We created our first show in a Pittsburgh junkyard over 20 years ago, with choreographed cranes and roaring earthmovers and screaming machine shears. Composer Jackie Dempsey and artist Steve O’Hearn work with an ensemble of 10-20 artists to create post-industrial performances with original music, design, and staging, outside the rules of mass culture, fashion or academia.

We received our first major commission in 1995 to create Night of The Living Dead: The Opera, from Marc Masterson. During a NYC stint of Bigsmorgasbordwunderwerk in 2000, we were PS 122 critical darlings for 3 months when The New York Times critic Ben Brantley called it “ingenious, hallucinatory, hypnotic” and were painfully transferred to Broadway for 2 months where it received an American Theater Wing Award. Squonk Opera has since created eleven original productions and has performed in more than 250 venues across the United States. Squonkumentary, a film about our time in NYC, was produced by independent filmmaker Peggy Sutton in 2005.

We roll up our sleeves and develop work that attacks and celebrates the idiosyncrasies of our world. Squonk has played on 3 continents and in 35 of the United States, and we strive to create work that is accessible and transformative. The Buffalo News hailed us as “Rust Belt dada” and the Washington Post described us as “Debussy meets Godzilla,” although we suspect that last one may have been an insult. Often overblown, site-specific and participatory, our work was born from Middle America, places where people like their art boisterous and their food greasy. We created work too ambiguous for pop culture, and too easily appreciated for fashionistas to flaunt their sophistications. We were not haute cuisine…we were peasant food that used available ingredients in witty and shameless ways.

We have shared squid for breakfast in Korea, and “ham und kaas” every night in Flanders, and missed meals because we were changing flat tires in Scranton. We have been touring internationally since 2003 – to Scotland, Belgium, Germany and South Korea, where we opened the Busan International Performing Arts Festival. Over 500,000 people have seen us around the world, and reviews include “insane majesty” from The Scotsman, and “…surreal and poetic” from USA Today. We have been fortunate enough to receive 8 grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as support from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Jim Henson Foundation. We gratefully receive support from the Heinz Endowments, Buhl Foundation, Grable Foundation, Pittsburgh Foundation, Anonymous and others.

In 2011 at the invitation of the producers, we competed in season six of the NBC reality show America’s Got Talent, making it to the top 48 and performing live for 14 million viewers.

We have taught workshops, directed collaborative creations, and done residencies at over sixty universities, middle schools and museums all over the United States, and have worked with dance groups whose styles have ranged from African gumboot to Dutch clogging to hip hop to modern.

We are currently touring two outdoor shows. Pneumatica is an outdoor event about air, made of air and powered by air and Cycle Sonic, a pageant of double-decker human-powered stages that celebrate bicycles and sustainable power.

We also accept special event commissions.

We shall celebrate our curiosity, our doubt, our best and worst instincts. We will create work that is fast, funny, shameless and inclusive: an art that will include the cheap thrills of a monster truck show, as well as the fragile beauty of the hothouse flowers created in artist lofts. We will let art, high and low, battle for our souls. We will let music and design struggle for supremacy. Let science and art have at it. Mano a mano.

Board of Directors

Gale McGloin
Nonprofit Management and Development Consultant

Jay Silberblatt
Vice Chair
Lawyer, Silberblatt Mermelstein, P.C.

Jackie Dempsey
Artistic Director, Squonk Opera

Carolelinda Dickey
Consultant, Performing Arts Strategies

Michael Gans
IT Project Manager, K&L Gates

Susan McLaughlin
Content Marketing Manager, Teletracking Technologies

Steve O’Hearn
Artistic Director, Squonk Opera

Mike Wasco
Firm Administrator/CPA, Wilbraham Lawler & Buba

National Advisory Council

Carol Brown
Former President, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Pam Coates
Marketing Communications Manager, EQT Corporation

Sara Durkacs
Corporate Secretary
Green-Wood, Brooklyn

Charlie Humphrey
President, Charlie Humphrey and Associates

Anne LeBaron
Composer, Professor, California Institute of the Arts

Marc Masterson
Artistic Director, South Coast Repertory

Richard Parsakian
Owner, Eons Fashion Antique

John Schaefer
Senior Producer, WNYC Radio

Jimmi Sue Smith
Vice President & Controller – Midstream, Commercial & Distribution, EQT Midstream


Squonk Opera productions are possible because of the generosity of:

The Heinz Endowments

National Endowment for the Arts

Bloomberg Philanthropies

Rockefeller MAP Fund

The Fisher Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation

Anonymous Foundation

The Opportunity Fund

A.D. and J.W. Wilson Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation

Henry C. Frick Educational Fund of the Buhl Foundation

The Grable Foundation

The Hillman Foundation

EQT Foundation

McKinney Charitable Foundation through the PNC Charitable Trust Grant Review Committee

John E. & Sue M. Jackson Trust


Gail N. Platt Arts Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation

A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust of The Pittsburgh Foundation

Joseph E. O'Brien and Eileen N. O'Brien Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation

The Fine Foundation

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Ensemble Theatre Collaborations Program

Jim Henson Foundation

Richard King Mellon Foundation

The Giant Eagle Foundation


BNY Mellon Foundation

Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

Allegheny Regional Asset District



Squonk Opera would also like to thank the following individuals for their contributions:

Jerome & Monica Segal
Bob & Theresa O’Hearn
Evan & Tracy Segal
Bill & Mikell Schenck
Leonard & Millie Schwartz & Family
Debra Acri
Faith Adiele
Don Ammon
James & Patty Antenucci
Dan Baselj & Emily Klein
John Bauerlein
David Bennett
Nell Berger
Don Bertschman
Dwight Bishop
Elizabeth Blum
Susan Bonello
Karla Boos
Sierra Brandegee & Ava DeMarco
Dawn Brashear
Mary Brenholts
Jack Brice & Kate Freed
Frances de Broff
Carol Brown
Jill Burgman
Nancy Byrnes
Zac Cageao
Sheena Calderwood
Pru & Brian Carabine
Sarah Carr
Kathryn Carroll
Evelyn Castillo
Kenny Chen
Nic & Willie Cherry
Diana Cherryholmes
Paul Cicozi
Leslie Clark
Axel Claussen
Pam Coates
Scott Conklin
Bruce Connelly
Michael Connor
Rene Conrad
Robert Conroy
Beth Corning
Veronica Corpuz
Michael Cuccaro
Colleen Daddario
Perry & Becky Darke
LaMoyne Darnall
Ed & Dorothy Datemasch
Ellen & Gil DeBenedetti
Michele de la Reza
Ronald & Janice Demblowski
Gina DeSimone
Aradhna Dhanda
Chrissie DiAngelus
Carolelinda Dickey & Fred Serino
Matthew DiGiacomo
Dallas DiLeo
Anna Doering
Kirsten & Eric Donny
Elizabeth & Pat Donohoe
Sam Donovan
Mary Dopler
Zach Dorn
Sara Durkacs
Steve Dzurilla & Donna Wojnar
Richard Edge
Susan Englert
Shane Fernando
Jeremiah Fitzwinkle
Ralph Flaugher Jr.
Jenny Forsgren
Mark Freeman

Alan Fuehrer
Amisha Gadani
Judith Galbraith
Michael Gans
Sheri Giger
Linda Gilmore
Carl Goldman
Jean Grace
Gregory G. Granger
Marybeth Griffin & Marc Gabriele
Paula Grooms
Shannon Light Hadley
Alex & Tammy Hardy
Gail & Leon Harper
Dean Hastings
Gordon Haw
J. Gavin Heck
Mark Heine & Helene Bender
Adrienne Heinrich
Dean Helfer
Ron Heller
Gail Henry
Paula Hinston
Tom Hollander
Allyson Holtz
Charlie Humphrey
Amy Hurst
Rose & Michael Hutchinson
Dan Iddings
Donna Isaac
Laura Hill Kilbaugh
Paula Hinston
Tom Hollander
Allyson Holtz
Charlie Humphrey
Lynne Humphries-Russ
Rose Hutchinson
Gene James
Beverly Jones
Brian Jose
Kathryn Kane & Andrew Kaiser & Arwen Kozak
Cameron Kaplan
Mary Katz
Susan Keeler
Lorraine Kennedy
Michelle Kirkpatrick & Family
Jodi Klebick
Dawn Kosanovich
Geeta Kothari
Carolyn Koutcher
Curt Kovach & Fran Czak
Kristie Kovacyk & Lee Mason
Stacey Kranick
Ellen Kretchmar
Bob & Catherine Lacey
Jana Lambert
Joseph Lappa
Larry Leahy
Amy Lederer
Kurt Leininger
David Lesondak
Christopher Letzelter
Doug Levine & Lauren Braun
Amy Kara Lewis
Stephanie Lonsinger
Ken Lovorn
Tom Maguire
John Mahood
Bill Mandicott
Janette & Jerry Maple
David Mason
David & Heidi Matthews

Kathy McCafferty
Carly McCoy
Anne McDuffie
Helen McDuffie
Keith McDuffie
Allison McGee
Gale McGloin
Bob McGrogan
Susan & Sean McLaughlin
Matt, Emily, Alta, & Enzo Mercurio
Linda Metropulos
Rachel Sica Meyer
Barbara Miller
Marcia & Buzz Miller
Pat & Charlie Miller
Cesar Montesano
John R. Montgomery
Lee Morris
Abby Morrison
Cooper Munroe
Rachel Myers
Heidi Nagle
Tao Neuendorffer Flaherty
Lisa Newman
Bob & Carol Neu
Lisa Newman
Kara Newmeyer
Deborah Nichols
Jeffrey Nytch
Amy & Josh Obusek
Megan O’Donnell
Kirsten O’Hearn Donny
Tim O’Hearn
Sue O’Malley
Norman Papernick
Richard Parsakian
Andy Pavlik
Cynthia Pennington & CW Donohue
Irina Peris
Allen Perper
Martha Perry
Sam Perry
Frank & Judy Petrich
Michele Petruccelli
Tom Petzinger
Mischelle Pickett
Renee Piechocki
Joel Platt
Chuck Porter & Hilary Tyson
Mark Power
Myshel Prasad
Bill Price
Gregg Purinton
Maureen Puskar & Angelo Baiocchi
Daryl Putman
Babeth Raible
Pat Ramicone
Catherine Raphael
Chris Rawson
Alexander Reed
Peter Renfro
Bill Repicci
Scott Richards
Larry Rippel
Hilary Robinson
Tim Roolf

Marybeth Rose
Edmond Rosen
Dan Sassenberg
Tim Saternow
Caroline Savage
John & Denise Schiller
Adam Schloss
Camille Schmoeker
Jolie Schroeder
Rosie Schulz
Rose Scilla
Rick Sebak
Jon Seeley
Christine & Duane Seppi
Janice Serra
Kirk Shadel
Sruti Shiva
Jay Silberblatt & Lori Sisson
Justin Simons
Nancy Simpronio
Sarah Siplak
Ron Siwica
Beth & Donald Smith
Jimmi Sue Smith
Janera Solomon
Kate Sphar
Batyah Spiker
Kathy Stefani
Bob & Jane Steineck
Brian Strazisar
Julie Ann Sullivan
Maureen Sullivan
Peggy Sutton
Mitch Swain
Kathy Sweeney
Kathy Swiderski
William Tanner
Pilar Tanning
M. Ellen Tarpey & John Battaglia
Allie Thompson
Ron Thorpe
Jay Vaccaro
David Vachon
John Van de Grift
Jane Vranish
Ruth Waalkes
Nuiko Wadden
Susan Wallace
Michael & Jen Wasco
Rick Watling & Sofia Sunseri
Mike Weis
Anita & Dave White
Emily Whitney
Rick Williams
Ron Wilson
Joanna Wolfe
Andy Wolfinger
D Woods
Eileen & Norman Wuerthele
Mark Yingling
Erik & Linda Amaral Zettler
Gantry Zettler
Jo Zettler
Zach Zettler
Zorba Zettler