Director Mark DeChiazza (NYC) will develop video content for an opera without words, Orpheus Unsung, in which an electric guitar is the disembodied voice of Orpheus seeking to regain Eurydice through the power of his music.
Mark DeChiazza is a director, filmmaker, 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.
Called “wildly imaginative” and “a tour de force” by the Washington Post, Columbine’s Paradise Theater, his music-theater collaboration with composer Amy Beth Kirsten, continues a relationship with multiple-Grammy winning ensemble eighth blackbird that began in 2009 with his acclaimed production of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Kirsten and DeChiazza are currently developing Quixote, an evening-length music-theater work (US premiere 2017). Additional upcoming projects include 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.
Recent projects include: direction and editing of the film 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; design and staging of SS15 and AW15 NYC fashion week installation/events for Japanese fashion label pas de calais; and direction, video projection and set design of the music-theater work 5 Beasts (premieres in Lyon, France 2015).
A Colloquy with God, DeChiazza’s film made for New York Polyphony, was featured on NPR Music as was his interpretive concert video of So Percussion performing Steven Mackey’s "It Is Time." American Composers Orchestra and The Crossing premiered his film for Amy Beth Kirsten’s strange pilgrims premiered by at Carnegie Hall in February 2014.
DeChiazza studied film at Dartmouth College and Rhode Island School of Design, and set design and contemporary dance at North Carolina School of the Arts where he earned his BFA. He worked professionally as a scenic artist for theater, before moving to New York City where he completed William Esper Studio’s two-year Actor Training Program while initiating a successful performing career in contemporary dance and dance-theater that spanned nearly two decades. DeChiazza considers the 11 years he spent immersed in a collaborative creative process as a member of Susan Marshall & Company, one of the critical foundations of his development as an artist, and investigating the body and its relationships to space, time, and experience remain vital to his process across all disciplines.
BAC Story by Andrea Mazzariello
Apr 8, 2016
“We’re going to start with something that makes no sense.”
This is Mark DeChiazza advertising the work he is about to show. Not to apologize, I realize later; rather, to articulate that the world this work inhabits will not wholly reveal itself in the little bit of movement I’ll soon see.
And yet it does. Navarra Novy-Williams rolls across the stage, out of her unbuttoned white shirt, under which there is a blue shirt, and then rolls out of the blue shirt, under which there is another white shirt. Denisa Musilova tracks her movements, close by, perhaps even initiating them, her steps and Navarra’s rolling hard-synched, while upstage, Sara Gurevich tracks them both, more frenetically. The process of disrobing and tracking iterates, until Navarra has rolled everything off except her own clothes.
A body adorned with costumes--these colors signify characters--becomes a body that is uniquely itself. We strip the character out of the player and then the playing stops. Mark reminds us that this work is made of real people with real stories; that myth, narrative, opera, all targets for his grinding up and subsequent reassembly, are themselves the fixed forms into which we pour our own ideas, not the other way around.
Orpheus Unsung is a work about words from which all words have been excised. Based on and composed from a text, moving across physical space in the ways that language moves, it derives its power from work that words are tasked with performing but that movement, costume, image, and sound are challenged to do, charged with doing, representing and signifying in a spider’s web, inhabiting an idea but never fully containing it. This is what the music does, Steven Mackey’s extraordinary counterpoint and color built out of looping, alternate tuning, and an orchestral approach to the guitar, and Jason Treuting’s physiological lock into these complex rhythmic strata ranging from whisper to roar.
This is what white and blue shirts, purchased earlier from the Salvation Army store, are doing. Eurydice is white and Orpheus is blue, that much we know, but when three dancers share two garments, one of each color, in the wedding scene, what are we seeing? As they move each others’ bodies, folded together, entangled, who is doing the positioning and who is being positioned? Which body? Or which character, or which human being standing in the Baryshnikov Arts Center on a particular evening in March, taking direction?
This work meditates on the failings of words by asking mute languages to speak. We can read Ovid’s “thin story,” as Mark describes its length, but also perhaps the quality of its veiling, and understand the operations. Orpheus Unsung offers us those operations but takes up their subsequent embodiment, in culture, as a living text, a co-author. Then it radically dismantles this text, subverts every co-author who has ever played Orpheus one-to-one: a character, a costume, an actor linked to particular deeds, particular words. Here Eurydice and Orpheus are free radicals, energies that sound and bodies conjure but never ground.
This lightness is palpable in the room, a real space inhabited by real bodies but brought into weightlessness by the building of collaborative community, the “innocent place” Mark describes, “where everyone is your friend.”
“Everyone,” he continues, “needs to feel like they’re in a space that honors them.” In honoring these bodies we honor the story, in a sense, but also the process of making a story, a vessel into which we might discard our costumes, becoming free to inhabit our given space in our own clothes.
Andrea Mazzariello is a composer, performer, writer, and teacher. His work borrows from both popular and art music approaches, and obsesses over technological intervention, instrumental technique, and the power of language. So Percussion, NOW Ensemble, Newspeak, and many others have performed his concert music. He’s played shows at venues like the Knitting Factory, the Princeton Record Exchange, Galapagos, and Cakeshop. The Queens New Music Festival, Make Music New York, and the Wassaic Festival have presented his songs and spoken word. Active as an educator, he’s taught at Princeton University, Ramapo College of New Jersey, and the So Percussion Summer Institute. He’s currently Visiting Professor of Music at Carleton College, where he teaches composition, music technology, and music fundamentals.
Upcoming page + slide photos: courtesy of Mark DeChiazza / Bio photo by Mark DeChiazza