Aug 03 2014

Club Diamond

In 1937 Tokyo, a celebrated Benshi finds his livelihood as a silent film narrator threatened by the Talkies. Against all odds, a Japanese film star pursues her fortune in Hollywood.

In CLUB DIAMOND, performer Saori Tsukada interweaves these stories, transforming from a modern New Yorker into the aspiring star of the ‘20s, and finally to the Benshi as he struggles to survive as a street performer a decade later under the US Occupation of Japan.

With hand-crafted illustrations, black and white film by Nikki Appino, and a lush score composed and performed by Tim Fain, CLUB DIAMOND is a wholly original, multi-layered take on the modern immigration tale.

Created by Nikki Appino and Saori Tsukada, Club Diamond had its world premiere at the Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theater this past January. It was developed in part at the Sundance TheaterMakers Lab and at the Sundance Lab at MassMoca.
“Combines powerful film imagery with imaginative live performance and a stunning contribution by the violinist Tim Fain”. – Light and Sound America

“Exhilarating and heartbreaking…an unconventional approach that incorporates film, music, unique props and costuming, with little dependence on the English language. Club Diamond is profound, nuanced and thematically riveting”. – Carol e Di Tosti Theater Pizzazz

Photo credits: Ethan Lewis, Leyna Marika Papach, Kathryn Raines

Jul 30 2014

Sacred Charlatan

Sacred Charlatan is a performance/concert created by Nikki Appino with music composed by Philip Glass and Tibetan folk singer and musician Tenzin Choegyal. Performed by actor Kevin Joyce and Tenzin Choegyal, the piece is inspired by the life and death of Theos Bernard (aka: the “White Lama”) as his journey intersects with western spiritualism, eastern religion and the tabloid environment of early 20th century America.

In March of 1938,Theos Bernard gave an alumnus lecture at the University of Arizona. When the curtains opened before a packed house, all in attendance saw Theos, religious scholar, explorer, mystic, in full Tibetan garb, seated in a chair next to a movie projector. “Come with me,” he invited the audience, “in a flight on the clipper ship of imagination, from San Francisco across the vast Pacific…into the heart of Asia – the land of the Lama – Tibet!”

As the evening progressed, Bernard provided dramatic details of his “recognition” by the Tibetans as the 8th century master, Padmasambhava, and of the prophesy of the coming of a white man who would herald and bring about the spread of Buddhism to the western world. Whatever actually transpired, Tibet opened the doors of their kingdom for Bernard, and he traveled home to New York with fifty mule loads of priceless, essential Tibetan scriptures.

The lecture was a huge success, and he received endorsements that enabled him to secure a contract for a lecture tour from a public relations firm in New York. Appearing four times on the cover of the largest-circulation magazine of the day, befriending the rich and famous, this charismatic and controversial “White Lama” helped introduce yoga and a spiritual path to American culture.

During his brief career, Bernard’s struggle to achieve both fame and legitimacy. Sensationalistic reports concerning his claims and identity garnered some positive public feedback, but also earned him private scorn and dismissal as a fraud and imposter. In 1947, he launched a second expedition into the Himalayas. He was never seen again.

What we know can only be pieced together from the fragments of his life left in the wake of his disappearance. Sacred Charlatan assembles these pieces into an impressionistic multimedia performance, scored by the incomparable team of Philip Glass and Tenzin Choegyal.

The Sacred Charlatan

-The Life and Death of Theos Bernard

Jul 29 2014

The American Rimpoche


To the western imagination, Tibet evokes the exotic, the spiritual, and since its invasion by China, the political; a fabled land, sheltered from modernity and threatened by extinction. Endowed with all that the West has lost, Americans are enchanted with Tibet and its particular form of Buddhism. In American, the Dalai Lama has achieved rock-star status, and many turn to him for answers to today’s pressing conflicts and concerns. Read more ›

Nov 09 2011

The Glass Center

Philip Glass is creating a center for art, science and conservation. It’s a long term project that requires a lot of resources. Here’s a video created by Appino Productions to help him with his fantastic and visionary project.

May 25 2010

Hell’s a Fable


In the west there is a powerful draw to stories of selling one’s soul to the Devil. Hell’s a Fable is a cautionary tale, a jest book, and a bit of a theological tract. Inspired by Western Mysticism, Christopher Marlowe’s Faust, Buddhist scholar Stephen Bachelor’s Living With the Devil and other writings on the devil in modern life, Hell’s a Fable is a small chamber with four actor/singers and live musicians.

The development process for Hell’s a Fable started with a trip to the New Mexico desert with Nikki Appino and filmmaker Cathy Lee Crane. There they collected images on film and used the Art Lab at the University of New Mexico to begin a conversation about design. The development continued with a month-long writing residency at the Philadelphia Art Hotel.


Photos: Carmen Silva, Cathy Lee Crane and Nikki Appino

May 24 2010


An environmental performance piece based on Alain Robbe-Grillet’s novel.

“In Appino and Corson’s Djinn you’ll discover why Aristotle included Spectacle as one of the six essentials of the theatrical experience. With a shoestring budget and a superabundant imagination they transform a structure built for utilitarian ends into a gigantic cabinet of wonders, resonating with the poetic impact of sheer space, the dialectic of light and shadow.” – Roger Downey, Seattle Weekly Read more ›

May 20 2010

Invisible Ink

Invisible Ink: Destiny and the Dance of Mata Hari

A dance/theater performance based on the life of Mata Hari. Written and directed by Nikki Appino with original choreography by Wade Madsen and an original score by Wayne Horvitz.

Invisible Ink is a dance/theater performance based on the life of Mata Hari (1876-1917). The work is created for two actors, one singer, and a three-piece orchestra. Marguerite Zelle, a.k.a. Mata Hari, lived with her husband in the Dutch East Indies where she learned the native sacred dances of Java and Sumatra. She incorporated them into her “performances” (stripteases) when she changed her name to “Mata Hari” and hit the cabaret circuit of pre-WW1 Paris. This combination of the sacred and the profane created a sensation. Read more ›

O, Say a Sunset

A staged concert inspired by the life and writings of environmentalist Rachel Carson.

Composed and written by Robin Holcomb, Directed by Nikki Appino, Sunset toured the United States in the fall of 2004. The piece featured musicians Eyvind Kang, Guy Klusevic, Doug Wieselman, and Wayne Horvitz.


Bye Bye

Here I Come Crying Again

Lose Again

Rain City Rollers

A musical retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth set in a women’s roller derby circa 1936. Co-written by Nikki Appino, David Russell and Kevin Joyce, music and lyrics by David Russell and Kevin Joyce.

The skirts are on skates in this original musical retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. Relive their tragic love story set in a roller derby marathon on the eve of World War II. This musical extravaganza, complete with ten girl skaters and a three-piece swing band, was performed on a track circling the audience at the Sand Point Naval Base. Read more ›

Before the Comet Comes

Written and directed by Nikki Appino, original score by Robin Holcomb.

Before the Comet Comes is a multimedia theater piece that explores personal and social apocalypse on the eve of the new millennium. This work premiered at the Empty Space Theatre in Seattle Washington.

Before the Comet Comes, is a theatre piece exploring personal and social apocalypse. It’s December 31st 1999, the eve of the 2nd Great Millennium, and four characters are stumbling about wondering if Y2K will destroy their computers, if the Second Coming is a hand, and if it really is the end of the world. In this narrative – told through text, music, and late-night video, we witness their hilarious and harrowing attempts to survive. Before the Comet Comes is a little tour through death, peace, and the ultimate meaning of life. Read more ›