Short GeMs

Virtual Centennial Celebration of Artworks

in Collaboration with The Phillips Collection

Alliance for New Music-Theatre has commissioned a series of “Short Gems” and has put together six teams of composers and librettists to respond to a painting or other work of visual art that will celebrate the diversity and strengths of The Phillips Collection. The "Short Gems" will be offered as on-line performances based on featured artworks in The Phillips Collection for their coming year’s Centennial Exhibition.


Check out the six works from the Phillips Collection and our artists who are developing the "Short Gems."  

View our short video of our first development workshop for the "Rothko" Short Gem

and the "William Christenberry" Short Gem.

Jacob Lawrence  “The Washer Woman”

Composer: S. Rene Clark 

Writer: Thomas W. Jones II

Rene and Tom have collaborated before on bringing important stories of African-American life to the stage in musical theatre forms. Their approach will resonate with Black mothers of today, as the Woman, going about her  practical chores keeping body and soul together, sings of her worries and fears for her Black sons in a world of racially motivated violence and inequity. For this work they will team up again with the inimitable singer-actress Roz White, who starred in their Helen Hayes’ Recommended Alliance production, Black Pearl Sings!

Mark Rothko “The Rothko Room”

Composer: Quraishi Roya

 Writer: Fatemeh Keshavarz

Unable to limit focus to only one of his paintings, Afghan composer and rubab player Quraishi Roya and Fatemeh Keshavarz, Iranian poet and Professor-Philosopher of classical Persian literature, will focus on the experience of sitting in The Rothko Room in the special presence of the artist’s mesmerizing, vibrational abstracts. The sound of Afghan’s national instrument, the rubab, will carry us into an aural interpretation of the experience of “falling into” Rothko’s paintings.  

Vocalist Maribeth Diggle and  dancer, movement-theatre specialist Jennifer T. will perform in this work. REHEARSAL VIDEO

Benny Andrews “Trials and Tears”

Composer: Dawn Aver

 Writer: Ty Defoe

Native-American composer-cellist Dawn Avery specializes in world music and is equally comfortable performing at Lincoln Center as in an Iroquois Longhouse. For Short Gems, Dawn collaborates with writer/performer Ty Defoe in response to a most powerful Phillips’ recent acquisition “Trail of Tears.”  Joined by singer-actor Jarrod Lee, the creative team looks at the many meanings of “journey,” looking back at a great dark and tragic chapter of our country’s history when the many indigenous people and the African-Americans were forced from their homelands.

The Photographs of William Christenberry - “Tree,” “Night Landscape,”  “Bloody Pond” and others…

Composer/Singer Timothy Amukule        

Writer/Singer-Actor:  Jarrod Lee

Writer/Singer Jarrod Lee, originally from Alabama, is drawn to the haunting photographs of William Christenberry, and, like the Alabamian photographer, Jarrod became a transplant to the Washington-Baltimore area. Alliance is excited to celebrate The Phillips’ recent acquisitions of Christenberry’s photography with this music-theatre piece, which feels like an important journey back in time to take a harder look at the country’s history of race and racism in the rural south.                                                 REHEARSAL VIDEO

Helen Frankenthaler “Canyon”

Composer: Jessica Krash

Writer: Claudia Rosales Waters

Cuban-American writer/performer Claudia Rosales Waters collaborates with local composer Jessica Krash, who draws on many musical languages including Latin rhythms and bluesy tunes and manages a balance in her work between modern music idioms and melodic sensibilities - “Romantic lushness meets post-tonal grittiness.” They are both drawn to the mid- 20th century abstract work of Helen Frankenthaler and are excited to experiment with incorporating animation and virtual reality techniques into filming.

Man Ray  “Shakespearean Equation, Julius Caesar”

Composer: Andrew Earle Simpson    

Writer: Susan Galbraith

Andrew Earle Simpson’s musical works make multi-faceted, intimate connections with literature, visual art, and film, and his collaborations on such artists as Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp have been presented at the National Gallery. The Phillips Collection has provided in Man Ray a natural catalyst for rich exploration of the theater of words and characters of William Shakespeare seen through the lens of surrealism. This is the illogical world where the mathematical equation shows us 2+2=22, and the only “sure” character is Julius Caesar, but he is reduced to a headless torso.