Shah Motia has performed for La MaMa, The Brick, and Theater for the New City. Shah can be seen in The Game, a short film for which he shares the “Best Ensemble” award from the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival. Shah is also an accomplished guitarist & musician. He is a founding member of Ex Models, whose music and live performances have received critical acclaim in Pitchfork, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, NME and countless other outlets. Shah is a graduate of the Terry Knickerbocker Studio conservatory. He is currently at work on his first play.
Shelly is equal parts thrilled and proud to be apart of such an impactful piece of work by such a dear friend. Previously she has been seen on the road as Tammy in the 1st Broadway National Tour of Escape the Margaritaville and off-Broadway in Sistas the musical and The Great Cat Massacre. She would like to say congratulations and thank you to Bryce, Katy, The Why Collective, The Cell Theatre and every single person on and off stage for working so incredibly hard to make this show happen. I can not wait to see what is next for Bryce and this play. Truly and honestly grateful. Lots of love to Dan, the best friends in the world, MMV and all who have come to support. This is only the beginning. x
Heather Jones is a mezzo and crossover artist performing classical and contemporary repertoire with “mischievous freshness and enthusiasm.” Season highlights include Hannah After in Laura Kaminsky’s As One, Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and a residency with the LA-based experimental ensemble Wild Up to develop and present Expostulation(s) of Mary, a chamber opera for voice, electronics, strings, and dancer about the biblical traditions of gender, sexuality, and bodily autonomy. In 2022-2023, Heather will appear with Beth Morrison Projects, ChamberQUEER, City Lyric Opera, Spoleto Festival USA, Opera Philadelphia, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Savannah Voice Festival, Aural Compass Projects, Voices of Ascension, and Trinity Wall Street. Heather has co-produced two iterations of the multi-disciplinary, durational work Vexations in Time, based on Satie’s experimental piano solo of the same name, as well as two short films: Abraham and Isaac, featuring abstract artist Meredith Walker live painting Britten’s duet for mezzo and tenor and Weill’s Lost in the Stars, shot remotely during quarantine at Juilliard and featuring dancer-choreographer Lindsay Phillips. Perpetually drawn to the inherent queerness and gender expansiveness of the arts, Heather has spoken on LGBTQ+ panels with the American Opera Project, Wild Up, Opera Maine, and Savannah Voice Festival, and is currently touring a recital with Dicky Dutton titled Still Running which chronicles the trans experience of escapism and search for belonging within a family, a community, and one’s own body. More info at heatherjonesmezzo.com
AJ Rodriguez is a San Francisco Bay Area tenor who started his musical journey around the age of twenty. AJ has performed from coast-to-coast and has been praised for his "earnest lyricism." Years of dancing competitively in the modern style has produced a deep love for movement which makes him a strong advocate for anatomical awareness during vocal production. No matter the genre of singing, AJ believes in a long-standing tradition of vocal health before production. Along with a passion for performing, he has a deep love for education and interdisciplinary work. A long-term goal he has is to find ways to bridge a gap in the accessibility of music and arts in low-income/disadvantaged communities. He is so excited to join the cast of The Smallest Sound, in the Smallest Space during The Why Collective's inaugural Festival-in-Residence. AJ holds a Masters Degree from the Manhattan School of Music of Music in Classical Performance.
Fascinated with the intersection of storytelling, speech, and movement, pianist Nathaniel LaNasa partners with singers, dancers, and ensembles in music spanning five centuries. A consummate collaborator, Nate has been praised for his “stormy lyricism” (New York Times) as well as his “poise and elegance” (Feast of Music). In early 2022, he performed “Intimate Apparel,” Ricky Ian Gordon’s new two-piano opera, sixty times at the Lincoln Center Theater. His premieres include works by Nate Wooley, Matthew Ricketts, Molly Joyce, Shawn Jaeger, and Dimitri Tymoczko. Nate curates NYFOS Next at the Rubin Museum, serves as music director for Dances We Dance, and is on the roster of Brooklyn Art Song Society. NYC credits include Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, MoMA, and (le) Poisson Rouge; he’s also performed at the Musée d’Orsay (Paris), Wigmore Hall (London), and Burning Man (Black Rock City). Nathaniel-lanasa.com
Versatile Soprano Rachel Policar has been described as ”spectacular” (LA Times), “arresting” (SF Classical Voice), and “a natural comedienne” (Broadway World) for her recent performances. She is honored to be joining The Why Collective for the premiere of The Smallest Sound, in the Smallest Space. Rachel is a skilled performer across many genres, and her 2022-23 season includes Young Leah in the NY premiere of Lori Laitman's Uncovered with City Lyric Opera, Marian: The Musical (in development) and Marzelline in Fidelio with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. Her 2021/22 performances included Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Scalia/Ginsburg with Penn Square Music Festival, Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank with Opera In the Pines, and Bettina in Don Procopio with Pacific Opera Project. She is an accomplished crossover singer, currently working on musicals in development and singing concerts of Jewish composers in Broadway and Jazz. She also utilizes her love of comedy to write and produce parody songs, creating custom parodies, music videos, and #InappropriatelyOperatic pop covers with her voice, ukulele and piano. Rachel has previously been seen with the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, Penn Square Music Festival, Anchorage Opera, Opera on the James, Knoxville Opera, Dayton Opera, Asheville Lyric Opera, American Lyric Theatre, St Petersburg Opera, Light Opera of New York, Sanibel Music Festival, and more! Rachel is a 2-time winner at the American Traditions competition and a proud member of AEA. Follow her @Rachel.policar or her coffee adventures @BrewishAmericanPrincess
Originally from Hollywood, Florida, Ai Ra has burst onto the New York City classical music scene this past summer with dell’Arte Opera Ensemble and the Lighthouse Opera Company, performing The Bishop of Puebla in the East Coast Premiere of Juana by Carla Lucero among other roles. His New England Debut as Gastone in MassOpera’s immersive production of La Traviata was a critically acclaimed sold out run, and he then reprised the role with Lighthouse Opera. Prior to the pandemic, they performed Il Conte d’Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Opera in the Ozarks, Monostatos in Landlocked Opera’s Die Zauberflöte, and Don Ottavio in a virtual production of Don Giovanni with Spotlight on Opera. Ai is a proud graduate of the Florida State University, UMKC, and Northeastern University. They relocated to New York City in May 2022, they look forward to bringing their vocal talents, dynamic stage presence, and reliability to NYC stages as Christian in Victor Herbert's Cyrano and Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola this season. Noted for his "subtly inflected tenor phrasing" (Berkshire Eagle) Daveed Buzaglo is a highly versatile up and coming performer. Equally comfortable in the recital hall and on the operatic stage, Daveed has performed with many of the most prestigious and cutting edge festivals and companies in the country. These include appearances with Opera Philadelphia, Center for Contemporary Opera, Finger Lakes Opera, Songfest, Killer Queen Opera, Opera NEO, Emmanuel Music, the Western Reserve Chamber Music Series and The Art Song Preservation Society of New York where he was a finalist in the 2020 Mary Trueman song competition. Buzaglo’s studies have taken him to the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he received his Bachelor of Music, Stony Brook University where he received his Master of Music, an apprenticeship with Des Moines Metro Opera where he took part in the Emmy ® nominated production of Dvorak’s Rusalka, and a vocal fellowship at the Tanglewood Music Center where he worked side by side with artists such as Dawn Upshaw, Stephanie Blythe, Renée Fleming and Sanford Sylvan. As an ensemble member Daveed has appeared with some of the top choral ensembles in the country including being a member of The New York Philharmonic Chorus, and appearances with the St. Thomas Church Choir on 5th Avenue in New York City. Daveed also has a passion for creating. In 2021 Buzaglo co-created, co-directed, and was featured in a short film entitled The Ballad of Longwood Glen based on a musical setting by American composer Richard Wilson of Vladamir Nabakov’s poem of the same title. In 2012 Daveed was named a national winner in classical voice with YoungArts and went on to be named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts Semi-finalist.
Savannah Bergli’s musical journey started at the age of 3. Her passion for drawing led her to start piano lessons at the age of 5. She grew up on the outskirts of Oslo,Norway amongst the fairytale forests of Norway.Her Nigerian mother and Norwegian father introduced her to a diverse sound world including Elvis Presley and Fela Kuti, that brought her into the discovery of her favorite composers Grieg,Liszt and Chopin.At the age of 7 Savannah began studying piano at Barratt due institute of Music (Oslo’s most prominent Classical Music school),and she continued studying music at Foss high school of Music in 2015. Savannah went on to earn her Bachelors of Music in Piano Performance from Mannes School of Music in 2021. Savannah has performed internationally in places such as Oslo,Las Vegas, New Jersey, Boston, Copenhagen and in New York. Most of all, Savannah aspires to share music of Norwegian composers such as Grieg and Tveitt and beyond.Besides making music Savannah spends her time writing, drawing and illustrating comics. Savannah is currently based in New York where she is studying with Eteri Andjaparidze for her Masters of Piano performance and Advanced certificate in Piano pedagogy at New York University Steinhardt
Singing with “clarity and much feeling”, Morgan Mastrangelo is a tenor currently based in Manhattan. This past summer, they joined Opera Saratoga as a festival artist, where they covered Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, sang the tenor solo in Rossini’s Petit Messe Solenelle, as well as the role of Tobias in Sweeney Todd at the Saratoga Performing Arts center. Recent appearances on the concert stage include the tenor solos in Verdi’s Requiem with the choir of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and Handel’s Messiah with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic Orchestra. This spring, they look forward to their role debut as Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance with the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players. In addition to their solo vocal work, Morgan has appeared with various ensembles on stages throughout New York, including Carnegie Hall (American Symphony Orchestra), Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center (American Classical Orchestra), and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (Early Music New York). Morgan is a Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition Encouragement award winner and studied at Northwestern University.
Franco-American mezzo-soprano Sophie Delphis has performed for Beth Morrison Projects, Opera Parallèle, National Sawdust, SongFest as a Stern Fellow, American Opera Projects, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, the Tianjin Symphony Orchestra, UMS (University Musical Society), Bronx Opera, Opera on the James, Bare Opera, City Lyric Opera and the iSING Festival, among others. Her operatic roles include: Félicie/Adélaïde (La Belle et la Bête, Glass), Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro), Giunone (La Calisto), Carmen and Mercédès (Carmen), Flora (La Traviata), Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Cenerentola and Tisbe (La Cenerentola), Concepción (L’heure espagnole) and Elle (La voix humaine). An avid recitalist, Sophie regularly produces recital programs and fundraiser concerts for musical and cultural organizations in the United States and China. Recent and upcoming works include: Ravel's Chansons madécasses and Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé, Bolcom's Cabaret Songs, Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten and Messiaen's Harawi. Along with classical repertoire, she enjoys collaborating with composers, improvisers and theater artists on new works. Sophie can be heard as the Mother/Witch in the original English cast recording of Matti Kovler’s Ami and Tami and as a soloist on the Grammy Award-nominated Naxos recording of Milhaud’s Oresteia trilogy, produced by UMS in association with the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance. In addition to performing, Sophie is passionate about writing, linguistics and non-musical art forms. She teaches French language and poetics, as well as interpretation of mélodies repertoire. She currently resides in New York City, where she is pursuing a doctoral degree in voice performance at the Graduate Center CUNY.
A Conversation between Playwright, Bryce McClendon and Director, Katy Early
Bryce McClendon (they/them/theirs) often self-describes as an accidental playwright. With their Master’s in Music from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, Bryce’s formal training is in classical singing and opera. As a result, their plays are musical in style, form, and content: often about musicians, involving songs and other music, or inspired by musical works and forms. They have been a contributor to The MiddleClass Artist, and their other writing can be sampled on their Substack, "The Bryce is Wrong": https://brycemcclendon.substack.com/ Bryce brings over two decades experience performing in plays, musicals, concerts, and operas to their writing. As a young singer, Bryce was a 2020 regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, a 2019 Eva & Marc Stern Fellow at SongFest in Los Angeles, and a 2018 resident artist at Opera NEO in San Diego. Since relocating to New York City, Bryce has collaborated with American Lyric Theater’s Composer-Librettist Development Program in a performance and panel discussion about developing new operatic repertoire for countertenors, and originated the title role in the world premiere of Jonathan Dawe’s opera Being Ariodante, with Ensemble Échappé. www.brycemcclendon.com
Equally at home in theatre and opera, Katy is a stage director and current MFA candidate at Brooklyn College. She makes politically relevant and personally resonant work that endeavors to shift our communities away from violence towards care. Recent directing credits include a site-specific production of La Traviata (MassOpera, 2021), a staged workshop production of Omar Najmi's new operatic setting of En la ardiente oscuridad (Mosesian Center for the Arts, 2019), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (her very own backyard in Queens, 2018). She holds bachelor’s degrees in both theatre and vocal performance from Oberlin College & Conservatory. With a particular interest in how folk music can be blended with theatre, she has trained with several European theater companies in France and Poland (Pantheatre, Teatr Zar, Song of the Goat) in recent years. She is now thrilled to be working with collaborators in New York, New England and beyond
Givens Parr (she/her) is a dramaturg and visual artist based in the southeast. She brings a diverse educational and professional background in comparative literature, world languages, policy, and documentary studies to her work. As a visual artist, she was a member of the inaugural cohort of Untitled, an experimental visual arts residency in Downtown Greenville, SC. In 2017, her residency culminated in a solo show of her oil paintings at Hampton 3 Gallery, the oldest art gallery in the state of South Carolina. Fluent in Mandarin, Givens was a producer and director for ChinesePod, a web platform of educational content for advanced learners of Chinese. She also translated and edited l select chapters of the English Edition of Returning from Qingcheng Mountain: Melding Daoist Practices into Daily LIfe (Singing Dragon Press). In 2019, she served as a resident artist with the Kavalan Tribal Community in Taiwan, working with artist and Taiwanese civil servant, Iris Hsieh. As part of that work, Givens co-produced a short animated film called The Shaman’s Apprentice, released in both Mandarin and the Kavalan language, which received an award at the 2019 Taiwan International Children’s Film Festival. In addition to her work as a dramaturg, Givens currently works as a consultant for a professional development program at Brown University’s Office of Alumni Relations.
Nathaniel LaNasa - Music Director Fascinated with the intersection of storytelling, speech, and movement, pianist Nathaniel LaNasa partners with singers, dancers, and ensembles in music spanning five centuries. A consummate collaborator, Nate has been praised for his “stormy lyricism” (New York Times) as well as his “poise and elegance” (Feast of Music). In early 2022, he performed “Intimate Apparel,” Ricky Ian Gordon’s new two-piano opera, sixty times at the Lincoln Center Theater. His premieres include works by Nate Wooley, Matthew Ricketts, Molly Joyce, Shawn Jaeger, and Dimitri Tymoczko. Nate curates NYFOS Next at the Rubin Museum, serves as music director for Dances We Dance, and is on the roster of Brooklyn Art Song Society. NYC credits include Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, MoMA, and (le) Poisson Rouge; he’s also performed at the Musée d’Orsay (Paris), Wigmore Hall (London), and Burning Man (Black Rock City). Nathaniel-lanasa.com
Roberto Colón - Asst. Stage Manager Roberto Colón is a countertenor born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He has appeared as El Alma in Juana with dell’Arte Opera Ensemble, Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream at Rutger’s University, Nireno in Giulio Cesare with Red River Lyric Opera, and performed at Lincoln Center with Columbia University. He was an emerging artist with Bel Canto in Tuscany and a principal artist with the International School of the Voice.
Julian Wild - Director of Production (The Why Collective) Juls is a champion for the next generation of story-makers. He believes in the sacred calling to bring about life-changing artistic experiences for creators and audiences alike. His most important accomplishments have been the memories he’s made with family, friends, and even strangers, traveling and exploring what it means to be human. Currently, Juls is the Director of Production for The Why Collective, an interdisciplinary arts organization in residence at Nancy Manocherian’s the cell theatre, a Recording and Mixing Engineer both for freelance and at The National Opera Center of Opera America, and an Audio Technician and Crew Chief for Bentley Meeker Lighting and Sound in New York City. Recent clients include Rockefeller Center, Lincoln Center, World Wildlife Fund, HERE Arts, Gotham Hall and Emitha Records. His teachings, compositions, and talents have recently been featured at Santa Fe Opera, Detroit Youth Symphony, American Ballet Theatre, ArtPark, EMPAC, Collective Conservatory, Princeton University, and The University of New Mexico. For joy, he travels and performs under the moniker Julian Wild, a music producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actor, and experimental sound artist.
Sydney Anderson - Artistic Director Sydney Anderson is a versatile soprano, actor, director, educator, and the founder of The Why Collective. A contemporary classical music enthusiast, Sydney has participated in numerous World Premieres as well as workshops at various stages of the creation process. She has most recently been featured with American Lyric Theater, Beth Morrison Projects, HERE Arts, Opera Saratoga, and Opera NEO. Last season, she created the roles of Dalinda in the World Premiere of Being Ariodante by Jonathan Dawe with Ensemble Échappée, One in the World Premiere of "it is a comfort to know" at National Sawdust, and portrayed Ruth Bader Ginsburg in "Scalia/Ginsburg" with Opera in the Heights. This season, she will sing Marzelline in Beethoven's "Fidelio" with Opera Company of Middlebury. Sydney was named an Eastern Region Finalist after winning the Eastern District of the 2020 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and went on to win the Audience Favorite Award at the Region Finals. When she is not singing or fostering creative laboratories for artists, she teaches early childhood music education classes and conducts the Preperatory ensembles for Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Mary-Angela Granberry is an interdisciplinary performer and dance choreographer. With a background in dance, music, acting, and visual arts. This versatility has enabled her to engage in various collaborations as a performer. Notable dance credits include The Tonight Show, Beyoncé, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, ELSCO Dance (artistic dir. Ellenore Scott), Lollapalooza Music Festival, various music videos and commercial acting credits. As a choreographer, she has presented at Harlem Dance Festival and the AAPI Dance Festival - “We Belong Here” produced by J.Chen Project and Midheaven Network. Mary-Angela is a graduate from the Meisner conservatory program at Terry Knickerbocker Studio of which she was named a recipient of their “Excellence Scholarship” and notable student. She is thrilled to be a Core Collective Member with The Why Collective this season!
Miles Mandwelle is a writer, director and musician, whose work has been seen at Ensemble for the Romantic Century, Lincoln Center Education, FringeNYC, Thrapp Theatrics and The Tank. He is also a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique. Many thanks to Chloe Papp. IG: @milesplayskeys
Originally from El Paso, TX, Sebastian Armendariz is a Mexican-American tenor, actor, freelance producer, content creator, and cancer survivor currently based in NYC. He produced the livestream for TWC’s MIXT: A Living Gallery, and is honored to continue to contribute to further TWC’s artistic vision.
Roberto Colón is a countertenor born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He has appeared as El Alma in Juana with dell’Arte Opera Ensemble, Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream at Rutger’s University, Nireno in Giulio Cesare with Red River Lyric Opera, and performed at Lincoln Center with Columbia University. He was an emerging artist with Bel Canto in Tuscany and a principal artist with the International School of the Voice.