Aqua Net & Funyuns is a podcast opera featuring five newly-commissioned, original stories, each written by a different librettist/composer combo. Drawing from the style of audio fiction podcasts, the 25-minute, serial episodes are designed specifically to tell compelling narratives with voices, instruments and immersive sound design.
Each episode highlights the cliff-hanger nature of serial narratives and the playful possibilities of the podcast medium, by alternating between all five operas in “round-robin” style. Listeners will need to tune in over multiple episodes to hear the complete story.
The stories and librettos featured in Aqua Net & Funyuns emerged from a one-month iteration of EiO’s innovative Writers’ Room project, which brought together a group of writers from the world of podcast fiction to quickly create individual episodes, using the model of a television writer’s room. In the case of Aqua Net & Funyuns, the four librettists each tell separate stories that are linked through hidden “easter egg” details that appear in each episode. Developed through a communal process of feedback and workshopping, the librettos share an embrace of genre fiction, non-normative relationships, otherworldly phenomena, emotional hi-jinks, and compelling characters.
Tariq Al-Sabir (composer) has been described as a “boundless talent” by Baltimore’s City Hall and The Examiner deemed him “a rising musical mastermind.” In 2017, he premiered commissioned works at The Lincoln Center, National Sawdust, and Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. He collaborated with Kambui Olujimi and the Lone Wolf Recital Corps at MoMA in short film and live performance for the exhibition Projects 107: Lone Wolf Recital Corps. He nationally and internationally premiered the roles of Richard Moss and Travis Douglass in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, an opera by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon. In 2018 Tariq was selected to be a member of the inaugural SUITE/Space Artist residency with the legendary Mabou Mines Theater Company, where he conceived and presented a workshop version of his theatrical-multimedia song cycle #UNWANTED in their new theater at Performance Space 122.
Al-Sabir served as music director for the Off-Broadway run of Black Light at the Public Theater and Greenwich House Theater. #UNWANTED premiered to the world at THE SHED in NYC among the inaugural Open Call commissions. In Summer of 2019 Al-Sabir made his LA Philharmonic debut in the cast of Meredith Monk’s, ATLAS under the direction of Yuval Sharon. He is currently collaborating with Monk on her new evening-length performance, Indra’s Net.
Jason Cady (librettist and composer) is a composer and librettist. He performs on pedal steel and modular synthesizer. Pitchfork called him a “mod-synth mastermind…funny and engaging.” Anthony Tommasini, in the New York Times, described his video opera, I Screwed Up the Future, as “charming fantasy…drably comic and spacey.” Opera News described his opera I Need Space as “delightfully weird…hilarious, dry and detached performances made this futuristic, retro story of love and rejection endearingly poignant.” His most recent opera, Candy Corn, was called “hilarious” by The Wire Magazine, and “radically enjoyable” by I Care If You Listen.
Cady’s CDs have been released on Lockstep Records and Peacock Recordings, and his podcast opera, Buick City, 1:00 AM is available on Apple Podcasts. The Brooklyn Arts Council, New Music USA, Wave Farm, The Casement Fund, Lighton International Artists Exchange and the American Music Center have funded his projects. He has been interviewed on WBEZ, WNYC, WKCR, WPIR, KMFA and East Village Radio. NPR featured him in “The Mix: 100 Composers Under 40.”
Cady is the Co-Artistic Director of Experiments in Opera. He has an M.A. in composition from Wesleyan University, where he studied with Alvin Lucier and Anthony Braxton. He was born in Flint, Michigan and now lives in New York City.
Cara Ehlenfeldt (librettist) is a writer and audio producer based in New York City. By day, Cara produces audio fiction and beyond with Gideon Media, Radiotopia, and others. By night, Cara co-creates/produces the independent audio drama The Godshead Incidental, which explores found family and myths of adulthood. Cara holds an M.A. in Sound Arts and Industries from Northwestern University and studied linguistics and creative writing at Swarthmore College.
Kamala Sankaram (composer) has been praised as “strikingly original” (NY Times), and a “new voice from whom we will surely be hearing more” (LA Times). She has received commissions from Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Beth Morrison Projects, the PROTOTYPE Festival, Opera on Tap, Opera Memphis, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, among others. She is the recipient of a Jonathan Larson Award from the American Theater Wing, and has received grants from Opera America, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kevin Spacey Foundation, and the MAP Fund. Residencies and fellowships include the MacDowell Colony, the Watermill Center, the Civilians, HERE Arts Center, CAP21, Con Edison/Exploring the Metropolis, the Hermitage, and American Lyric Theater. As a resident artist at HERE Arts Center, Kamala created MIRANDA, which was the winner of the New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical. THUMBPRINT, her second opera (written in collaboration with librettist Susan Yankowitz), premiered in the 2014 PROTOTYPE Festival, and was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition, Agence French Presse, and over 25 media outlets around the world. THUMBPRINT has since received productions at LA Opera and Opera Ithaca. She is currently working with Opera on Tap and librettist Jerre Dye on THE PARKSVILLE MURDERS, the first opera written for virtual reality. Episode 1 is now available on SamsungVR.
As a performer, Kamala Sankaram has been hailed as “an impassioned soprano with blazing high notes” (Wall Street Journal). She has performed and premiered pieces with Beth Morrison Projects, Anthony Braxton, and the Wooster Group, among others, and is the leader of Bombay Rickey, an operatic Bollywood surf ensemble whose debut was named Best Eclectic Album by the Independent Music Awards Vox Pop. Bombay Rickey’s opera-cabaret on the life of Yma Sumac premiered in the 2016 PROTOTYPE Festival and was most recently presented in London at Tête-à-Tête Opera’s Cubitt Sessions. Bombay Rickey has been selected for the 2017/18 season’s Mid-Atlantic Arts touring roster, and will release their sophomore album in the spring of 2018. Dr. Sankaram holds a PhD from the New School and is currently a member of the composition faculty at SUNY Purchase. For more information, visit kamalasankaram.com
Daniel Shepard (librettist) is a Brooklyn-based writer, producer and showrunner. In 2006, Daniel started working for the Emmy Award-winning series, Inside the Actors Studio, where he helped produce over 60 episodes. In 2011, Daniel co-founded Woodland View Productions where he produced award-winning films, web series and animated digital series including Chicks on a Bench (MTV) and Swimming Lessons (Above Average, Hulu, Comedy Central).
In 2015, Daniel co-founded Cartuna, a Brooklyn-based animation company, where he served as Head of Animation & Development and produced over 30 animated digital series including Human Kind Of (Facebook Watch, Annie Nomination for Best TV Production), Dogs in a Park (Comcast, IFC), Museum of Human History (Topic Studios), Science! (SYFY), Tammy’s Tiny Tea Time (Sundance), North Pole (Comedy Central), and many more. His film credits include the critically-acclaimed documentary Nuts! (Sundance, Amazon) and the animated feature film The Adventures of Drunky starring Sam Rockwell, Steve Coogan, and Tyler the Creator (currently in production). In 2019, Daniel founded Top Seed Productions where he develops and produces animated series, films, podcasts, comics and more. Visit thatdanielshepard.com for more info.
Aaron Siegel’s (composer) inquisitive and playful work represents a personal vision of how we live with and respond to the sounds in our world. He is a composer of music for the concert stage, the theater, video, and public art. His large body of work for mallet percussion instruments has been embraced by a wide range of ensembles and is performed on a regular basis throughout the United States. Siegel is one of the co-founders of Experiments in Opera (EiO) with whom he has produced over 60 new operatic works since its founding in 2011.
In 2019, Siegel released ‘A Great Many’ on New Amsterdam Records, featuring Mantra Percussion and clarinetist Christa Van Alstine. They celebrated the release of this recording with a performance at National Sawdust in Brooklyn. In April 2019, Siegel premiered five movements of a new oratorio I Will Tell You The Truth About This, I Will Tell You All About it, based on poems by U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. His contributions to the collaboratively-composed opera, Chunky in Heat, were heard at the premiere in May 2019 at The Flea Theater, produced by Experiments in Opera. Other recent work has included a performance of the opera in development, Rainbird, co-created with Mallory Catlett at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in November 2019 as part of the Artist in Residency program. For more information visit aaronsiegel.net.
Annie-Sage Whitehurst (librettist) is a film, theatre and voice over actor, writer and collaborator in New York City. Writing credits include the shorts “Prime Matter,” “422 E. 75th St” and “Rodney at 3:00am”. Film/TV credits include Discovery ID’s “A Crime To Remember”, “Roadside Assistance” and “B.P.M”. VO work includes originating “Lia Haddock” in the podcast “Limetown,” “Elena Collins” in Experiments in Opera’s podcast, “Buick City 1:00am”, as well as audiobook narration and nationally syndicated broadcasts. Theatre credits include “Juliana” in the serialized, two-year run of Juliana at The Duplex, as well as performances at La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, Cherry Lane, The Kennedy Center, and more. Quarantine Edition: Annie-Sage is the founder of The Sequestered: A Micro Short Online Film Festival for filmmakers sheltering-in-place, a core performer on @SociallyDistantImprov and a member of The Armory’s In Between Sketch Team. www.annie-sage.com @anniehyphensage
Michi Wiancko (composer)is a composer, arranger and violinist whose work has been performed by ensembles, bands and orchestras around the world. She has collaborated with artists from across a wide musical spectrum and performed with some of the great musical artists of our time. Michi’s first opera, Murasaki’s Moon, premiered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in May of 2019. This work was created in collaboration with librettist Deborah Brevoort and director Eric Einhorn from OnSite Opera. Michi is a 2018 recipient of an Opera America Commissioning Grant. Upcoming projects include new compositions for yMusic and NOW Ensemble, and arrangements and reimaginings for Camerata Bern, violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, soprano Anna Prohaska, and violinist Anne Akiko Meyers.