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A New Kind of Fallout is the world premiere of a new Eco-Opera inspired by the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson's seminal book, Silent Spring. With music by New York-based composer Gilda Lyons, and a libretto by acclaimed Pittsburgh playwright Tammy Ryan, A New Kind of Fallout follows a typical Pittsburgh family thrown into conflict by the environmental warnings issued in Silent Spring, its themes of stewardship and renewal, and the very personal impact on one family and their unborn child.

The development process for A New Kind of Fallout included a series of public workshops—we thank you for joining the conversation. 

Generous support for the development of A New Kind of Fallout is provided by:

  • Highmark
  • The Lloyd Foundation
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Funds of The Pittsburgh Foundation: the James H. Beal Fund, the George and Anna Neider Fund, the Helen Mason Moore Fund, and the Gail N. Platt Arts Fund

 

Production Information

A New Kind of Fallout is sung in English, with English titles projected above the stage.

Running time: approximately 1 hour and 55 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Commissioned by Opera Theater of Pittsburgh

 

 

Production Team

Composer   Gilda Lyons
Librettist   Tammy Ryan
Conductor   Robert Frankenberry
Director and Producer   Jonathan Eaton
Scenic Designer   Christine Lee Won
Costume Designer    Cynthia Albert
Lighting Designer   Madeleine Steineck
Projection Designer   Chuck Beard
Hair and Makeup Designer   Karen J. Gilmer
Assistant Director   David Toro
Stage Manager   Claire Landuyt
Assistant Stage Managers   Bryan Russell
    Rachel Walrath
     

Cast

Alice Front   Lara Lynn Cottrill
Jack Front   Christopher Scott
Arthur Begman/Doctor   Glenn Ayars
Older Alice   Daphne Alderson
Bob Dart   Aaron Kaswen
Ed Blocker   Angky Budiardjono
Harry Stritch   Isaiah Feken
Flora Dart   Desiree Soteres
Winnie Blocker   Katie Manukyan
Bette Stritch   Teresa Procter
The Earth   Fé Avouglan
Science   Emily Jensen
The Word   Victoria Fox
Ensemble   Emily Baker
    Lauren Carter
    Dustin Damonte
    Laura Dellafera
    Gabriel DiGennaro
    Ann Louise Glasser
    Jessica Hiltabidle
    Valerie Hosler
    Samantha Kronenfeld
    Samantha Lax
    Maureen Smith
    Joshua Smith
    Jennifer Wilson
     

 

 

The Story

Inspired by the works and life of Rachel Carson, A New Kind of Fallout is the fictional story of Alice Front, a newly pregnant 1960s homemaker whose life and marriage are transformed after reading Carson’s seminal book, Silent Spring. 

It is 1962 in a fictional suburb of Pittsburgh. A contented wife and expectant mother, Alice Front, evolves into a concerned citizen and enlightened environmental activist when her municipality sprays her neighborhoodwith a “miracle compound” to eradicate insect pests. Her husband, Jack, an advertising executive and “company man” on the rise at the Chemical Company that manufactures the pesticide, is at odds with her as his responsibilities to the company clash with Alice’s newly-formed concerns for the safety of their environment, home, and unborn child.

Alice’s narrative manifests Carson’s universal lesson: that everything in this world is interconnected, not only in the terms of “the balance of nature,” but in the balance of a society—childhood friendships, communities, businesses, political alliances, partnerships, and the private negotiations of marriages. A New Kind of Fallout explores a pivotal cultural shift in American awareness about humanity’s impact upon its environment by dramatizing a critical moment of change in one woman’s life.

The title is taken from Rachel Carson’s testimony to the U.S. Senate in 1963.

 

 

Meet the Composer

Composer

Gilda Lyons, (b. 1975), composer, vocalist, and visual artist, combines elements of renaissance, neo-baroque, spectral, folk, agitprop Music Theater, and extended vocalism to create works of uncompromising emotional honesty and melodic beauty. Tom Strini of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes her "Nahuatl Hymn to the All-Mother" for treble choir (Clarion CLCD-936), commissioned by The Milwaukee Choral Artists, as "hair-raising, yet elegant [with] slides, dips, yips and yelps amid ceremonial intensity."

Gilda Lyons
Gilda Lyons

Recent premieres in Beijing, Tokyo, Seattle, New York, and Pittsburgh include "walk, run, fly" (voice / pre-recorded sound; The Flea, New York City), "Lady Beetle" (koto solo; Yumi Kurosawa, Torifony Hall, Tokyo), "Moonlight Suite" (chamber opera; Opera Theater of Pittsburgh), "Coney Run" (voice / piano / pre-recorded sound; Two Sides Sounding, New York City), "Hold On" (voice / piano; Adrienne Danrich, Thomas Bagwell; AIDS Quilt Song Book at Twenty), "La Novia de Tola" (piano trio; Beijing New Music Ensemble, Beijing; Finisterra Trio, Seattle; Entelechron, New York City), "Invocations" (voice / shakuhachi; Kyo-Shin-An Arts, New York City) and "rapid transit" (voices; 5 Borough Music Festival, New York City, GPR Records).

In addition to A New Kind of Fallout, she is also completing large-scale commissions for Mirror Visions Ensemble and IonSound. Past commissions have come from The ASCAP Foundation / Charles Kingsford Fund, American Opera Projects, Amy Pivar Dances, Beijing New Music Ensemble, ComposersCollaborative Inc., Fort Greene Park Conservancy, Paul Sperry, Sweet Plantain String Quartet, and The Walt Whitman Project, among many others. Composer-in-Residencies include Vermont's New Music on the Point (2013); Seasons Music Festival in Washington State (2009-2012); and Hartford Women Composers Festival (2011).

An active vocalist and fierce advocate of contemporary music, Dr. Lyons has commissioned, premiered, and workshopped new vocal works by dozens of composers. Of her performance in Daron Hagen's Shining Brow (Buffalo Philharmonic/Falletta) (Naxos) David Shengold of Opera, UK writes "Gilda Lyons's clear soprano compels admiration."

Dr. Lyons serves as Artistic and Executive Director of The Phoenix Concerts, New York's "plucky Upper West Side new-music series." (The New Yorker)  Her music is published by Schott, E.C. Schirmer and Burning Sled.  She received her Ph.D. in Music Composition from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Bard College. Dr. Lyons made her professional debut as composer and vocalist with the American Symphony Chamber Orchestra in 1997, performing the world premiere of her orchestral song cycle "Feis."

Librettist

Tammy Ryan
Tammy Ryan

Tammy Ryan's award winning plays have been produced across the country and internationally. She won the 2012 Francesca Primus Prize awarded by the American Theater Critics Association for her play Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods which was developed by the New Harmony Project, and received its world premiere in a co-production at Premiere Stages and Playwrights Theater of New Jersey.

Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at The Alliance Theater Company, Dorset Theater Festival, Florida Stage, Marin Theater Company, The REP at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, City Theater, Bricolage, and the Lark Play Development Lab among others, and has been featured at NNPN's National Showcase of New Plays. In addition her plays for young audiences have twice received the National Playwriting for Youth Bonderman Award, including The Music Lesson which also received the American Alliance of Theatre in Education's Distinguished Play Award.

Other honors include the Heinz Endowments Creative Heights Grant, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Creative Achievement Award and fellowships from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Sewanee Writers Conference and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

She serves as the Pittsburgh regional representative for the Dramatists Guild of America.

 

 

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring

Silent Spring is an environmental science book written by Rachel Carson and published by Houghton Mifflin on September 27, 1962. The book documented the detrimental effects of indiscriminate use of pesticides on the environment, particularly on birds. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting industry claims unquestioningly.

Silent Spring

Late in the 1950s, Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people. Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT for agricultural uses, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As biographer Mark Hamilton Lytle writes, Carson "quite self-consciously decided to write a book calling into question the paradigm of scientific progress that defined postwar American culture." The overriding theme of Silent Spring is the powerful—and often negative—effect humans have on the natural world.

Carson's main argument is that pesticides have detrimental effects on the environment; they are more properly termed "biocides", she argues, because their effects are rarely limited to the target pests. DDT is a prime example, but other synthetic pesticides come under scrutiny as well—many of which are subject to bioaccumulation. Carson also accuses the chemical industry of intentionally spreading disinformation and public officials of accepting industry claims uncritically. Most of the book is devoted to pesticides' effects on natural ecosystems, but four chapters also detail cases of human pesticide poisoning, cancer, and other illnesses attributed to pesticides. About DDT and cancer, the subject of so much subsequent debate, Carson says only a little:

In laboratory tests on animal subjects, DDT has produced suspicious liver tumors. Scientists of the Food and Drug Administration who reported the discovery of these tumors were uncertain how to classify them, but felt there was some "justification for considering them low grade hepatic cell carcinomas." Dr. Hueper [author of Occupational Tumors and Allied Diseases] now gives DDT the definite rating of a "chemical carcinogen."

Carson predicts increased consequences in the future, especially as targeted pests develop resistance to pesticides, while weakened ecosystems fall prey to unanticipated invasive species. The book closes with a call for a biotic approach to pest control as an alternative to chemical pesticides.

Read more about the publication of and response to Silent Spring on Wikipedia.