“Indiana County: The Opera”—A One-Performance-Only Extravaganza

Posted on 1/13/2009 1:48:07 PM

The Lively Arts, as part of its Performance Plus season and celebrating the inaugural season in the new IUP Performing Arts Center, will present Squonk Opera in Indiana County: The Opera on Friday, January 30, at 8 p.m. This one-time only performance brings the world-touring performance company Squonk Opera together with dozens of Indiana County residents and IUP students to perform a spectacle that celebrates our region and the role we all play in a global community.

The multimedia production, taking place in Fisher Auditorium on the IUP campus, is filled with original music, local histories, video, dance, lights, and other theatrical spectacle. Local contributions include eighteen Indiana Countians interviewed by Squonk, over one hundred drawings by area elementary students, a community finale chorus of over thirty voices, local scenic video shot on the ground and in the air, and area dancers ranging from thirteen through adult. IUP students in the department of theater and dance have also participated in the creation of special puppets and properties and will also be seen on stage.

Tickets for the performance are available in advance at the Hadley Union Building, located off School St. on Pratt Dr. Tickets are also available on line at IUP Tickets or by calling 724-357-1313. Tickets remaining will be sold at the door starting at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $16 regular admission, $14 for seniors and groups of 15 or more; and $10 for all students and children. For further information, call The Lively Arts at 724-357-2547.


This project is partially supported by a grant from Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, a program developed and funded by the Heinz Endowments; the William Penn Foundation; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency; and the Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

Performance Plus is presented by the College of Fine Arts and is funded, in part, by the IUP Student Cooperative Association, African American Cultural Center, Office of International Affairs, Liberal Studies, Office of Social Equity, and Division of Student Affairs. Performance Plus is additionally supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts provided through the Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance.

The Indiana Arts Council will sponsor a reception in the mezzanine lobby following the performance.

squonkhands270More About the Production

Indiana County: The Opera is one installment of a national tour of Squonk Opera’s (put your hometown’s name here): The Opera. Pittsburgh: The Opera premiered the series in June 2006, and since then, the Squonkers have created College Park: The Opera for the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland; Chester County: The Opera with the Delaware Valley Arts Consortium, Albany: The Opera at the University of Albany; South Orange: The Opera at the South Orange Performing Arts Center in New Jersey; Columbia: The Opera at the Columbia Festival of the Arts; Baltimore: The Opera at Baltimore Theatre Project, St. Louis: The Operetta for First Night St. Louis; Bloomington: The Opera at the Buskirk-Chumley in Indiana; Newark: The Opera at the University of Delaware; Charleston: The Opera at FestivALL Charleston (North Carolina); Charlotte: The Opera at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center (North Carolina); and a special overseas version for the Busan International Performing Arts Festival in South Korea.

  • “…uplifting and completely over-the-top” — Albany Times Union
  • “…an abstract music video of the town” — Philadelphia Inquirer 
  • “…stunning, sophisticated music” — The Washington Post
  • “…a quirky, playful, music- and image-driven piece of performance art that offers a nontraditional view of a place you thought you knew” — Tribune-Review

To create these hometown operas, the Squonkers draw from half-time shows, centennial celebrations, political campaigns, tribal displays, and local mythologies. We videotape interviews with the local citizens. We research the town’s victories and scandals, icons and idiosyncrasies, and make movies of the local streetscape. Local children draw imagination maps that we project in animations onstage where local dance groups also join us.

We enjoy discovering how each community sees itself—as a whole and within its diverse communities. In having fun with this format of a celebration of the host city, we talk about the broader issues of shared humanity and the need for self-definition. Community is a vital issue and a comic creative challenge, allowing us to explore what makes opera life-like and life operatic... or not.

Our hometown operas were commissioned by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and Pittsburgh ROARS and was generously funded by the Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation, A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation, Anonymous, Mellon Financial Corporation, National Endowment for the Arts, and private donors.


More About Squonk Opera

Squonk Opera created its first show in a gritty Pittsburgh junkyard, with roaring choreographed cranes and earthmovers, over a decade ago. 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.

Since 1992, Squonk Opera has created nine original shows and has performed in more than two hundred 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 South Korea, where we opened the World Music Theater Festival. Over 200,000 people have seen us around the world, and reviews include “insane majesty" from The Scotsman and “…surreal and poetic” from USA Today.

Squonk Opera has received more than sixty grants and awards over the years, including national grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Jim Henson Foundation, and three 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. (Put your hometown’s name here): The Opera is a development of site-specific residency activities that we have done for years. Astro-rama, our most recent work, is a large-scale outdoor event joining its audience in a festive attempt to contact far-flung galaxies. A UFO is “discovered,” and the next day a four-story radio telescope dish is erected to mount a planetary response. Squonk musicians rise in scissor lifts and cranes, squabble with a giant supercomputer, and finally transmit their message: a self-portrait as a species. This communal revelry is a witty and timely exploration of science and belief, made accessible with pop sci-fi references.

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 ten and twenty performers, designers, and artists at a time over the years.