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Marisa MICHELSON

Professional Bio

In addition to being a sought-after somatic singing teacher, Marisa is an award-winning composer of music-theatre, experimental musicals, oratorio and choral works, and was the founding director of the psychedelic singing ensemble Constellation Chor | an immersion in voice, movement, and spirit.

 

Thanks to an ongoing residency at the historic Judson Memorial Church, Constellation Chor researched, rehearsed and performed in New York City and internationally for a decade.  They made their Lincoln Center debut in 2018 premiering Ash Fure’s Filament with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap van Zweden.  The Chor has collaborated with such artists as William Brittelle, Claire Chase, Miriam Parker, Sarah Hennies, Paola Prestini, Maria Popova, and with organizations such as Heartbeat Opera, Harvard Art Lab, Spectrum and Pioneer Works.  Most recently they recorded their first EP at Studio 9, Porches at Mass Moca.  

 

Marisa has written four full-length musicals, two of which were produced off-Broadway by Prospect Theater Company.  One Thousand Nights and One Day - retelling the story of Scheherazade in part through the lens of a modern romance between a Jewish man and an Arab woman - starred Sepideh Moafi and was written with playwright Jason Grote. Her other off-Broadway musical, the Drama-Desk nominated Tamar of the River was written with Joshua H. Cohen and starred Margo Seibert in the title role.  You can hear the cast album of Tamar of the River wherever you find your music.  (The titles of her other musicals are Still Life with Toe Shoes and Hotel Sarajevo.  They were both produced in smaller venues and at universities.)

 

Marisa has also written choral pieces, including an oratorio (with Royce Vavrek) for five choirs and chamber orchestra, entitled Naamah’s Ark, a retelling of the story of “Noah’s Ark” from his wife’s point of view.  This oratorio has been produced four times, including in NYC starring Victoria Clark, and also in Salt Lake City as part of  the National Opera Association’s Sacred in Opera initiative.  

 

Her most personal composition project to date was her Desire|Divinity Project, a three part music-theater piece exploring the connection between sexuality and spirituality through an exegesis of the Song of Songs and a musicalization of Sappho’s poetry fragments. She composed The Desire | Divinity Project for herself, Constellation Chor, percussion, bansuri flute and cello.  She received the inaugural Eric Salzman Award for Music Theatre, and a Creative Engagement Award from LMCC for the project.  Part III (if it ever gets created!) will be about Hildegard von Bingen, Heloise d'Argenteuil and Marguerite Porete. 

 

Marisa has written a number of short musicals including one with librettist Mark Campbell entitled The Other Room (Barrow Group Theatre, Inner Voices) which starred Phoebe Strole as Lena, a woman reflecting on her profound love for her friend Steve during the AIDS crisis in NYC in the 1990s. The Other Room was subsequently produced by Studios of Key West and Arbeit Opera Theater and is currently available for licensing.  

 

Most recently, Marisa collaborated with Miriam Parker and National Sawdust to create a digital piece voice and movement score for Constellation Chor called Beneath the Surface.  

As a singer, in addition to performing her own work, Marisa performed with Meredith Monk at BAM, and spent much of her early twenties originating roles in new experimental operas and musicals in NYC, such as Ophelia in Opera in Blue by Sergei Dreznin.

 

She currently travels around singing with the vocal quartet, Agrol Agra, which performs Hungarian folk songs and Bartok arrangements of said folk songs.  

Marisa is beyond grateful to live and work and teach on acres of land in Upstate New York (Ancram/unceded Mohican land).  Marisa gives her gratitude to the trees, red-winged blackbirds, deer, hares, water and wind, dirt, bees, and non-human life for the profound support. Thank you.  

AWARDS & Residencies

 

Residencies: MacDowell, Ucross, New Dramatists, Pioneer Works, National Sawdust, Blue Mountain Center.

 

Awards:

2020/2021 – Toulmin Foundation Awarded Co-Fellow (with Miriam Parker) for National Sawdust and Center for Ballet Arts

2019 – Support from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts for Constellation Chor

 

2018 – Inaugural Eric Salzman Award for New Music Theatre for Song of Song of Songs 

2018 – Winner (with co-writer Jason Grote) of a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Grant for the new musical One Thousand Nights and One Day 

2017 – Winner of a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Creative Engagement Grant for Marisa Michelson’s Desire | Divinity Project

2016 – Residency at the Blue Mountain Center

 

2015 – MacDowell and UCross Fellowships 

2014 – Weston Playhouse Writer’s Residency 

2012 – Winner of a NAMT (National Alliance for Musical Theatre) Writer’s Residency award to work on The Grid at Millikin University.

2011 – Winner (with Joshua H. Cohen) of the Jonathan Larson Award

2011 – Theatreworks Palo Alto Writers Residency

2010 – Commissioned by Montclair University´s New Works Initiative to create a new musical adaptation of Jason Grote´s play, 1001

2009 – Winner of the American Musical Voices Project: the Next Generation commission from the Shen Family Foundation to create an original full-length musical for the Tony-Award Winning Signature Theatre (Arlington, VA): First full workshop, Tamar of the River, July 2010

2008 – The Shen Family Foundation Developmental Grant, in conjunction with the Signature Theater´s “American Musical Voices Project: the Next Generation” – Honoree

2008 – New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Workshop.

2007 – Fellowship to Compose Music and study Indian Hindustani singing in India

 

2006 – Winner of St. Botolph Grant-in-Aid for Composition

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