perry, Percussion
Based in New York City, percussionist Joshua Perry is a passionate advocate for contemporary music and interdisciplinary performance. He frequently collaborates with living composers and has premiered well over 100 works for percussion and mixed ensemble. Perry is a member of Iktus Percussion, ensemble mise-en, Hotel Elefant. He has been a featured soloist in performances around the globe, and has appeared in festivals including the Donaueschingen Music Festival, MATA Festival, and New Voices-New Music at Carnegie Hall.

Kurt Rohde, Viola and Composer
Kurt plays viola, teaches and composes, and lives in San Francisco on unceded Ramaytush Ohlone Ohlone land with spouse Tim and dog Hendrix. Kurt is fascinated with finding ways to incorporate notions of failure and catastrophe as part of the pursuit of making something beautiful. Kurt is Artistic Advisor with the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Artistic Director of the Composers Conference, and teaches Music Composition at UC Davis.

Kyra Sims, French Horn and Voice
Based in New York City, Kyra Sims is a collaborative musician, writer, and actress. She has worked as a backing musician with notable artists such as Lizzo, Frank Ocean, Carole King, and Jon Batiste. She debuted in 2015 as a member of The New York Neo-Futurists in NYC’s longest-running off-off Broadway show as a writer, director, and performer, and last year became Co-Artistic Director of the company.

Marie Lorenz, Set Design
New York-based artist Marie Lorenz’s work is rooted in the exploration and narrative of New York City’s waterfront. Combining psycho-geographic exploration with material form, Lorenz uses boats to bring about a heightened awareness of place. In 2005, she started her Tide and Current Taxi project, taking people around the New York Harbor in a boat built from salvaged materials, using the tide to guide her navigation.

Dana Spiotta, Writer
Dana Spiotta’s writing focuses on the complications of identity, particularly interrogating how our lived experiences and conscious (and unconscious) selves are shaped by economic, political, technological, and historical forces. Spiotta is the author of five acclaimed novels: Innocents and Others (2016), which was a winner of the St. Francis College Literary Prize, finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Pick; Stone Arabia (2011), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Eat the Document (2006), a finalist for the National Book Award; and Lightning Field (2001). Spiotta was a Guggenheim Fellow, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow, and a Rome Prize winner, and recipient of the John Updike Prize from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. She lives in Syracuse and teaches in the Syracuse University MFA program.