Henry Niepoetter – a young prince onstage … a busy actor in life

ImageHenry Niepoetter is the youngest cast member of The Love of the Nightingale. We caught up with him backstage.

What is your name and the character you play?

I’m Henry Niepoetter and I play Itys. Itys is the young son of Tereus and Procne.

 The supporting cast is generally solid, with one special performance in Henry Niepoetter as Itys, the young son of King Tereus. The young Niepoetter’s grit and determination mirror those of Dominy’s princess Philomele and he is clearly up to the task; he isn’t interested in our sympathy, either-a refreshing change from the cute and adorables that adult audiences are so often confronted with.

from Broadway World

What makes you smile about “The Love the Nightingale?”

I never get to smile onstage so I smile all the time backstage! Mostly I’m smiling all the time because I get to work with this amazing cast of talented, funny and super nice people.

Henry as Itys with parents Procne and Tereus, played by Dorea Schmidt and Matthew Schleigh

Henry as Itys with parents Procne and Tereus, played by Dorea Schmidt and Matthew Schleigh

What is your favorite line in the show?

My favorite line that Itys says is, “Didn’t you want me to ask questions?” My favorite lines in the show are in Philomele’s long rant to Tereus about the truth and how she plans on telling everyone what happened. Megan says the lines with such passion! Each line is delivered quicker than the one before it and she crescendos into screams at the end. I make my first entrance in the show right after this scene and I always peak through the curtains on the side so I can watch and listen to her.

“In the final scene of the play, Itys, Philomele, Procne, and Tereus have all been turned into birds. In a bright but soft lighting, they flap resplendent sheets of white cloth, suggestive of wings. Procne, a swallow, is mute. Philomele asks Itys if he understands why it was wrong of Tereus to cut out her tongue. “What does wrong mean?” the boy asks. “It is what isn’t right,” Philomele answers. “What is right?” Itys asks. Philomele answers with a musical trill, which Itys takes up. His voice, his song, ends the play on a pure note of beauty. Throughout the play, lurking beneath the surface, is the poet John Keat’s claim that beauty is truth, truth beauty. Although the truth may be ugly, horrible in fact, and although beauty is not the whole truth, it is, as Itys’ beautiful song suggests, a kind of truth, a kind of answer. “

from the HowlRound review written by Patricia Davis

What is your favorite costume piece?

My favorite costume piece in the show is the bird wings. They look great and they move like real wings. I also think it would be awesome to wear Hippolytus’ mask just once!

 What’s next for you on stage?

On the last day of Nightingale, I start rehearsing in DC for a week in St. Petersburg Florida, doing a reading for a  musical called Signs of Life.

Then I will be singing with my youth choir, Vocetti, at Carnegie Hall with Distinguished Concerts International.  Henry went last year and was picked to be a featured soloist.  That is on June 22.

Thanks Henry! Break a leg and thanks for being a part of The Love of the Nightingale!

Henry will be featured in  Maryland Theatre Guide’s Rising Star column – keep a watch for it!

Tom Teasley brings technology to the ancient rhythms of The Love of the Nightingale

TomTeasleyWelcome back to Constellation! How many shows is this for you with the company?

This is my ninth show with Constellation! It’s always a great pleasure to return and explore the fantasy world Allison and her team of magicians are creating!

The last time you were on stage with Constellation was last year, with Gilgamesh. What is different about this show in terms of creating the music?

In some ways “Gilgamesh” was a similar project in that it takes place in an ancient world. One big difference with this show is regarding the technology. In the past I have recorded some loops that I triggered live on stage. I have upped the ante on this production. In December I recorded a full CD worth of material. (The full CD will be available for sale with a  portion of proceeds going to support Constellation). Some elements have been altered, removed and interchanged as well as mixed in surround sound. I will perform live with these tracks, creating a very unique audio experience. The goal is to have a live performance with the audio quality of a CD. My engineer, Jim Robeson, and I worked tirelessly on creating the absolutely best audio experience possible. We have also brought in an associate sound designer, Adam Johnson, to assist in merging these live and recorded worlds.there are several sets of speakers hung throughout the space to assist with the surround sound concept. As before, the largest portion of music is performed solo in real time with no accompaniment.

 Where did you turn for inspiration for the music?

Allison and I went to see the Revels perform a concert that included a lot of Balkan music. This music draws heavily on odd time patterns. By coincidence I have been touring with harmonica master, Howard Levy, formally of “The Flecktones”. He is also very interested in additive time signatures. Those experiences weighed significantly in creating this music. My travel to the Middle East is also a big influence. There are selections in time signatures of 5, 7, 9, 11 and even 13. To make this even more interesting wonderful Choreographer Kelly King has created dance pieces in several of these time patterns

Are you using new or different instruments for this show?

Always! I’m playing over fifteen different instruments for this show. Some new additions are a variety of flutes, given the several bird references. Also, a hand drum synthesizer to create the



string Instrument, santoor. I’m also playing a xylophone synthesizer in addition to my assortment of ancient hand drums. There is also an interesting string instrument form North India called a gopichand that will make an appearance.



What have you been up to…have you been traveling lately where you would pick up new techniques/learn new things? I have been really busy with a variety of multimedia projects. In addition to my live performance with film I’ve been creating video art. Some of these are Dadaist recreations of existing film art by Hans Richter and others. I’ve been adding new video art in combination with my music and poetry performed by my colleague and friend, Charles Williams. I will have several exhibits this summer along with some live performances. I’ve also been collaborating with Modern as well as Middle Eastern dance.  Jane Franklin Dance and I will present 5 concerts that this summer Fringe Festival at the Atlas in July. Soon after the closing of this show I will tour to Argentina for a percussion festival in Patagonia! I’ll then go to Buenos Aries where I’ll play at Notorious Jazz club before I return home.

Are you excited about being on stage again?

DSC02189I’m always delighted and honored to collaborate with Constellation Theatre and share my music with the DC theatre audience!

More about Tom’s CD

Robert Aubrey Davis – producer, critic, creator and host of Millennium of Music, wrote for the liner notes:

Bal-kan, as we are more aware than ever, is the Land of Honey and Blood; the routes of   empires who have claimed and (still wish to claim) dominance in that region are perfectly reflected in Tom Teasley’s multi-cultural soundscape. On a foundation built from the most ancient instruments of drums and flutes, Tom layers with an archaeologist’s sympathies the tonal landscape that allows the word painting of a legendary tale to remind us, that even as the bards told stories in song and voiced the whims of the gods, in that very act of creation humankind gives voice not only to the creation of the gods themselves, but an even greater story: who we are, and why.

–Robert Aubry Davis, producer, critic, creator and host of Millennium of Music

Learn more about Tom and watch him play!


High Praise for “The Love of the Nightingale”

We are enjoying all our positive reviews and want to share them with you, too!

Nelson Pressley of The Washington Post writes: “Constellation Theatre Company has developed one of the most distinctive house styles in town, especially when they light into classic myths and exotic design on a budget. “The Love of the Nightingale,” which opened Sunday night, is a great example: The rape tale is Ovid’s, processed through Greek tragedy and director Allison Arkell Stockman’s sumptuous theatrical sensibility. The result is dynamic and heartbreaking.”

Debbie Jackson of DC Theatre Scene writes: The Love of the Nightingale is not light, easy drama, but the riveting production immerses us into ancient  worlds for a full two-hours with no intermission without skipping a beat.  The memorable passages of the script reflect the heartbeat of humanity, with observations about truth, the power of words, a reference to a caged bird singing, and even puppets enacting the truth when the tongue has been silenced.  Through Stockman’s bold and courageous storytelling, Constellation has yet again, tackled ancient difficult tales that resonate with modern complexity, aching to be retold. Highly Recommended!

DC Metro Theater Arts‘ Justin Schneider says: Constellation is at its best when the material is most challenging, and The Love of the Nightingale is the best kind of challenging. Allison Arkell Stockman has conjured a myth that, like the best fairy tales, teaches hard and uncomfortable lessons.

Come back and visit for more great reviews!


Megan Dominy as Philomele


Sharpenicity review: Celebrating the human emotions in the ancient tale of “…Nightingale”

What is shocking in the ancient myth of the royal trio of Philomele, Procne and Tereus is not that it tells a story we do not know but it brings out human emotions that we know so well.


The Love of the Nightingale is at Constellation Theatre 
Overheard after the show:
“So elegant.”
“Violent beyond television but thought provoking.”
These are not words to describe some modern day urban myth which might be debunked as an unbelievable scary story– but it well sums up an ancient one that Sophocles first told of 2500 years ago.
The snippets of his tale has been been adapted in many forms from Ovid in his magnificent opus Metamorphoses to the lastest theatrical treasure, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Love of the Nightingale.   
Allison Stockman, Constellation Theatre Company’s founder and director, said she loved this play from the moment she read it.  Not only does it include all the exciting possibilities of theater (choreographed fight scenes, a retelling of Phaedra, a bawdy puppet show, wild Bacchanalian frenzy) but it goes to the meaning of theater and its  power of expression.
What is shocking in the ancient myth of the royal trio of Philomele, Procne and Tereus is not that it tells a story we do not know but it brings out human emotions that we know so well.
Megan Dominy as Philomele, Dorea Schmidt as her sister, Procne, and Matthew Schleigh as Tereus, husband to one and rapist of the other–they are brave, daring in their own ways, wanting connections with other humans, and passionate in their needs.  Dominy, Schmidt and Schleigh –each emerge as strong personalities distinct from the company which plays the rest of humanity.
Unlike the decaying bodies found by unsuspecting travelers that stock fill urban myths,  this is quite vividly a bloody tale. 
While the play is abundant with good lines, as the tragedies pile up, each more horrible then the other, the most dramatic moments occur after Philomele can not speak–her tongue having been cut out by Tereus. 
What has started as a playful retelling of a classic has turned into  the scariest story of all.  Centuries of psychological oppression of individuals who can not speak  because of either their expected gender role or of linguistic suppression because of their colonial status are wrapped into the multi-layer possibilities of interpretaion of this very ancient myth. 
The actors  carry that essence into their transformation  (scene spoiler) when in  the resolution of the horrors  when they are transformed into  a nightingale, a swallow and a hoopoe.   Metamorphoses!
Tom Teasley has a unique talent for creating music that is at once ancient and modern.  Taking inspiration from Greek, Balan and Thracian music –particularly well suited for for his original music for this production,  Teasley also adds another layer to the eternal discussion of communication with music, so fitting for a play which ends when humans transformed  into birds communicate in what we hear as music.
BOTTOM LINE:  Turn off your TV and take a trip back to a tale ripped from the classics–The Love of the Nightingale  at Constellation Theatre, Washington DC,  until May 25, 2014.
– Celia Sharpe

Costume Designer Kendra Rai looks to the ancient world for “…Nightingale”

The costumes for The Love of the Nightingale promise to be a mix of ancient shapes and modern interpretations in the unique way that only Kendra Rai can do. We had a chance to sit down with Kendra and talk about designing costumes for this production. The sketches are all Kendra’s originals.

What was your inspiration for the costumes? 

The Love of the Nightingale costumes reflect the periodic which it takes place. We considered going modern but the stories and situations in the play were definitely from another time in history:  we went right to the Athenians for answers! This is a Greek world.

Blog.sistersIn the play a simple formula is to see the casts in black and white – good and bad. The Athenians – Procne and Philomele and their chorus, are good. Their costumes carry Greek outlines from the ancient world. They flow, they drape, they are beautiful.

Procne and Philomele are Athenians, and  the daughters of the King of Athens

By the way…there are no togas!

The Thracians – or Tereus’s clan and chorus, are darker, “not so nice” in common parlance. Their costumes tend to be darker, harder, more rigid, with asymmetrical lines.


Greek mythologyThrax (by his name simply the quintessential Thracian
was regarded as one of the reputed sons of the god Ares, the God of War

The Chorus’ presented some unique problems because the actors switch sides and costumes again and again, and quickly. Theoretically, we know how difficult it is to go from dark to light and back again in seconds! So we created base costumes with pieces that the Chorus adds for the two cultures. The Athenians have long veils with gold accents, while the Thracians have black leather and silver/metal accents.

What is your favorite costume in the show?

My favorite is the Captain costume for Ashley Ivey. I love Ashley Ivey! (Kendra has costumed Blog.CaptainAshley in over ten productions). Although Ashley’s Captain is Thracian he is a softer character and Philomele actually falls in love with him. We made the Captain a beautiful leather coat with asymmetrical lines. He looks amazing in it.

How much can you tell us about the birds?

In the myth, the main characters turn into birds at the end of the play.  From a costume standpoint, this switch happens really quickly. But we were able to add masks, capes and in a few cases, wings,  that quickly change the characters into beautiful birds: swallow, nightingale, hoopoe.

You had some masks made for the show, too?

Yes, I designed several masks for the play within the play: the story of Phaedra, who falls in love with Hippolytus, the son of her husband. I had two mask builders who took my drawings and made them. We were able to duplicate Grecian Theatre Masks for this play, which are really gorgeous and exciting.

blog.Play One word to describe The Love of the Nightingale?


Thank you Kendra!

Constellation Theatre Company and the power of myth

With The Love of the Nightingale, Constellation will have five epic mythical tales in their production history: The Ramayana, The Arabian Nights, Metamorphoses and Gilgamesh.
The Love of the Nightingale, 2014

The Love of the Nightingale, 2014

Founding Artistic Director and Nightingale Director Allison Arkell Stockman, wrote: “As an undergrad comparative religion major I was very drawn to Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey, all of those ideas of myths and milestones that are seen repeated between cultures and throughout time.
Myths are larger than life and often incorporate call to adventure, initiation, ordeals, trials, sacrifice, resurrection.  This is a world of symbols, dreams, otherworldly mentors and guides.  They are imaginative and spectacular, and they reflect on a grand scale the core milestones that ordinary humans go through over the course of their life.  They connect the past to the present.  They allow us to understand ourselves and the world around us on a deeper level.”
“I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman or child.” 
― Joseph CampbellThe Power of Myth

Metamorphoses, 2012

About The Love of the Nightingale, Allison wrote: “This myth is a vehicle for us to express and process the darkest desires of the human heart.  It is a complex world in which both love and violence are beautiful and terrifying.  Tereus, the King of Thrace, is a war hero who has liberated Athens by conquering the invading army.  His physical prowess and steely courage are celebrated, but when violent tendencies emerge later we find ourselves condemning the warrior we once adored.  Wertenbaker gives us glimmering moments of love, both familial and romantic.  The strength of the sisters’ bond drives the play.  The romance between Philomele and the Captain allows them to feel “the gods within us.”  Yet, the god of love can also be cruel, even merciless, fueling a fiery passion that can be all consuming. The script, both witty and lyrical, allows this classical tale to resonate sharply today.”
Please join us for this powerful story!
The Love of the Nightingale runs April 24 – May 25.Pay-What-You-Can Previews: April 24 & 25 at 8:30 pm and April 26 at 8 pm.Post Show Talkbacks on Sunday, May 4 & Saturday, May 17 after 2 pm performance

Join us for Post Show Talkbacks on Sunday, May 4 & Saturday, May 17 after 2 pm performance.

Andreu Honeycutt as Enkidu with Gilgamesh

Andreu Honeycutt as Enkidu with Gilgamesh

“The Love of the Nightingale” alights at Constellation, April 24 – May 25

In a world of passion and violence, two sisters are driven to do the unimaginable.

Against a backdrop of war, two loving sisters are separated by a royal marriage and a vast ocean. Ever curious about the world, young Philomele bravely takes a voyage on the high seas in hopes of a reunion. While the stars may guide the ship’s course, danger is in the air. Our heroine must use her creativity to reveal the truth. Olivier Award-winning playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker adapts Ovid’s mythical tale about family loyalty, desire and betrayal.


With Live Music by Helen Hayes Award Winner Tom Teasley

Directed by Constellation Founding Artistic Director, Allison Arkell Stockman