Across a Distance

a full-length music theatre work for soprano and Deaf actor (2010)
1 singing role, piano and multi-percussion
book and lyrics by Nick Lantz
(commissioned by Julia Faulkner and Robert Schleifer)

excerpts, performed by Julia Faulkner and Scott Gendel:

Open Country (piano reduction)


Your Hands / Your Voice (piano reduction)

Buy the piano reduction:

composer’s note:

ACROSS A DISTANCE unites Deaf performance and opera through an allegorical tale about Man, a storyteller, and Woman, a scientist, who live on separate islands, longing to connect. Through the assistance of their magical companions, a flock of birds who communicate through song and a pair of trees who communicate through movement, Man and Woman are able to meet. MG_5781Though Man speaks American Sign Language and Woman speaks and sings in English, the two are magically able to understand one another. But once they break the rules their companions set for them, Man and Woman find their ability to communicate is lost.

At the heart of ACROSS A DISTANCE is a series of probing questions: What is the nature of communication, and what are its limits? What happens when the magical first blush of love gives way to the challenges of uniting two disparate lives and realities? What are the possibilities and limitations of attraction? What is the relationship between knowledge and intuition? How can Deaf performance and opera interact with each other artistically?

MG_5708This unusual project began as a friendship between Julia Faulkner (a professional opera singer and voice teacher) and Robert Schleifer (a Deaf professional actor) that began a series of dialogs on the nature of Music, Art, and their respective modes of artistic expression. Out of these dialogs came the seed of this project: how can these two seemingly mutually inaccessible worlds interact with each other artistically? What can we all learn by exploring this notion theatrically? What can we teach others about what we have learned? Beginning with this idea, the pair approached composer Scott Gendel in the Fall of 2006 about writing a piece of music for them to perform on this theme. Stage Director Dr. Kelly Bremner was brought into the project in January of 2007. During the summers of 2007 and 2008 the project was more fully conceived in workshops run by Dr. Bremner. Playwright Nick Lantz was brought into rehearsals to help craft a script in the second summer of work (2008) and by the Fall of that same year ACROSS A DISTANCE was a complete script. During the summer of 2009 the play text itself was carefully workshopped by the company and dramaturg/designer Dr. Kristin Hunt. Fragments of the play were performed as part of the New Play Development Workshop by the Chicago based Infusion Theatre Company in September of 2009. MG_5747

ACROSS A DISTANCE was premiered by Faulkner, Schleifer, and the Sole Nero Duo (Anthony Di Sanza and Jessica Johnson) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Theatre as part of their season in 2010. It received its second performance in 2011 at Emory & Henry College.

(photography from the Madison production by Brent Nicastro. Costume design by Jim Greco. Set design by Kristin Hunt. Lighting design by Chelsie McPhilimy.)