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Hundred Days is ...

... an indie rock opera conceived and composed by Abigail and Shaun Bengson and is set to premiere at Z Space in early 2014. Â Working with the Bengsons since 2010, Z Space has assembled a team of world-class artists to bring this work to fruition. Our goal is and has been to give life to this work from its inception to its projected New York premiere in 2015/2016.

THE STORY Hundred Days is the fierce, triumphant story of a young couple who fall in love, only to have their time together cut short by illness. They decide to take the 100 days they have left together and live them as though they were the 60 years they imagined they would share.

THE BACKSTORY Lisa Steindler and Z Space became aware of The Bengsons by way of their concept album The Proof, which introduced the idea we are growing into Hundred Days. The idea of a relationship traveling faster through time than humanly possible, unflinchingly toward the hard stop of a terminal illness, is powerfully rendered in the raw material of the album. It is clear how the abstract narrative of the music and lyrics offer an extraordinary platform for a fully realized contemporary theater work. In meeting Abigail and Shaun (The Bengsons), we felt a kinship with their creative intentions. They are speaking straight from the heart and drawing on an astonishing array of American pop musical idioms. Social narratives of the folk revival, strident anthems of the power ballad, and counter cultural punk sensibilities are all on parade.

While distinctly American and clearly aware of its lineage, theirs is an original sound. The Bengsons deliver many of the rewards of great songwriting, the music and the instrumental playing are inspiring, deepening upon each listening, offering more and more nuance. The vocal quality is a perfect fit, soaring in episodes, howling and haunting in others; a folk storyteller shot through with the passionate urban rage and raw emotion of a mosh pit. This is a voice that celebrates the best and the most rebellious of American pop.

One can't help but be seduced by both the familiar and totally new elements of The Bengsons' music making.

THE MUSICAL The musical is an American cultural legacy. Made in the USA, and at times even more important to the American entertainment landscape than Hollywood, the musical remains one of our most robust, flexible, and dynamic formats for theater making. With each new generation that approaches the form, new opportunities and insights into its great possibilities arise. For our point of entry, we are looking not to the classic rock-musical format (Jesus Christ Superstar) or even the staged concept album approach (Tommy). We are bringing together creators from both inside and outside of musical theater, all nationally recognized makers in their own right. We’ll collaborate with all hands on deck from the beginning, the Bengsons, along with playwright and stage director, visual /sound designers, and choreographer, taking the concept and fully fleshing it out. Building from the skeleton of the existing music, we will render this incredible story for theater.

THE INNOVATION Our innovation with Hundred Days will be based on three calculated artistic risks.


The script and the lyrics are essentially collaborators in our model, more so than a single set of individually conceived ideas. We want to stay at the level of abstraction that the existing lyric/music combo demands, not over literalizing it or “acting it out.� We will be creating a script that will be a container perfectly fitted to the theatrical implications of each musical episode, there to help carry narrative pieces along. We want the simplicity of the lyrics, which are rich in poetic implication, to spark the imagination of the listener in a different way than any other text in the work. Ultimately the lyrics are the baseline of what we will mine and inhabit to build the script.


Our formal challenge is to consider that we are making a long arc out of a lot of already conceived small arcs. A great song is in many regards an entire play that takes place in 3 ½ minutes. So we are making our play out of a lot of mini plays and that, while it proposes some terrific challenges for our team, is also the magic of this work.


We look to exploit the tension between long and short arcs of narrative in the work by leveraging a similar tension in the visual world of the piece. Playing with large and small, the difference in scale between the intimacy of the relationship itself and the universal scale of its tragedy, we look to cinematic, surreal stage images, drawing on filmic approaches to bend time and space that challenge the more grounded, embodied principles of live theater.

THE Creative team You know you have a great piece in the pipeline when great artists from around the country are willing to come together to engage the risk and fun of the project.

The Bengsons – the reason we are doing this piece / our sine qua non.

In their own words:

We believe that music is a healing and uniting force. Every night we perform, every song we write, every note we choose in our work, we strive to celebrate life and love, to hold the grief and joy of being human in one open hand. Like a poorly healed bone that sometimes needs to be broken again and reset to properly mend, we believe hearts need a space, opportunity, and permission to break so they may heal again more completely. The culmination of our last four years of creating and performing together, Hundred Days is now at a pivotal point. The music is largely written and we are exploring various modes of story telling as we work towards a complete first draft of the script. Hundred Days requires a delicate balance of clarity and fantasy, of movement, song and text. Z Space is supplying us, in this final creation phase, intensive time together to explore with our collaborators in a focused and nurturing environment. With the help of Z Space, Lisa Steindler, and our incredible team, we believe we can make something truly wild, deep and new.”

THE Creative team

Anne Kauffman - is our director. We’ve selected Anne for her proven ability to spin visual worlds and subtle narrative implications out of pure text. Given that this piece will be more than 50% song lyrics, it is critical we find story in the reductive poetry of the lyric. Anne’s premieres of new work are many and she is also sought after for her repertory productions. She will be a huge help to the visibility of this production. Highlights of her career: Anne won the OBIE Award for The Thugs by Adam Bock at SoHo Rep (TimeOut NY, New York Sun top 10 productions of 2006). She has directed at Playwrights Horizons Theater, New York Theater Workshop, Manhattan Theater Club, CSC, The Vineyard, The Public, Rattlestick, New Georges, Clubbed Thumb, American Conservatory Theater, A.R.T., The Guthrie, Sundance Institute. She received a “Big Easy” award in New Orleans for her production of The Children’s Hour at Loyola University. She is a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop, an alumnus of the Soho Rep Writers and Directors Lab, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, The Drama League of New York, a founding member of The Civilians and was a 2003-2004 New Dramatist Resident Director and a member of New Georges Kitchen Cabinet. She most recently directed Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit at Playwrights Horizons starring Amy Ryan and David Shwimmer, and Amy Herzog’s Belleville at New York Theater Workshop, Anne will be directing Noah Haidle’s Smokefall at South Coast Rep.

Eric Shimelonis – is our sound designer. His work ranges from orchestral music to the popular, from renaissance to the post-modern, and also extends through film, television, theatre, and dance. He will build the sound design and help create arrangements of the Bengsons’ music that will translate their indie rock songcycle to music for theater. This takes a composer’s skill as well as a designer/arranger’s mindset in that he’ll be serving the Bengsons’ material. This is a place many rock musicals get lost in translation, not entirely knowing how to bridge the gap between rock concert and fully realized theater. Eric is our secret weapon in this regard. Some of Eric’s career highlights: grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, nominated for a Drama Desk Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, a Henry Hewes Design Award, a Big Easy Award, multiple Ambie Awards, and sold out productions of his own work at Carnegie Hall.

THE Creative team

Kate E. Ryan – is our playwright. With experience as a musical theater maker, she leans toward the fantastical in her body of work. Her text is often conceived to interact with the moving body and situated movement in the story. As a playwright she leverages a deeply responsive and collaborative creation process, often building from improvisation. She is a writer who listens and distills authenticity. As an artist who bridges repertory and devised environments, she brings the best of both to her writing and her process. Based in New York City and the Bay Area, some career highlights: Kate is a member of the OBIE-winning playwrights collective 13P, a founding member of the Machiqq Ladies’ Auxiliary Playwriting Team, an Artistic Associate at Clubbed Thumb and an Artistic Advisory Board member at the Bushwick Starr.  She is former Co-Chair of the Soho Rep Writer-Director Lab. Kate’s recent works include Dot, Design Your Own Kitchen, Mark Smith and Science is Close.

Kris Stone

– is our set designer.

Kris Stone’s set designs have been seen throughout the U.S., Scotland, England, Ireland, and Australia in over 100 productions, earning her a nomination for The Irish Theatre Award for Best Set Designer, an NEA/TCG Award for Set Design, a 2006 Bay Area Critics Award for Best Set Design, a Featured Designer at the 2007 Prague Quadrennial, and a nomination for The Drama Desk Award for Maurice Sendak and Tony Kushner’s Opera Brundibar. Kris has designed the World Premiers of many plays such as: God’s Ear by Jenny Schwartz (Vineyard), Act A Lady by Jordan Harrison (Humana Festival), Gum by Karen Hartman (Yale), Rules of Charity by John Belusso (The Magic), But the Giraffe by Tony Kushner (New Victory), Slag Heap by Anton Dudley (Cherry Lane Mentor Project), The Four of Us by Itamar Moses (Old Globe), Wonton Destruction by Jill Szuchmacher (3 Legged Dog) and Older Testaments by The David Dorfman Dance Co. ( Joyce Theatre). Kris studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, holds a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, an MFA from The Yale School of Drama in Stage Design, and has taught stage design at Vassar, NYU’s Tisch School, and Swarthmore.

THE Creative team

Lisa Steindler – is our producing director. It is Lisa’s vision and investment that have brought this project from a possibility to a reality. Bringing her insight and national reach to the project, Lisa is responsible for identifying and selecting the creative team, managing their work together on the project, and providing the resources necessary to fully realize Hundred Days. Career highlights: Lisa is the Artistic Director of Z Space. Before working with Z Space, Lisa served as the Artistic Director of Encore Theatre Company for 18 years where she shepherded such established playwrights as Adam Bock, Claire Chafee, Adam Rapp, Leigh Fondakowski, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and Steve Yockey. Lisa has produced over 25 world premiere productions. From 1996-2004 Lisa directed the Zoetrope Live Series at Francis Ford Coppola’s studios in North Beach and she also created A.C.T.’s ArtReach program, which she ran for 17 years bringing theatre into the Bay Area public schools.

The casT We are seeking a cast of original, unusually talented performing artists. The bulk of the story will be told through the songs, so our cast of course includes the Bengsons performing their score. Joining the team will be top singer / mover/ actors. We’re seeking performers that are not traditionally found in musical theater, but individuals who are possessed of each ability. We will be looking first to the dance world and the installation / performance art world to find them. We’re planning to cast four multi-faceted individuals who will embody the story alternately as part of the band, the dance, and the script.

The investors Current Investors: Z Space, Encore Theater Company, Dramatists Guild, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Williams College.

THE Creative team

THE WHY As an organization, Z Space specializes in contemporary theater, with a strong emphasis on artist driven relationships and multi media / devised theater work. We believe in the future of American Theater and are deeply invested in finding innovative ways to arrive at it. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has invested in our effort to create a real-time laboratory for contemporary theater, providing creation and rehearsal periods for innovative works that by their very nature must be made at full production values with all collaborating artists in the room. The future of American Theater is every bit as dependent on the way people work together as it is on what they make. Artists typically create outside of theaters, often alone, and without the opportunity in early phases to explore or experiment with production values or the creative contributions of collaborative relationships. These typically are resources that are not allocated until a work goes into production, far too late to impact the creative trajectory of the work. Having collaborating artists of different disciplines together in the creative process is a hallmark of devised theater, as are a joint-stock creative process and a willingness to work both inside and outside areas of expertise among both performers and creators.

We are proposing to bring these particular elements of the devised theater model into the making of this new musical and to offer our laboratory resources to subsidize that experiment with the time, space, and entrepreneurship it will need to grow.

THE timeline 1. Music only workshop - February-March 2012 2. Book workshop with Kate and Anne - July-August 2012 3. Movement, band and book - using new script - Dec 2012 4. Auditions at Z Space - March 2013 5. Whole draft 1 - all Aboard - July 2013 6. Workshop arriving at whole draft 2 - Final package - Fall 2013 7. World Premiere At Z Space - Feb 2014 8. National touring - April 2014-2015 9. New York Premiere 2015/2016

Hundred Days, The Bengsons  
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