Stephen Kitsakos has spent his professional career in the performing arts as a theatre writer, composer, musician, performing arts administrator, director and teacher.
A theatre writer member of the Dramatists Guild, ASCAP and a permanent member of the Lehman Engel BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, he is a graduate of New York University and received training as a theatre composer and lyricist. His teachers, mentors and colleagues have included Richard Engquist, Robert Starer, Gail Godwin, Sheila Silver, John Feldman, Carol Fox-Prescott, Gary English, Yoav Kaddar, Jack Wade and Gregory G. Allen.
Stephen’s work has often explored the connection between the healing power of the performing arts and the use of sacred texts to inspire contemporary storytelling.
He wrote the libretti for the chamber operas The Wooden Sword (2007) with music by the American composer Sheila Silver and Winner of the 2007 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Music Composition for Opera and The White Rooster, A Tale of Compassion, Cantata for Women’s Vocal Quartet, 6 Tibetan Singing Bowls and Percussion (2010), with music by Silver, commissioned for the vocal ensemble, Tapestry, by the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The piece has been performed to date in 15 cities across the United States, Canada and South America. In 2013, Stephen was commissioned by American Opera Projects (AOP) to write the libretto for the opera adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s international bestseller, A Thousand Splendid Suns, with music by Sheila Silver, who received the exclusive rights to develop Hosseini’s sweeping New York Times bestselling novel about women in Afghanistan, for the opera stage.
Between 1999 and 2013 Stephen was a member of the Theatre Arts Faculty at the School of Fine & Performing Arts at SUNY New Paltz where he taught courses in theatre, cultural studies and performance as well as directed, conducted or composed for many productions including Fat Ram, Blood Wedding, Our Town, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Hairy Ape, The Who’s Tommy, The Producers, Urinetown, Sunday in the Park With George, Company, Scapin, Tartuffe, King Lear, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Grapes of Wrath, The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, A Midsummer Nights Dream, Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 among others. He also taught in the Honors Program. From 2011-2013 he served as the Asst. Chair of the Department. In 2009 he directed the World Premiere of Red Masquerade, a play by Jack Wade about the photographer and American spy Angela Calomiris. The play was a Regional Finalist for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Award for 2010. The play was first workshopped off-Broadway at Theatre Row by The Clockwork Theatre Company in 2009 a professional member company at Theatre Row where Stephen served as the Board President from 2005-2010.
In addition, for a number of years Stephen taught a summer program with master acting teacher Carol Fox-Prescott at Shantigar the spiritual retreat and home of the distinguished playwright Jean-Claude van Italie.
In 2008 Stephen began to work as a Contributing Writer for The Sondheim Review, a quarterly performing arts publication writing about a number of topics including features on Steven Reineke and the New York Pops Orchestra, Tony-award winning costume designer Gregg Barnes and pop-culture theatre performer Annie Golden. He is also represented in the compendium Music in American Life, published in 2013 by ABC-CLIO, with individual chapters on Theatre and Music.
From 1994 to 1999 Stephen worked as the Executive Director of the Artist in Residence Program at Holy Cross Kingston, a performance arts presentation program whose mission was to promote the healing power of the performing arts. In 1998 he directed there the World Premiere of the chamber opera, The Other Voice: Portrait of Hilda of Whitby with music by the noted composer Robert Starer and a libretto by New York Times bestselling novelist Gail Godwin.
His association with the Reverend Thomas P. Miller, the Canon for Art and Liturgy at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, led to a series of writing commissions from the Episcopal Diocese of NY for The Woodstock Cycle a program that developed contemporary settings of sacred stories. Stephen’s pieces included the theatrical cantatas, The Lake (1999), based on John:30, A Thousand Days (2000), based on the Acts of the Apostles, The Shores of St. Laurent (2001), about the miracle of St. Anne de Beaupre and the Song Cycle, Songs for A New Journey (2008), inspired by the vocal works of Ralph Vaughan Williams.
From the Catskill Watershed Corporation he was commissioned with Gregory G. Allen & Perdita Finn to write, Ashokan: the Story of a Reservoir (2000). With BMI- partner and collaborator Gregory G. Allen, their show Invisible Fences, about interracial relationships in the south in 1963, received a production as part of the inaugural MID Stage Series in 2006 at 4th Wall Theatre Company. Previously it had been workshopped at The Lark Theatre. Additional writing commissions or funding have come from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), McKenna Productions, and the ASCAP and BMI Foundations.