Two Bit Oper-Eh? Shun

Requiem For A Lost Girl

  • Commissioned by the Land's End Chamber Ensemble.
  • Libretto by Onalea Gilbertson with additional writing by special chorus.  Composed by Marcel Bergmann
  • World Premiere January 16, 2010 at Grace Presbyterian Church, presented by One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo under the title Two Bit Oper Eh? Shun
  • Requiem For A Lost Girl had its New York Premiere July 16 & 17 at The Theater at St Clements as a part of the 2012 New York Musical Theatre Festival  
  • "fragile, delicate work...raw and unvarnished...powerful" Michael Giltz Huffington Post        

Project Description

Exploring themes of of poverty, mental illness and addiction, this strikingly original chamber musical unfolds as a memorial service for a young woman. Requiem was created and is performed in partnership with a chorus of men, women and children who know the experience of homelessness – a raw, gorgeous and heart-altering blend of true stories and the theatrical that gives voice to the streets of North America.

Experience the other side of the stereo type surrounding the fears, hopes and stigmas of today’s homeless culture, also featuring 7- piece chamber ensemble, 3 soloists and community choir.

Production History

Over 2009 Onalea created a choir and gathered vivid tales from Canada’s largest homeless shelter the Calgary Drop-In Centre, teaming up with composer Marcel Bergmann to create a sweeping composition that gives voice to the streets.  Participants of the Drop- In Centre Singers were invited to perform in and contribute writing towards the piece.

NEW YORK Premiere

A team from the Canadian World Premiere; creators Onalea and Marcel, Director Doug McKeag, violinist John Lowry, soloist Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhan, and creators and chorus members John Harris and Max Ciesieslki worked along with a team from New York City. Talented participants Montana, Anderson, Momo, Jose, Lori and Daniel Vega (along with tech support from Manny) from the Youth Shelter Covanent house and Rivky Grossman who I met though Fountain House created original writing and songs to contribute to the piece.

The REQUIEM choir of 20 young musical theatre voices (Alex Akin, Brittany Avey, Daniel Belnavis, Alison Bender, Jaspal Binning, Jessica Carmen, Elish Conlon,Jay Ellis Danielle Gimbal, Cory Hibbs, Jenny Hjazi, Kelsey Larson, Andrea Leach, Preston Maguire, Shannon Remley, Rachel Richards, Kevin Schuering, Marc Sully Saint Fleur, Michelle Vezilj and Anna Lauren Farrell) from NYC, along with Canadian dancer Kayla Henry (who portrayed the lost girl) were all choreographed by Odette Hyen which added a special and new dimmension to the work. Eddy Malave on Viola, Brian Sanders on Cello, Jaime Pittle, Percussion, Aaron Patterson on sax and clarinet and Ruth Kwan on piano rounded out our team. We had 40 people on stage! 

We were supported by Stage Manger Abigail Strange, ASM Danquen Coleman, production assistant Tracel Hassel, Lighting Designer Joseph Walls, and indefatigable Associate Producer Andrew Block.

Currently in NYC over 38,000 people are homeless and using the shelter system on any given night. 16,000 of them are children. Thousands of people protesting the growing gap between the rich and poor, began the Occupy movement this past fall - the movement has spread around the world.

Media Files

Requiem For A Lost Girl Associate Producer Andrew Block and cast member Anderson Footman on CBC radio opening night of our New York premiere.  Click to listen

Click to read the article by Francis Silvaggio on Global News

Video Demo from New York Musical Theatre Festival - New York Premiere

Slideshow from New York Musical Theatre Festival - New York Premiere

A sample of songs from the show:


A sample of songs from the show:  HTML 5 MP3 Player

Video Demo: Calgary Premiere  High Performance Rodeo

Credits World Premiere (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)

COMPOSED BY: Marcel Bergmann

ADDITIONAL WRITING BY: The Drop In Centre Singers and Doug McKeag

Cast of Characters


THE MOTHER: Elizabeth Stepkowski-Tarhan
THE MAN: Doug McKeag

CHORUS –The Drop In Centre Singers: Norm Saunders, Aubrey Miller, John Harris, Max Ciesielski, Debbie Emmett, Scott Chunn, Robert Ramstead & Jenn Carew

CHOIR: Members of Revv 52, under the direction of Brian Farrell

MUSICIANS: Land’s End Chamber Ensemble and special guests
Piano/Keyboard/Musical direction: Marcel Bergmann
Piano/Keyboard: Elizabeth Bergmann
Violin: John Lowry
Cello: Beth Root-Sandvoss
Viola: Andrea Newman
Sax/Clarinet: Jim Brennan
Percussion: Rod Thomas Squance

LIGHTING/SET DESIGNER: Doug McKeag with Carla Ritchie
Assistant stage manager: Gerald Borch
Assistant stage manager: Kelsey ter Kuile

Additional production support by Dandi Productions
Support for the Drop in Centre Singers provided by This Is My City
Special thanks to the High Performance Rodeo, the Rozsa Foundation the Calgary Drop In Centre and Louise Gallagher.


Authors Notes:

This script took a few years to create. The first draft was created in October of 2006. Two songs remain from that draft. In December of 2008 I began a singing group of people experiencing homelessness at the Calgary Drop In Centre, (Canada’s largest homeless shelter) and eventually together we created the chorus of the Drop In Centre Singers for this show. The DI singers participated in workshops and writing sessions for most of the year generating a lot of beautiful poetry and material - not all of it ended up in this script.

We have created life long friendships as a part of this process and recognized that we truly are kindred spirits in music. There is a legacy in this script. It tells of the importance of music and theatre and poetry and art in people’s lives. It shows us that there are many ways to describe and express the things that weigh on our hearts. It reminds us that we must share with our community, and continue to support programs that encourage this type of exploration. It reminds us that food for the soul, a place to belong and working on something that has meaning are very important aspects of healing and moving on in one’s life.

The United Nations describes housing and homelessness in Canada as a “national emergency”. Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy to protect, develop and subsidize housing for low-income individuals. In Calgary the rate of homelessness has risen 650% over the past decade. Over 4500 Calgarians are currently experiencing homelessness (including the hidden homeless). More than 58,000 Calgary households are living only one pay-cheque or one crisis away from homelessness.

People become homeless for numerous reasons including poverty, addiction issues, divorce, death in the family, condo conversion, being discharged from correctional facilities, hospitals or foster care with nowhere to go. Beds for teens in crisis in our city are few and far between with teenagers lying about their age in order to be able to stay at the Drop in Centre. Half of the clients living at the DI have jobs. Working full time at minimum wage still leaves a person below the poverty line. As a community we must open our eyes to this situation. What can you do? Take a moment and talk to someone on the street. Listen, ask questions, empathize. Try to erase the line between “us and them”. Practice love and compassion. Recognize that we are all just human beings in this together. Poverty is self -perpetuating, poverty makes people sick, and it can make people violent, it can kill people. Without subsidized housing, transitional housing, addiction treatment and counseling, proper mental health facilities and community support - poverty is virtually impossible to escape. We have the opportunity in a democracy to affect change. Talk to your MLA, your MP and your city councilor. Tell them what you think about this issue.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead

Slideshow - original Calgary production: