top of page


Gina Leishman (composer) is not only a composer, but arranger, multi-instrumentalist and performer as well. She was British born but has resided in the US since seemingly forever, having fled the goldfish bowl of Old Europe. She composes for theatre, opera, dance, film, television, and concert stage, and has garnered numerous awards. Collaborations with other artists include directors Karin Coonrod, Robert Woodruff, Lisa Peterson, and Joseph Chaikin, writers Ellen McLaughlin, Tony Kushner, and Naomi Wallace, choreographers David Gordon, Bebe Miller, and Deborah Slater, composer Doug Wieselman, and performance artists Rinde Eckert and John Kelly. Her ensembles include the long-standing septet Kamikaze Ground Crew, a vehicle for original composition; the Mr. Wau-Wa band, a quintet dedicated to the songs of Bertolt Brecht; and various quartets in support of her solo work. Recordings are available on Koch Jazz, New World Records, Busmeat and GCQ Records. She is also an award-winning narrator of audio-books. She lives in New York City.

Gina Leishman.jpeg
Joan Schirle.jpeg

Joan Schirle (librettist) [1944-2022] was an actor, playwright, director, and deviser of original work, including over 30 plays and collaborations. She was a pioneer in the US development of physical theatre, ensemble theatre, and theatre of place, and a co-founder of the Network of Ensemble Theatres. Awards include a Fox Foundation/TCG $25,000 Resident Actor Fellowship and a 2018 Lifetime Achievement award from the Association of Movement Theatre Educators. In 2004 she was honored at the 16th Cairo International Experimental Theatre Festival as a leader in the field of experimental theatre. She is the founding artistic director of Dell’Arte International, a theatre production and training center. In 2018 she was awarded a three-week residency by the Morris Graves Foundation at his last home, “The Lake,” in Loleta, CA. In November 2018 she presented readings from Graves letters and archives and in 2019 readings from the women in his life. Previous collaborations with Gina Leishman include The Weave (dir. J. Schirle); Flock (dir. G.W. Mercier), and Dell’Arte Company’s Slapstick; The Redwood Curtain Trilogy; Red Noses, and Animal Farm.

Joan sang (alto) in the Arcadia production, in the roles of Army officers and bird chorus.

Gina rehearses

with members

of the original cast,

October 2019

Gina rehearses w_ cast Oct'19.jpeg

Joan in front of the

Morris Graves’ triptych,
“The Great Blue Heron Yogi
and the Great Rainbow Trout
Yogi in Phenomenal Space,

Mental Space, and the

Space of Consciousness”
at the

Morris Graves Museum of Art,
Eureka, CA

Joan Schirle w_Graves paintings_edited.j

Presented by Dell’Arte International & The Arcata Playhouse

Dell’Arte International is a producing theatre, a professional actor-training center, and a summer festival. Based in Humboldt County since 1974, DAI became known internationally for its touring work, its pioneering in ‘theatre of place’ as well as devised work, and the work of those who graduated from DAI’s MFA in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre between 2006 and 2021. Centered in social justice with a diverse group of artists and faculty, DAI works closely with local tribal groups as well as with its community of Blue Lake.

The Arcata Playhouse is a community arts center that presents live theatre, music, variety arts, and films. The 150 seat venue is regularly used by a diverse collection of community organizations and individuals, and hosts youth workshops, a teen program, a family performance series as well as an Artists-in-Schools Program.


Daniel Stein (Puppet Choreographer). After studying in the Professional Actors Training Program at Carnegie-Mellon University, notably with Jewel Walker, Daniel went to Paris to study with Etienne Decroux, becoming M. Decroux’s frequent translator. Subsequently making his home in Paris for 20 years, Daniel started his professional career as an actor with the French National Theatre. His solo performances have toured in more than 30 countries, as well as in the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center here in the U.S.  He has taught master classes throughout the world at institutions such as The Juilliard School of Drama and The Shanghai Theatre Academy. Daniel has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the United States/Japan Commission, the Pew Charitable Trust, and is a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Recent summers have seen him in Seoul, South Korea, devising original work with 18 Korean actors from “Flying Off the Cliff” Theatre Company, and teaching Generating New Performance Material and Creativity to students at Embodied Poetics, London, England.

Prior to finding his artistic home at University of California, Santa Barbara, Daniel spent seven years at Brown University as Head of Movement and Physical Theatre for their MFA Professional Actor Training Program, and before that over a decade here at Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, serving as School Director and core instructor.  He is now a Senior Lecturer at UCSB, teaching Movement for the Actor and Devising Original Work, and is Curator of the Annual Particle Collider Festival. He is thrilled to be part of Bird Of The Inner Eye; special thanks to Joan Schirle from whom he has learned so much.

_Bird in cloud_ [name_ date_]by MG.png
“Little Known Bird of the Inner Eye #1” by
Morris Graves (1941)
Red bird by MG [name_ date_].png
“Dove of the Inner Eye” by Morris Graves (1941), Seattle Art Museum

About Bird of the Inner Eye

In 2013, Morris Graves: Selected Letters was published by University of Washington Press (ed. Vicki Halper & Lawrence Fong). Playwright/actor Joan Schirle read the letters and was struck by their passionate intensity, the beauty of Graves’ writing, and the circle of women who supported his work and vision. She was especially interested in Graves’ response to war; in 1941 he was drafted, and though registered as a conscientious objector, he spent 11 months in an army prison at Camp Roberts, California. Upon his release, he wondered if he could ever paint again.

Joan first thought of creating a piece of theatre, and staged three public readings of the letters with a group of actors in Humboldt County in 2018. It was during a residency at Graves' estate ‘The Lake,’ now an artists’ retreat, that she realized Graves’ words should be set to music, and invited composer Gina Leishman to write the music for a chamber opera. 

Following Graves’ lead, the libretto is sung by a cast of birds, and begins: “This is the story of the human predicament, as told by birds….” Inspired by one of Graves’ most powerful paintings, “Wounded Gull,” Leishman composed an instrumental dance to be performed by a bird puppet. 

A chamber opera is more intimate than grand opera, with a smaller cast and fewer instruments. “Bird” is scored for five singers and three musicians playing piano, cello/bass, accordion, glass armonica, and piano harp. Characters include Graves and a bird chorus playing Graves’ mother, his friend Jan Thompson, his dealer Marian Willard, as well as army personnel and a single bird puppet.

The  August 2021 performances are a workshop version, a first iteration performed concert style, with projections of Graves’ paintings. Originally scheduled for June 2020 but postponed due to the corona virus, we are now happy to present a first version of Bird of the Inner Eye. Our hope is to interest an opera company in producing a fully staged production of this original work.

Click here to watch an extended 13-minute video: 
Click here to watch an extended 13-minute video: 
bottom of page