a season devoted to THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE
and the struggle between traditional values and
the desire for cultural assimilation or a new identity



FRIDAY-SUNDAY, JULY 15-17 at 8 p.m.

Written and directed by Lisa D’Amour
Nita & Zita features Katie Pearl as Zita and Kathy Randels as Nita.
With an original score by New Orleans jazz pianist Tom McDermott and DJ mixes by Greg Wildz, costumes by Olivia Wildz, set design and assemblage by Shawn Hall, and video design by Maria Cataldo.

Nita & Zita is an intimate extravaganza about two visionary showgirls. Part ghostly docudrama, part showgirl spectacular, Nita & Zita begins in 1920 and takes audiences on an up-to-the-minute ride through the lives of these eclectic, elusive sisters.

Nita & Zita tells the real life story of two sisters – dancers, seamstresses, painters – and the mystique that still resonates long after their death. In 1922, the sisters from the Jewish town of Baia Maire, Romania, stepped off a ship called “The Reliance” onto Ellis Island. For Flora and Piroska Gellert, this was the beginning of a long life of travel, performance and fierce personal style. Traveling through this country and beyond as “Nita and Zita, International Dancers,” Flora and Piroska dazzled audiences with their handmade costumes and exotic routines featuring petite Piroska, a contortionist.

In the early 1940’s, they settled into a Creole cottage in New Orleans, performing in the French Quarter and in a nearby bar until their retirement in the 1950’s. Quickly, their home became the sisters’ refuge, their reclusive habits making them instant neighborhood legends: rumors spread about the “gypsy ladies” who walked to the grocery store wearing formal dresses, and who painted their entire house, inside and out, with wild polka dot patterns.


FRIDAY – SUNDAY, JULY 22-24 at 8 p.m.

By Naoko Maeshiba in collaboration with Tatsuya Aoyagi

Conceived/directed/choreographed by Naoko Maeshiba, this multidisciplinary performance piece illuminates the memory and history ingrained in the body that bridges two cultures: Japan and America. The shape and the form of ‘traces’ within one’s own body and mind, as well as in society are examined through evocative visual poetry. Intricate human relationships, our conflicted existence, and the journey between life and death are vividly depicted through layers of images. Remains of Shadow leads the audience into the sensorial experience of drifting created through text, movement, objects, voice, music, and video projection.



(CANCELLED due to delays in visa approval by Homeland Security)

FRIDAY-SUNDAY, JULY 29 – 31 at 8 p.m.

Nora Amin of Cairo, Egypt

After an extensive European tour, prize-winning Egyptian author and performer Nora Amin brings her production to Amherst. Amin describes her multimedia production ARAB as “an attempt to question definitions, break the rules and taboos, shift the borders between cultures and genres, and finally re-create the cultural identity of the artist through live and artistic performance.” It starts by exposing the labels of identity (Arab/Muslim/woman), then goes towards a live exploration of how one can find her profound self beyond the layers of the outside images imposed on her, and – above all – through the foreign language that allows more proximity in the description of the experiences that create the specificity of the self. Since these experiences are themselves taboo in the native (Arabic) language of the person, they seek their liberation in another language that does not forbid them.




by Bertolt Brecht

FRIDAY, August 5th at 8 p.m. ONE NIGHT ONLY!

Ralph Lee’s Mettawee River Company of New York

A visit from our annual favorites with their new abridged version of Bertolt Brecht’s THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE , which was based on a 13th century Chinese play. Both plays contain echoes of King Solomon’s demonstration of wisdom in devising a test to determine the true mother of a contested baby. In Brecht’s play a peasant girl rescues an abandoned child of noble parents in a time of upheaval. The girl protects the child through many serious and comic adventures. When the noble mother tries to reclaim the child in order to gain an inheritance, the resulting dispute is brought before an eccentric judge, who manages to hand down an outrageous but just decision. Six actors will play multiple roles. The production will incorporate masks, puppetry and costumes, with a live original musical score composed by Neal Kirkwood. Ralph Lee will design and direct the production, with costumes by Casey Compton.



SATURDAY & SUNDAY, AUGUST 6-7 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Devised and directed by Miguel Romero of Leverett, MA

Freely based on Alexander Pushkin’s Russian fairy tale The Tale of Tsar Saltan

A swan with magic powers, a vengeful bumblebee, a golden hero, and a lady pirate share the puppet stage in Boy in a Barrel, a rollicking fairy tale for all ages. The story tells of love, betrayal, and good-natured revenge when the King marries one of two sisters before going off to war. The Queen’s evil sister switches letters and leads the King to believe that the Queen and their baby son have died. In fact, the jealous sister has cast a spell that turns her sister into a swan and spirited the baby boy, destined to be the Kingdom’s hero, into a barrel that is dumped into the sea. Swan and boy end up on an island where they hilariously turn the tables on the evil sister, who has determined to marry the King herself.

The production features table-top, rod, and shadow puppets in colorful Russian costumes and was accompanied by rousing balalaika music and mock Russian sea chanteys.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is on Bay Road in Amherst.

Box Office opens July 11. (413) 542-2277

For information prior to the opening of the box office call (413) 427-6147.





July 11-16

with Kathy Randels of ArtSpot Productions and Katie Pearl

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mae West, Harriet Tubman, Tupac, the old lady who lived down the street when you were growing up: all of these people had secret lives. Find the theatrical potential in the secret life of the person you have always wanted to perform, and explore your relationship to that person. This workshop gives you permission to excavate and create information about a person in whose shoes you have always wanted to walk. Using techniques of the Nita & Zita creative team, participants will work in theatrical and visual arts mediums to create a biographical sketch of their favorite subject.


July 18 – 23

with Nora Amin  

This workshop will concentrate on storytelling drawn from literary sources. Participants will work on:

  1. How to use a literary source (play, novel, short story) and convert it into material for storytelling
  2. Strategies to recreate/transform the initial stories through improvisation
  3. Improve the story as a piece of oral literature, focusing on poetics and images.
  4. Adding a physical input to further the expression of the story.
  5. Creating group stories from the individual inputs/stories, by combining them and developing them into a collective structure exploring the result as a one big story.
  6. Performing the “one big story” in addition to other individual stories.

The workshop above was cancelled. A workshop on Traditional Storytelling Techniques from the Upper Nile of Egypt, taught by Isis Misdary Saratial was substituted in its stead.


July 25-30

with Mark McKenna of Touchstone Theatre

Also known as “Courageous Acting: Creating a Clown,” this workshop will be an intense exploration of the sense of play, courage and skill needed to create a theatrical clown character. In a community of fun and support , built to encourage great risk taking, the actor creates a clown in the crucible between exquisite listening and revealing his/her most guarded self. Availability and generosity are essential, self-indulgence is scorned. Solo and group improvisations, assignments, along with individual guidance will locate for each participant how to create original, moving material thru developing his/her unique clown. Mark McKenna studied at the LeCoq School in Paris and is the Artistic Director of Touchstone Theatre in Bethlehem, PA.


SHADOW PUPPETRY: bringing shadows into the light

August 1-6

with Wendy Morton

This workshop explores dramatic storytelling through shadows and light projections. Shadow theatre has changed dramatically since the days before electricity. Advanced technology has given us lighting that can project sharp shadows on a screen in large scale. The performer must coordinate three elements: the light, the puppet and the space from the screen. We will practice traditional shadow puppetry movement to find subtlety and simplicity in expression. We will take a look at our own shadows, exploring how good and evil are viewed in our culture and how those values are reflected in our stories. To create stories on the screen we will employ modern film techniques and explore theatrical shadow images through improvisation. Workshop participants should bring a poem or song containing shadow imagery.


“The Ko Festival of Performance offerings are authentic, brave… its pool is international;
it sits on a unique throne.”. —The Greenfield Recorder