The Art of Collaboration

Lepidoptera program header

Four eons ago, a writer and a composer huddled over a table in the vestibule of Armacost Library at the University of Redlands, two cups of chai steaming in their hands, a collection of papers with typed print and handwritten notes scattered between them: the birth of an opera.

Okay, maybe that was four years ago.

And if you haven’t guessed by now, those two collaborators were Holly and I, on the brink of finishing our respective programs of creative writing and music composition, ready to plunge into a whirlwind of new post-undergraduate adventures. I’d wanted to work with Holly ever since meeting her a few semesters earlier in a fiction workshop, and our musical drama Lepidoptera grew out of our shared passion for storytelling.

The re-spinning of two ancient folktales, Lepidoptera is the story of a young noblewoman who must hide her love of the natural world from society’s condemning gaze. When a betrothal announcement unravels her web of secrets and threatens her only friendship, she struggles to restore the fragile balance of her public and private identities.

Holly finished the beautiful fifteen-page libretto by the end of our senior year, but it wasn’t until I was partway through my Master’s degree at the University of Michigan that I was really able to dig into the musical side of our drama. I am forever grateful to my undergraduate professor, Anthony Suter, for believing in me and encouraging me to embark on that journey to begin with; and to my graduate professor, Kristin Kuster, for also not only believing in me but for offering unwavering guidance as I pursued this project for my thesis. And for the occasional cookie lesson, which helped keep me sane as I batted away questions like what on earth was I thinking and how am I ever going to finish this on time?!