Artist Catalog

Squonk Opera

Squonk Opera is a group of interdisciplinary performing artists from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Led by artistic directors Jackie Dempsey and Steve O'Hearn, Squonk Opera formed in 1992 and has created thirteen distinct shows and performed in over 250 venues in the United States. Squonk Opera has been touring internationally since 2003 - to Scotland, Belgium, Germany and twice to South Korea, where they opened both the Busan International Performing Arts Festival and the World Music Theater Festival. Over 200,000 people have seen Squonk around the world, and reviews include "insane majesty" from The Scotsman, and "...surreal and poetic" from USA Today.

Squonk Opera's shows consist of music, visual art, and acting elements in an attempt to make a form of opera accessible to all people. The group "like to think of ourselves as a wacky, provincial opera company," says Dempsey, who named the group "Squonk" after a description of a jazz saxophonist's playing as a "squonk-fest", rather than the legendary creature of the same name.

In 2000, Squonk Opera took their show Bigsmörgåsbørdwünderwerk onto Broadway from its previous off-Broadway run. Though the venture wasn't a commercial success, the exposure it gained them was ultimately beneficial.

In 2011, Squonk Opera performed on popular television show America's Got Talent. They were sent directly past the Vegas round into Hollywood, and thus did not compete until the first quarterfinals. The group was eliminated, being buzzed by Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan.

Squonk Opera has received several grants and awards for their work, including four NEA grants, an American Theater Wing Award, and grants from the Rockefeller M.A.P. Fund, Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Henson Foundation and The Pittsburgh Foundation.