In 2012, Squonk Opera celebrated its 20th anniversary year. A flexible interdisciplinary group of artists led by collaborators Jackie Dempsey and Steve O'Hearn, we were interested in a theater created from sound and image. We were also inspired by a rust-belt love of spectacle and humor - we were competing with football, catholic ritual, and beer-fed bar bands.
Squonk Opera has created eleven original shows and has performed in more than 250 venues across the United States. In 1995, we were commissioned by Marc Masterson to create Night of The Living Dead: The Opera for Pittsburgh's City Theatre. Bigsmorgasbordwunderwerk was an Off-Broadway hit in 1999, a show that Ben Brantley of The New York Times called "ingenious, hallucinatory, hypnotic." The show was then transferred to Broadway in 2000, where it received an American Theater Wing Special Effects Design Award (previously won by Julie Taymor and Robert Wilson). Squonkumentary, a film about our time in NYC, was produced by independent filmmaker Peggy Sutton in 2005.
We have been touring internationally since 2003 - to Scotland, Belgium, Germany and twice to South Korea, where we opened both the Busan International Performing Arts Festival and the World Music Theater Festival. Over 300,000 people have seen us around the world, and reviews include "insane majesty" from The Scotsman, and "...surreal and poetic" from USA Today.
In 2011 at the invitation of the producers, we competed in season six of the NBC reality show America's Got Talent, making it to the top 48 and performing live for 14 million viewers.
Squonk Opera has received more than seventy grants and awards over the years, including national grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, The Jim Henson Foundation and six grants from the NEA. We have performed workshops and residencies at over fifty universities, middle schools and museums all over the United States.
Squonk Opera is currently touring two very different shows. 'GO Roadshow', our newest production, is “a musical street spectacle on wheels”. This show-making machine is a 34-foot long monster truck retrofitted with truck-horn calliope, a wall made of rotors and a spinning grand piano that is played while it wheels around! Each show starts with a shameless parade of peacock trumpets, spinning drums, accordion, sousaphone and glockenspiel. 'Mayhem and Majesty' is a theater production that explores the poetry of music making and the power of sound with cameras, projections and kinetic machines. Music is made vivid through mesmerizing projections and constantly transforming scenery.
Artistic Directors Jackie Dempsey and Steve O'Hearn have an ongoing desire to make interdisciplinary work that is accessible to a broad and diverse public and have been working with a collective of between 10 and 20 performers, designers and artists at a time over the years.