Lyric Unlimited presents a brand-new opera for young audiences: Earth to Kenzie

Tickets on sale June 27 for performances at Chicago’s Vittum Theater November 9 - 10, 2019

CHICAGO (6/26/2019) – Lyric Unlimited, the branch of Lyric Opera of Chicago devoted to education, community engagement, and new artistic initiatives, is excited to announce its latest original opera for young audiences, Earth to Kenzie. Written by composer Frances Pollock with librettist Jessica Murphy Moo, and directed by Jess McLeod, this new opera was created specifically for kids ages 7-12.

Earth to Kenzie tells the story of Kenzie, a fifth grader with homework, asthma, and a big imagination. When she and her mother must move into a family shelter, Kenzie struggles at school and escapes into the world of video games alongside her avatar, Edwin. Through their imaginary space adventures, Kenzie dares to go farther than ever. Can she find the confidence to make friends and succeed at school? Can she find her way home?

The cast of four singers -- playing Kenzie, her mother, her avatar Edwin, and her teacher  will be accompanied by piano. The fully staged and costumed 45-minute production will be performed in English. (The cast will be announced at a later date.)

Composer Frances Pollock makes her Lyric debut with Earth to Kenzie. Pollock’s operas include What Gets Kept (Washington National Opera), Stinney: An American Execution (PROTOTYPE Festival), and The Little Prince (Peabody Conservatory).

Librettist Jessica Murphy Moo was introduced to Lyric audiences last season as the librettist of the chamber opera An American Dream (by Jack Perla) which was commissioned by Seattle Opera and premiered there in 2015. Murphy Moo is the editor of Portland magazine, the award-winning publication of the University of Portland in Oregon.

Chicago director Jess McLeod returns to Lyric after directing Chicago Voices: Stories and Songs of Chicago in 2016/17 and Lyric Unlimited's EmpowerYouth! production, Empower, during the 2017/18 season. McLeod is currently resident director of Broadway in Chicago’s Hamilton and has directed at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf, and A Red Orchid Theatre.

Set designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec makes his Lyric debut with Earth to Kenzie. A three-time Equity Jeff Award winner for shows at the Paramount and Drury Lane theaters, he has also designed sets for productions at Chicago Shakespeare, Marriott, Timeline, Northlight, Porchlight, and other theaters in Chicago and regionally.

Costume designer Mieka van der Pleog has worked with Lyric for both EmpowerYouth! projects (2018 and 2019), and has created costumes for productions at Lookingglass, Chicago Shakespeare, Remy Bumppo, The Second City, Writers, and The Hypocrites theater companies. She is an artistic associate at About Face Theatre and has been nominated for four Joseph Jefferson awards.

The production is a co-commission with Seattle Opera. Lyric Unlimited's educational partner for Earth to Kenzie is Codeverse, the world's first fully interactive coding studio and development platform for kids ages 6-13.

Leading up to the public performances at the Vittum Theater, Earth to Kenzie will be staged for school groups in venues throughout the Chicago area as part of Opera in the Neighborhoods (OIN). When it was launched 23 years ago, OIN presented short versions of traditional operas performed in English. In recent years, new works have been commissioned and presented for school-age audiences, including Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt (2018), The Scorpion’s Sting (2017), Jason and the Argonauts (2016), and Second Nature (2015). Lyric Unlimited presents 30 Opera in the Neighborhoods performances at 15 sites each season, engaging thousands of Chicago area students through live operatic performances in their communities.

Tickets go on sale June 27 for the three public performances at the Vittum Theater (1012 N Noble St, Chicago) on Saturday, November 9 at 1pm and 3pm, and Sunday, November 10 at 3pm. Tickets are $10 for children and $20 for adults. Call 312-827-5600 or go to

Teachers can make online reservations to secure an Opera in the Neighborhoods performance of this title for their schools, starting on August 1. Visit for more details.

About Lyric Unlimited

About Lyric Unlimited

Lyric Unlimited is a long-term, evolving initiative that encompasses company activities that are not part of Lyric's mainstage opera season. Its mission is to provide a relevant cultural service to communities throughout the Chicago area and to advance the development of opera by exploring how opera as an art form can resonate more powerfully with people of multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests. It also leads the development of innovative partnerships with a wide range of cultural, community, and educational organizations to create a breadth of programming through which Chicagoans of all ages can connect with Lyric. In the 2018/19 Season, more than 86,000 individuals participated in Lyric Unlimited programs.

About Lyric

About Lyric

Lyric Opera of Chicago is committed to redefining what it means to experience great opera. The company is driven to deliver consistently excellent artistry through innovative, relevant, celebratory programming that engages and energizes new and traditional audiences.

Under the leadership of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Sir Andrew Davis, Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola, and Special Project Advisor Renée Fleming, Lyric is dedicated to reflecting, and drawing strength from, the diversity of Chicago. Lyric offers, through innovation, collaboration, and evolving learning opportunities, ever-more exciting, accessible, and thought-provoking audience and community experiences. We also stand committed to training the artists of the future, through The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center; and to becoming increasingly diverse across our audiences, staff, programming, and artists—magnifying the welcoming pull of our art form, our company, and our city.

Through the timeless power of voice, the splendor of a great orchestra and chorus, theater, dance, design, and truly magnificent stagecraft, Lyric is devoted to immersing audiences in worlds both familiar and unexpected, creating shared experiences that resonate long after the curtain comes down.

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Major support for Earth to Kenzie provided by

Nancy W. Knowles Student and Family Performances Fund

Earth to Kenzie and Opera in the Neighborhoods are supported by

Lead sponsor

J. Christopher and Anne N. Reyes


Anonymous Donor

The Comer Foundation Fund

Sasha Gerritson and Eugene Jarvis

Robert and Evelyn McCullen

The Jane Wilson and David Mayhew Stone Charitable Trust

Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow

Wintrust Community Banks

Lyric Unlimited Chicago Public Schools Bus Scholarships are supported by

U.S. Bank Foundation